China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
The Act of Killing. By Joshua Oppenheimer; Director, Joshua Oppenheimer; Co-Directors, Christine Cynn and Anonymous; Producer, Signe Byrge Sørensen; Executive Producers: André Singer, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris. Reviewed by John Roosa
GLOBAL FUTURES IN EAST ASIA: Youth, Nation, and the New Economy in Uncertain Times. Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific. Edited by Ann Anagnost, Andrea Arai, and Hai Ren. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. x, 311 pp. US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-7617-2.
Once embraced with optimistic prospects, post-miracle economies in East Asia are currently facing uncertain futures. This book, edited by Ann Anagnost, Andrea Arai and Hai Ren, deals with one of the fundamental questions in the world of the neo-liberal global market: Is globalization an opportunity or challenge? A well-elaborated set of ethnographic chapters of this volume renders much-needed nuanced accounts on how contemporary youth in China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan deal with the realities of post-economic miracles in East Asia.
There are three main objectives in this volume. First, the book is “an exploration of how ‘places are made through their connections with each other, not their isolation’” (2). East Asia as a region is captured in terms of “a series of intertwined histories in which ideas—civilization, modernity, development, globalization—have traveled from one place to another and have taken local form while looking at other places as a basis for comparison” (2-3). What the volume tries to reveal is “the resonance across time and space within East Asia” (3).
Second, the volume endeavours to “demonstrate the power of anthropology to trace out the connections between people’s lived experience with larger processes working at the global scale” (3). This is important as “[e]thnography provides us with detailed descriptions of how people in different locations in East Asia experience their everyday realities in the midst of the new possibilities and constraints that the global economy is producing for their lives” (3). What is emphasized here is the methodological as well as empirical foci on people’s everyday life-making challenges.
Third, the book tries to “illuminate the changing calculus of human worth in the production of subjects as both workers and consumers” (3). While globalization often accompanies the “idea of freedom and the promise of self-fulfillment,” also observable in this process is “the cost of greater vulnerability and uncertainty” (3-4). How do the people in East Asia deal with this neo-liberal burden of self-responsibility?
The book has eleven chapters (excluding the introduction). The first three chapters deal with the issue of human engineering. How have “new kinds of spaces, institutional structures, pedagogies, discourses and practices” in this new world generated “new kinds of people” (15)? The volume discusses this by referring to three cases, including China’s newly emerging middle class and its entrepreneurial norms (chapter 1); the Taiwanese obsession with the internationalization of society and its implications for a society in the stage of postindustrial development (chapter 2); and rural migrant workers in Beijing and their everyday struggles without access to adequate health care (chapter 3).
In this conjunction, the next four chapters discuss the issue of affect in contemporary globalized economies. By referring to what Hardt and Negri call affective labour, the importance of social skills to navigate the world of neo-liberal globalization is stressed. This segment of the volume includes the cases on South Korean college students’ new discourses on individual self-development (chapter 4); the attempt of one local university in Taiwan to emphasize happiness and smiles in everyday life on campus (chapter 5); a professional training school in Beijing that provides rural women with necessary skills as domestic workers (chapter 6); and a newly emerging patriotic education program in public schools in Japan (chapter 7).
The final three chapters explore the issue of freedom. This is one of the central neo-liberal dilemmas since “a liberation from structures of the past … are now perceived to constrain individual freedom” (21). More concretely, this freedom problematique is explored by referring to the issue of gender inequality in the Japanese workplace (chapter 8); a newly emerging social realism observable in Japanese TV dramas that questions the very concept of work in Japan (chapter 9); and the issue of economic and political freedom in post-IMF crisis South Korea (chapter 10).
Overall, each case study provides important ethnographic implications of neo-liberal challenges at the level of every day. Capturing neo-liberalism as an underlying framework (or ethos) that drives global market economies, the contributors of the volume skillfully picture life-making processes in contemporary East Asia. The depth and width of their coverage are certainly the book’s strength.
Questions still remain, however. First, while each case is intriguing, are the stories in the volume uniquely regional? Of course, East Asia as a regional economy is dynamic and important. The authors do a good job of addressing the ways in which each economy has been subject to neo-liberal challenges. Also, a neo-liberal ethos has certainly spread to the region, as the book claims. However, it is questionable if the volume successfully documents the ways each economy, society or people interact with each other (or, in their word, resonate) in a unique (or East Asian) fashion as it implies at the onset. Also, the levels of economic and political development in the region are still very diverse, which makes a comparative study challenging, if not impracticable. In this conjunction, another concern lies in the volume’s lack of a concluding chapter. Does the book answer the questions posed at the beginning? Are there any unanswered questions? What would the editors suggest for further study? It would be helpful if the volume concluded with critical self-appraisals of the overall project.
That being the case, Global Futures in East Asia is a notable achievement. The book is methodologically solid and empirically rich. This is a volume to be read by students of international political economy in general as well as those who study East Asia.
Kazuya Fukuoka, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, USA
NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY IN ASIA: Issues, Challenges, and Framework for Action. Edited by Mely Caballero-Anthony, Alistair D.B. Cook. Singapore: ISEAS, 2013. xvi, 349 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$42.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4414-60-9.
This volume is a compilation of works by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies in the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. As the editors explain in the first chapter, the Rajaratnam School’s securitization approach builds on the Copenhagen School of securitization approach (i.e., as proposed by Ole Wæver and Barry Buzan in the mid-1990s). The Rajaratnam School approach, they say, “moves away from the Eurocentric orientation” of the Copenhagen School and asks the “why and how questions of securitization and desecuritization, and identifies the catalysts and motivations that drive such processes” (6). With this approach—a focus on catalysts and motives that makes up securitization processes—this volume takes up nine areas for analysis, utilizing their “securitization analysis,” namely, health, food, water, natural disasters, internal conflict, forced migration, energy, transnational crime and cyber security. To shed light on the processes of securitization, the editors propose a framework to analyze policy processes that reach (or do not reach) final decisions and implementation. This framework, named in this volume “NTS Analysis,” identified eight variables that are foundations for good policy making: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus-oriented, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency, and accountability.
How successful was this volume in addressing the process of securitization in these nine areas? In general, although this volume addressed how and why these nine areas develop into security problems and how governments, civil society organizations, and international organizations responded to these, the emphasis and analytical rigour to address the process of securitization varies from chapter to chapter. Chapter 2, on health, is one of the more rigorous chapters. For example, despite the acute need to respond to HIV and infectious diseases and improve coordination among ASEAN member states, the authors see a need for further institutionalization in pandemic preparedness. In a nutshell, the authors call for action “beyond discourse” in addressing health security. On the other hand, chapter 3, on food security, did accurately address the impact of sudden food price increases that were often exacerbated by climate change and policy failures, including the failure to combat corruption. The analytical section in this chapter on policy-making, however, falls short by providing only mostly anecdotal national responses to food shortage. Furthermore, chapter 4, on water, ends with “four guiding principles” for sustainable water management, but did not elaborate on the process itself, and is probably the weakest chapter.
The most readable among all, however, is the chapter on forced migration that addressed issues of statelessness by surveying the legal dimension at both the national and international levels, civil society participation, and national government and international organization responses. The chapter soundly limits itself to the case studies in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar, surveys legal instruments and government policy responses to address statelessness, and ends with an analysis of ASEAN’s concrete effort to address forced migration through two relatively new commissions created in 2009 and 2010. These commissions—the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights and the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children—were described to be “promising policy entry points” to address forced migration in Southeast Asia. As correctly pointed out by the authors, the establishment of these commissions was possible because of the deeper regional integration after the signing of the ASEAN Charter that came into force in 2008. Throughout this chapter, and to a lesser extent chapter 9 on transnational crime, the importance of regional integration with democratic value sharing to tackle NTS issues becomes clear. ASEAN integration through the landmark ASEAN Charter can become a critical vehicle in addressing NTS issues. Although it is correct that the editors in the concluding chapter call for actual implementations beyond meetings and gatherings in ASEAN, this volume implicitly acknowledges the importance of the meetings buttressed by the ASEAN Charter to address NTS issues. In this sense, the Arab League’s ineffectiveness is a good comparison to ASEAN. For example, when the UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report was rightly calling for people’s security as the first policy priority in its 2009 report (written in 2008), precisely pointing out the same NTS issues such as health, water, food and nutrition, and human trafficking, the Arab League failed to address these issues effectively. What followed in the Arab region was a food crisis that triggered a series of political crises.
Although this volume contributed to explaining how non-traditional security issues were dealt with and why, there were several shortcomings. First, the title that captures “Asia” as a whole is misleading. Most of the examples come from Southeast Asia, probably reflecting the strength of the Rajaratnam School’s research network, built on a long collaboration of the ASEAN-ISIS network. While the chapters on water and energy brought in China and India as examples for their sheer size, and thus higher impact in the region, other chapters predominantly discuss examples from Southeast Asia. Second, more careful editing is necessary. Aside from simple typo errors, such as “issue inkage” for “issue linkage” on page 7, there are inaccurate cut-and-paste sections from a previously published newsletter, reproduced without acknowledgement. For example, a section on Myanmar in chapter 6 has the lines: “this NTS Insight also identifies” (128) and “this NTS Insight tests” (141) indicating the section came from the centre’s newsletter called NTS Insight, published on their website in March 2011. Abbreviation errors include the Indonesian abbreviation of BNPB as BNBP (93), and HKH (Hindu-Kush Himalaya is abbreviated this way) as KHK instead (71). Finally, the materials and examples in almost all chapters date only up until 2010, and are rather outdated for a 2013 publication.
Takeshi Kohno, United Nations Development Programme, New York, USA
DIMINISHING CONFLICTS IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC: Why Some Subside and Others Don’t. Routledge Advances in Asia-Pacific Studies, 13. Edited by Edward Aspinall, Robin Jeffrey, and Anthony J. Regan. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xxi, 296 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-67031-9.
Violent conflict has diminished in the Asia Pacific in the last twenty years, though not everywhere and with differing degrees of permanence.
In some places peace has replaced war or sustained armed conflict. Timor-Leste confronted internal conflict in 2006, when murderous riots swept the capital Dili and displaced more than 100,000 people, yet has since established peace. The Muslim-Christian violence that killed more than 5,000 people in Maluku between 1999 and 2004 ended in interfaith reconciliation and peacemaking. Aceh, for so long Indonesia’s most rebellious region, reached peace soon after the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 26, 2004, a natural disaster that itself played a small part in creating the conditions for an end to the violent ambitions of the Free Aceh Movement. In the 1980s and 1990s the Sikhs’ movement for an independent state of their own in Punjab caused more than 20,000 deaths, including that of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, yet it came to an end as a political force of importance and India remained as it was. The civil war in Sri Lanka, responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of its citizens, ended with the total and merciless military defeat of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) by Sri Lankan military forces in 2009. The separatist conflict on Papua New Guinea’s island of Bougainville, which killed perhaps 5,000 combatants and civilians in the 1990s, ended with a peace settlement that has held ever since. Solomon Islands, wracked by low-level armed conflict between 1998-2003, returned to peace and stability under an Australian-led regional assistance mission. Analysis of these conflicts occupies the first half of the book, addressing the reasons for the subsequent peace in each case.
Diminishing Conflicts in Asia and the Pacific also examines situations where armed conflict is either continuing or dormant before a likely re-emergence. Violence persists against the indigenous people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, which has practised a policy of internal transmigration of Bengalis in order to outnumber the original inhabitants and drive them from their homes. The wars of eastern Burma between the state and minorities such as the Karen, the Karenni, the Shan and the Kachin have a long history that begins with the independence of Burma itself in 1947 and seem unlikely to diminish even under the newly democratizing national government. The same applies to the long struggle between the Thai state and the mostly Muslim southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, where there are few signs that the insurgency will come to an end, and to the Moro conflict in the southern Philippines, where a separatist movement, despite periodic truces and peace agreements, maintains armed opposition to the national government. The Kashmir insurgency, as Christopher Sneddon reminds us in this volume, might be temporarily at bay but will almost certainly return.
In some places violent conflict is a consequence of the weakness of government authority. As Nicole Haley points out in her chapter on the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea, there are parallels between them and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, the “turbulent frontier of a fragmented state” (204), as it is called here by its chronicler Paul D’Arcy; and they come in the form of “extremely rugged terrain, difficult communications, small communities relatively isolated from each other but sometimes colliding violently, a prevalence of weapons, and a harsh patriarchal culture” (254). Combine those factors with a weak, compromised or absent central government, and the result is “government” conducted locally and by the gun.
Fiji is an outlier in this constellation, as Jon Fraenkel shows. Fiji possesses all the elements that have disposed other states towards violent conflict: a society deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines, an indigenous population claiming political paramountcy, a relatively large military force, and a history of coups. What Bina D’Costa writes in this volume of Sri Lanka, where “different regimes used ethnic outbidding and bi-polar imaginings to mobilize both the Tamil and the Sinhalese communities” (102), applies equally, mutatis mutandis, to Fiji. Yet Fiji has never descended into open armed conflict, and remarkably few people have lost their lives in the course of its unconstitutional transitions. Fraenkel is modestly optimistic that Fiji will remain peaceful, not least because the indigenous Fijians constitute an increasing majority of the population, lessening fears that have haunted Fiji’s politics since before independence.
This book is unusually impressive for a number of reasons. The three editors, Edward Aspinall, Robin Jeffrey and Anthony J. Regan, have imposed a tight template on all contributors, each of whom not only explains the conflict in their particular region but also discusses prospects for peace and the lessons that might be drawn. The book has a purpose beyond analysis, seeking conclusions about success in peacemaking in every chapter and summarizing them in a nuanced and perceptive conclusion. Furthermore, the editors are willing to face facts uncomfortable to the liberal peace consensus. They concede that state coercion, while it might exacerbate some conflicts, has ended others: “In Punjab, Sri Lanka, Aceh, Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and Maluku – all areas where violent conflict has either disappeared or diminished – suppression has been part of the recipe in each case” (273). What matters, they argue, are the circumstances in which coercion is used and the way it is applied. The heavy hand of the Sri Lanka government in crushing the LTTE, they suggest, will live on in people’s memories for generations. Finally, the book places regional events in a wider, global context, pointing to the key importance—and frequent success—of internationalizing conflict resolution since the end of the Cold War.
In short, this is an excellent collection. The analysis is sharp and the policy implications clearly but carefully drawn.
Stewart Firth, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
DIGITAL MEDIA IN EAST ASIA: National Innovation and the Transformation of a Region. By Carin Holroyd and Ken Coates. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2012. xiv, 265 pp., (Tables, figures.) US$114.99, cloth. ISBN 978-1-60497-805-6.
East Asia’s presence in the realm of digital media is one of the most dynamic. Several countries in East Asia, such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, have jumped on the digital bandwagon one after another and quickly become global leaders. Previously, the digital revolution had been primarily American-centric; however, the power has shifted toward East Asia mainly due to the interplay between the governments and corporations. Digital Media in East Asia makes timely and valuable confirmations of this new trend by exploring the emergence of East Asian digital technologies and content. It aptly traces and documents the historical evolution of digital media, including insights and ideas embedded in digital media in the East Asian context.
This book has seven chapters, and the first two chapters present an overview, including concepts and theoretical frameworks. By defining digital media as the transmission of information in digital format, including through digital devices, the Internet, wireless systems, and use of information and content by way of digital technologies, these chapters make a clear connection between digital media and the digital economy as the commercial activities associated with the production of hardware and software, digital infrastructure, and digital content. These chapters especially lay out the importance of the changing role of the government in the digital revolution of East Asia. The authors carefully claim that the new economic mindset certainly challenges governments to rethink their role in managing national economy now emphasizing digital media.
Chapters 3 and 4 detail the national innovation strategies of East Asian countries, and the authors analyze the significance of infrastructure focusing on the Internet. By examining several key innovation strategies, including an “e-Japan strategy” and “e-Taiwan,” they identify the reasons why these countries have quickly moved onto a variety of digital technologies. These chapters also document a few national strategies, such as “The 21st Century Frontier Research and Development National Project in Korea” and “the Decision on Accelerating Scientific and Technological Development in China” in order to articulate the chief causes for the development of leading-edge technologies.
The last two chapters examine software and digital content, followed by the summary chapter. While admitting the difficulties in developing the soft side—the content, design and creative element—of digital content, these chapters aptly deliver in which East Asian countries have advanced their distinctive digital content. After articulating how digital content, including anime, console games, online games, digital music, social media and mobile phones have impacted the growth of the national digital economy, they cautiously predict that East Asia will remain at the forefront of the digital revolution because digital content will likely continue as the core element of the digital economy in the future.
Digital Media in East Asia proves to be an accessible book with rich information. Several aspects highlight the value of this comprehensive book in understanding digital media in the region. First, this book is confirmation that the role of governments in science and technology remains and even intensifies amid neoliberal reform. After juxtaposing the Keynesian views of national economic policies, emphasizing the crucial role of the nation-state, and neoliberal revolution, focusing on the small role of the government to guarantee maximum profits for the private sector, the authors elegantly claim that East Asian governments have initiated the digital revolution as major players. Neoliberal globalization asks that each government takes hands-off policies; however, the authors argue that the combination of government engagement and societal change that supported the new technology-based economies is a key in the growth of digital media in East Asia.
Second, the book’s structure deserves readers’ appreciation. This is technically not a comparative study; however, by paralleling four major countries’ major innovation strategies in the development of digital media, it dexterously provides comparison figures of some key issues so that the readers easily comprehend the nature of the development in East Asia. Last, but not least, this book offers an insightful perspective for understanding the future of East Asia in the realm of digital media. As the authors pertinently argue, the world is moving, at a remarkably rapid pace, into a new level of technological innovation and societal transformation; however, through their detailed documentation, this book argues that East Asia is much more ready for this transition than most parts of the world.
If the book has any shortcomings, the first is that there is no discussion on the role of users. The authors correctly emphasize that the power is shifting from digital makers to digital users; however, they do not give much attention to the users who are not only consumers but also producers. Primarily relying on their consultations with government officials and industry representatives in East Asia, the in-depth interviews or ethnographic interpretations of the behaviour of users would be another asset. Second, it is missing analysis of the smartphone, which is one of the most significant digital media. In East Asia, the iPhone has hugely impacted the marketplace, resulting in the smartphone revolution as Korean smartphone makers, including Samsung and LG, have rapidly developed their own smartphones, which are now competing neck to neck with the iPhone in the global markets. This book sparsely touches on mobile phones and mobile culture; however, it is unfortunate that it does not more deeply analyze the smartphone era. Lastly, the authors could also have detailed several negative issues occurring in the digital age, such as surveillance, copyright infringement, and cybercrime or cyberterrorism. These matters are serious enough to be fully discussed because they are also major parts of the digital economy, and critical engagement with these issues would have enhanced the value of the book.
Overall, this book provides the readers with a generous abundance of information on digital media and content in the East Asian context. It is well-researched and presented and makes a convincing contribution to a growing body of literature on digital media studies, East Asian Studies, and information technology policy. It is highly recommended for a wide range of readers: those interested in digital media in tandem with East Asia.
Dal Yong Jin, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
MEDIA, EROTICS, AND TRANSNATIONAL ASIA. Editors, Purnima Mankekar and Louisa Schein. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2012. xi, 374 pp. (Tables, B&W illus.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4577-0.
Asia’s transnational mediascape has increasingly attracted academic attention, as exemplified by the growing number of recent publications on trans-Asian media culture. The academic craze of media flows in Asia seems to have been largely accompanied by macro-level analyses of (inter)national cultural economies with rhetoric such as “soft power,” “Bollywood,” “Cool Japan,” and the “Korean Wave,” while affective dimensions of the changing Asian mediascape have, to a great extent, remained under-researched. In this respect, Media, Erotics, and Transnational Asia marks a novel approach to transnational Asia and its media culture. This book comprises 10 engaging essays on mediated erotics in transnational Asia, along with an original introduction by the editors. The essays present not only a wide geographic scope across Asia and Asian diasporas, but also an empirically grounded understanding of the transnational mediation of erotics.
The mediated erotic is a topical lens through which the contributors of the book explore Asia as an assemblage of heterogeneous cultural histories in the process of globalization. In the introduction, the editors, Purnima Mankekar and Louisa Schein, elucidate the book’s perspective, which is to challenge the simplistic approach to Asia as a homogeneous entity while exploring cultural identities in the mediated flows of erotics. Following the editors’ introduction, Martin F. Manalansan examines an emerging insubordinate form of erotics that challenges the hegemonic imagination of homelands. Manalansan’s analysis of the Filipino film Miguel/Michelle investigates the way in which queers’ return migration is represented in the media and interpreted by queer viewers in Manila and New York. Judith Farquhar’s essay on the pleasure of reading health magazines explores mediated erotics as a process of forming a new subjectivity in post-socialist China. The question of erotics in the process of reading is also addressed in the following essay, in which Tom Boellstorff explores the interplay between homosexual desire and citizenship in Indonesian gay zines.
Nicole Constable inquires into the Internet media by means of which virtual communities debate the stereotype of correspondence marriages between American men and Filipino women. Everett Yuehong Zhang’s essay discusses the emerging individuals’ desires for and interests in the body in China by analyzing the media appearance of a popular biomedical doctor in post-socialist Beijing. Purnima Mankekar’s essay discusses how nationalist belonging and erotic desires are represented in the 1990s’ transnationalizing Indian television by exploring the alliances between the nation-state, national industry and global capital. Louisa Schein looks at the reconfiguration of transnational erotics in her analysis of migrant subjectivities constructed in the diasporic circulation of Mmong video texts. Sara L. Friedman examines how film viewers in China, Taiwan and the US interpret mediated erotics through their own cultural contexts by analyzing the reception of the Taiwan–Hong Kong-produced film The Twin Bracelets.
The last two essays focus on the topic of Orientalist gazes on Asian women, which is also addressed, to some extent, by most essays in the book. Heather Dell’s study of the award- winning documentary Born into Brothels explores the tension between the dominant Western narrative of “rescuing Asian sex workers” and Asian sex-worker activists’ discourse that challenges the Western stereotype of Asian women as victims. Anne Allison examines the best-selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha, which facilitates Western fans’ engagement with erotics of a distant foreign place and enables them to masquerade as different subjects.
Engaging with various aspects of mediated erotics across Asia and Asian diasporas, the collected essays constitute an organic whole of solid research. As the editors note in their introduction, Media, Erotics, and Transnational Asia is more than a compilation of case studies. It presents the leading Asianist anthropologists’ collaborative effort to initiate a transnational framework for analyzing an affective dimension of the trans-Asian mediascape. Theoretically, it attempts to develop cultural theories to explore how media globalization and (gendered and national) identity intersect. In addition, its engagement with the diaspora as a significant research area in transnational Asian studies is noteworthy. The authors’ theoretical effort is enhanced by their reflexive discussions of ethnographic methodology for media analysis in transnational contexts. The contributors utilize an “ethno-textual approach”—Louisa Schein’s term—so that a close reading of the media is interwoven with ethnographic engagement with media text and its context. This methodological effort situates media texts in their particular cultural histories and thus leads readers toward an engaging understanding of transnational cultural flows as lived cultural processes.
While the cultural histories of the trans-Asian mediascape and its affective dimension are perceptively addressed by ethnographic readings of a wide range of media forms, including films, television, radio, novels, magazines and the Internet, most essays in this collection tend to focus on a form of medium. A further examination of cross-media environments would have made this rich collection even more suggestive for the emerging mediascape of the Web 2.0 era; yet, this is still a highly inspiring collection. In particular, its critically and empirically grounded approach makes Media, Erotics, and Transnational Asia a welcome addition to cultural research on transnational Asia. This book can be recommended to any scholars and students interested in the cultural aspects of contemporary Asia.
Kyong Yoon, The University of British Columbia, Okanagan, Canada
STRUCTURE, AUDIENCE AND SOFT POWER IN EAST ASIAN POP CULTURE. TransAsia: Screen Cultures. By Chua Beng Huat. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. xiii, 183 pp. US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-988-8139-04-0.
Over the past twenty years academia has seen a burgeoning of new research in the areas of cultural studies, pop culture and visual culture. At the same time, “soft power” has increasingly become a keyword not just in academia, but also in mainstream media. Chua Beng Huat, professor of sociology at National University of Singapore, a scholar who has been at the cutting edge of pop culture studies, offers a fascinating exploration of pop culture and soft power at the crossroads of transnational exchange in East Asia. Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture offers a wide-ranging discussion of pop culture—centreing on television idol dramas and popular music, but also drawing on film, newspapers, websites, social media and other sources—as it challenges national borders and creates new fan-based communities.
The geographical scope of the study includes China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Singapore, offering an overview of how East Asian pop culture crosses borders, charting the regional forms that travel, how these exchanges have shifted over the past few decades and exploring why. While individual studies of pop culture in these various regions are increasingly common, Chua Beng Huat’s more comprehensive and embracing approach that brings together scholarship from all of these different regions to trace interconnections, pan-Asian distribution, global audience responses, and the formation of inter-Asia fan cultures is truly cutting edge. Through this approach we are able to better understand the role of pop culture in influencing the geo-political currents of East Asia. While Singapore is often overlooked in many other related studies (indeed, the author acknowledges the city-state’s traditional role as primarily a consumer of pop culture as opposed to a creator), I appreciated the author’s many case studies of Singapore pop culture, such as the discussions of Singapore pop singers who develop their careers in Taiwan and the films of Eric Khoo, which helped better situate Singapore within the context of the Chinese cultural sphere. Particularly eye opening was Chua’s case study comparing regional coverage in the entertainment section of the newspapers United Daily News (Taiwan), Ming Pao (Taiwan), Asahi Shimbum (Japan) and JoongAng Daily (Korea) and seeing side-by-side the radical disparities in different countries’ media coverage of pop culture from other East Asian regions.
Among the book’s theoretical contributions stands the notion of Pop Culture China, which arises out of the author’s discussions of Tu Weiming’s Confucian-based “cultural China” and Shu-mei Shih’s Sinophone. As Chua explains, “The configuration of Pop Culture China is materially and symbolically without center” (39), as it brings together Huaren communities through shared cultural experiences: pop music, films, television dramas, and celebrities who transcend regional boundaries. The attention and detail devoted to various elements of Pop Culture China does, however, ultimately hint at the book’s emphasis on Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore as opposed to Japan and Korea. Examples from Mainland China, which Chua argues “had been and remains essentially a location of consumption of East Asian Pop Culture” (137), are also less robust than I would have expected. Nevertheless, Chua does strike a good balance between the examples he chooses, a difficult task given the amount of material he covers in just over 150 pages. But given the relatively succinct nature of the book, I was surprised by how much repetition is present chapter to chapter; often a single example or statistic is repeated several times throughout the book (which might be useful for teaching purposes, but is otherwise unnecessary). Later, drawing on the work of Joseph Nye, Chua offers a solid overview of notions of soft power and discusses its application to the East Asian context. With examples from Korean dramas like Jewel in the Palace and Winter Sonata, Japanese anime and manga, and the PRC’s own attempt to harness soft power in the 2000s, the book maps out a fascinating picture of the regional ebbs and tides in pop culture-as-soft power in East Asia.
While there are several interesting case studies of films, entertainment pages from leading East Asian newspapers, and tabloid-level controversies involving Korean pop singers, all of which help anchor the study, the book’s primary contribution comes from its chapters that trace inter-Asian pop culture exchanges from a macro perspective. It is these chapters that allow the book to function as an accessible introduction to the world of East Asian pop culture from a transnational perspective. Written in a highly readable style, featuring numerous examples and case studies that students should be able to easily relate to, and containing quite a few theoretical insights into the interactions between soft power and pop culture, Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture should also serve as a good preliminary textbook to undergraduate and graduate courses on pop culture studies, as well as more focused courses on China pop, the Korean Wave, and Japanese popular culture.
Michael Berry, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
HARBIN TO HANOI: The Colonial Built Environment in Asia, 1840 to1940. Global Connections. Edited by Laura Victoir and Victor Zatsepine. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013. xiii, 281 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Tables, figures.) US$50.00, cloth, ISBN 978-988-8139-41-5; US$25.00, paper, ISBN 978-988-8139-42-2.
The historic sections of many Asian cities are marked by a distinctive amalgam of foreign- and native-built modern buildings that belie a variety of political, social and cultural conflicts and exchanges that are otherwise unmarked in the contemporary city. This compelling collection of essays augments the normative political narratives of European and Japanese colonial expansion in East and Southeast Asia by examining the social histories of the colonial built environment in Manchuria, coastal China, Hong Kong, and Hanoi. Consisting of an introductory chapter, 11 essays, and one concluding chapter, this volume underscores the formative role of architecture and planning in variously fostering and complicating foreign colonial schemes and fomenting the creation of modern, novel modes of architecture, knowledge and lifeways among the native population that contested the perquisites of foreign powers.
The first three essays explore the confrontation among Russian and Japanese imperialism, Chinese nationalism, and French colonial enterprise in Manchuria. Victor Zatsepine examines Harbin’s success as a Russian economic outpost and notes that Russian and Soviet influence continued after both Russia’s defeat by Japan in 1905 and the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Bill Sewell notes that the hybrid Euro-Asian architecture of Changchun bespoke Japanese ambition to distill a modern Asian urban vision in Manchukuo. However, he opines, rather than representing vigour, the city revealed the spiritual emptiness of all imperialist societies, while effectively manifesting the overwhelming state power that propelled Japan’s colonial project.
David Tucker explores the complexities of colonial engagements in Asia in his chapter on the attempts by French investors and the engineering firm Société d’exploitation des établissements Brossard Mopin to pursue business opportunities in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Although unrecognized diplomatically by the major powers, Manchukuo nonetheless elicited interest from foreign governments hoping to ensure that markets would remain open to their nation’s commerce and from foreign enterprises eager to exploit business opportunities afforded by Japan’s intensive development scheme. The French government was markedly less hostile to Japan’s colonial enterprise than Britain or the USA, while some officials viewed Japan sympathetically as a fellow proponent of the mission civilisatrice in Asia. Brossard Mopin, which was especially active in Indochina, pursued Manchurian contracts, which it won due to Japanese enthusiasm for fostering foreign commercial engagements in Manchukuo. Awarded the contract for the Foreign Ministry in Changchun, Brossard Mopin’s building lacked the tell-tale marks of synthetic Pan-Asian architecture and seems to reflect a desire that Manchukuo be, above all, “modern.”
The following three chapters on Tianjin, Qingdao and Shanghai highlight the diversity of European colonialisms and their influence within treaty-port China. Zhang Chang and Liu Yue emphasize Tianjin’s singularity as a hyper-colony where some nine countries established concessions and where public space, community organization, and cultural politics were distinct from the dominant pattern set in Shanghai. Such international diversity, Zhang and Liu argue, underlay a generally “eclectic” approach to architecture and living for elite Chinese and foreigners alike. Although vague, their suggestive analysis highlights the variety of urban space in semi-colonial eastern China. Klaus Muhlhaun’s chapter discusses the attempts by Imperial Germany to organize Qingdao according to the dictates of military concerns and German imperial ideology, which imposed distinct segregation of different peoples. The number of Chinese living in the city forced some changes so that Qingdao came to represent a new “enlightened” form of the imperial project that was designed to be more efficient, more flexible, and less openly violent than its nineteenth-century variants.
Two chapters explore the construction of the Hong Kong Supreme Court and the selection of a site for the University of Hong Kong and the subsequent building of the main campus. Although intended to serve as edifices of colonial domination, both projects were affected by Asian colonial subjects, who built the structures and also served as benefactors, including, in the case of the University of Hong Kong, the Parsee merchant (i.e., opium dealer) Hormusjee Mody, who paid for the Main Building. Similarly, colonial justice and university education, though serving British privilege, also provided means for some colonial subjects to seek advantages in colonial society. These two notable structures of colonial rule thus complicate our understanding of imperialism as a system of simple foreign dominance.
The final three essays explore the attempts of French urban planners and colonial medical theorists to create ordered public spaces and salubrious hygiene in Hanoi. Like Hong Kong, Hanoi was the seat of a potent colonial regime, yet the vagaries of power and advantage could betray imperial ambitions. The last chapter by Danielle Labbe et al. notes that young Vietnamese architects, whom the colonial administration intended to serve as technicians under French guidance, emerged as significant, autonomous designers and developers of the city. In particular, Vietnamese architects took the lead in creating a hybrid Vietnamese-French modern house that dominated the New Indigenous Quarter of the city.
All of the chapters are clearly written and richly documented. Some essays address broad themes that would appeal to general readers, while others examine discrete topics that would most likely appeal to academic specialists alone. By combining studies on British, French, Russian, German and Japanese colonialism, this volume will be especially rewarding for all interested in modern empires and colonial studies. As such, Harbin to Hanoi will appeal to a variety of readers interested in urban history, architecture and imperialism in East and Southeast Asia during the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as those interested in European politics and colonialism as a whole.
Peter Carroll, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA
China and Inner Asia
HANDBOOK OF CHINA’S GOVERNANCE AND DOMESTIC POLITICS. Routledge International Handbooks. Editor, Chris Ogden. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xxi, 326 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$300.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-85743-636-5.
This is an excellent handbook that makes a unique contribution to the market of books on China’s government and domestic politics. It provides brief, but comprehensive overviews on a wide range of important topics; its 23 chapters include virtually every subject that might be covered in an undergraduate Chinese politics course. The volume’s strength also comes from the involvement of contributors that include some of the top names in China studies, and hail from a wide range of places (the United Kingdom, Australia, China, the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Hong Kong) and disciplines (political science, sociology, the geosciences, law, management, and economics). Altogether, the book is a valuable resource for students and instructors looking for concise and generally clear and accessible accounts of the many facets of China’s political system. In addition, scholars may find it to be useful as a reference work that synthesizes most of the scholarly literature on the various topics covered therein. Yet, as a handbook, the volume is not designed to break new scholarly ground, and China specialists should not expect to learn anything new from its pages.
The text is divided into four sections. The first looks at “organizational principles,” and includes chapters on the structure and history of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Chinese Communist state, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The second section focuses on “policy areas,” including economics, justice, health and social policy, education and culture, internal security, and defense and foreign policy. Section 3 examines various “political processes,” with chapters on political representation, political participation, political opposition, center-local relations, and nationalism. The final section covers “contemporary issues,” such as social change and inequality, corruption, human rights, the environment, social unrest, separatism, resource shortages, media and the internet, and globalization and individualism.
The volume’s main focus is China’s post-Mao or Reform era, but most chapters also discuss the Maoist era to some degree, and some also include sections on the Imperial era. Each chapter is quite short—about ten pages—which means that a great deal of material must be covered in a short space. Some chapters do this quite well (in particular, those by Blasko, Bo, Economy, Saich, Tang/Shen, Wedeman, and Weatherley), while others feel too brief and are chopped up into very small sections that are not always adequately connected (e.g., those by Guthrie and He). The chapters also vary in the degree to which their content and prose is engaging and accessible to a non-specialist audience. Some (e.g., those by Guthie, Li, and Reny/Hurst) are not well-pitched for undergraduate students and/or non-specialists. These read more like literature reviews or condensed scholarly journal articles, and refer to theories that may not be familiar to general readers. While not a problem for specialists, because of the short length of each chapter, broader academic theories related to the chapter’s specific topic cannot be discussed in enough detail for the general reader to fully comprehend.
The editor (Ogden) provides a very brief preface and conclusion (roughly five pages each) that attempt to connect the chapters to one another. As with all edited volumes, achieving coherence is a difficult and often elusive task. In this case, a number of different themes are presented, but they are somewhat vague and not clearly linked. Ogden states that the book’s central theme is increasing codependency, complexity and interconnectedness within China’s political system. Other themes mentioned in the preface and/or conclusion are China’s scale, its (re)becoming a great power, history/memory as crucial factors in understanding China, the ongoing search by China’s political elites for internal stability and security, and the longevity, resilience and adaptability of the CCP. These are all interesting and important themes, but they do not cohere in a clear over-arching argument. Further, there is no real attempt on the part of the authors to include transitions or explicit linkages across chapters. One could also quibble with some small points regarding the book’s organization; for example, it is not clear how “nationalism” can be considered a “political process,” and the chapters on the “environment” and “resource shortages” could easily be merged.
But these are quite minor issues, and they do not materially detract from the volume’s fulfillment of its central aim: to serve as a handbook that provides a comprehensive overview of Chinese politics and governance. I do not know of a book that better fulfills this goal. The chapters cover topics that are important and timely, and they generally do an admirable job of synthesizing a great deal of information in a small number of pages. As such, the volume provides an instructor of a course on Chinese politics with a smorgasbord of concise, clear, engaging and accessible chapters from which to select for student reading materials and lecture supplements. I intend to utilize a number of the chapters in my own course, and I have no doubt that my students will benefit as a result.
California State University, Long Beach, USA Teresa Wright
This summer my son and I visited an air show in coastal Maine. World War Two-era planes were displayed alongside a small number of vets who discussed the war, their planes, and the political context in which America triumphed over fascism. A side exhibit on science caught my attention and there I noticed the only display of modern technology was an exhibit about the Mag-Lev train in Shanghai. The lesson that was, perhaps unwittingly, taught to the crowds of summer-camp children: American power is in the past; China’s is the future. David Shambaugh’s examination of the parameters and limits of China’s power is written with exactly this problem in mind. Americans’ knowledge about and understanding of China is limited. If we only understand Chinese power in the context of its most recent achievements and its most high- profile successes (the Beijing Olympics, advanced infrastructure, rapid growth), we are likely to overestimate its true power and its capacity to become either a global partner or a global competitor.
Shambaugh does not mince words when he discusses the current contradictions and almost psychological complexes that hound the worldviews and aspirations of China’s elite. Insecure, paranoid, defensive are a few adjectives that he uses repeatedly to describe some corners of the Chinese government, punditry and academia. His core argument is that China is, as the title states, only a “partial” power. In each realm of power —economic, cultural, political and military—China is hampered by material constraints but even more so by its own internal disagreements and its own deeply held beliefs and principles about China’s role in the world. These internal constraints are also embedded in the institutions of the Chinese Communist Party and government. Change will be difficult.
The volume is comprehensive, examining Chinese power from nearly every possible angle and providing an interpretation of the debates within China about everything from the high power of diplomacy and foreign policy to the soft power of Chinese films, art and tourism. Shambaugh is fair and gives space to viewpoints from the hypernationalist far-right (that is, confusingly, in China the “new left”) to the liberal internationalists who see China having a benevolent effect on the West and global governance. It is striking, however, that even this liberal side of the elite no longer openly professes much deep admiration of Western political institutions or sees China as progressing along a path of convergence and modernization as happened to China’s neighbours, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, over the past century. So while China may be confused, it is clear that it remains ambitious in forging new political and economic models for itself, if not for other developing countries. Unfortunately for China, there is no consensus as to what these alternative models might be. This also makes China a deeply insecure power.
Shambaugh’s aim is straightforward: to show how China’s power is constrained and less than often imagined or represented in the West. Chapters on diplomacy, global governance, the economy, culture (soft power) and security each provide a wealth of information to make this case. While he also examines the internal debate and divisions in China about the nature of its constrained power and the possible paths forward for greater power projection, he does not and perhaps cannot tell us which opinions hold more sway, which direction is more or less likely for China in the future. His analysis is also necessarily centred on China’s elites: government officials, business and media leaders, leading academics, etc. While he acknowledges that mass public opinion has an increasing impact on how the elite behave, how policies are made and packaged for public consumption, the elite focus may mask the importance and the diversity of public opinion in contemporary China. Each school of thought among elite opinion leaders realizes that there are strong incentives to reach out to the public, to cultivate public support, and to mobilize the public when elite disagreements emerge in policy making. While Shambaugh is mostly concerned with the international implications of China’s “identity crisis,” his analysis of the disagreements, the divisions, and the confusion among China’s elite decision makers and thinkers led this reader to worry about China’s domestic political capacity to manage elite differences and rising public demands for greater projection of China’s power.
The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA Mary E. Gallagher
EUROPE AND CHINA: Strategic Partners or Rivals? Global Connections. Edited by Roland Vogt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012. xvi, 283 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-988-8083-88-6.
Not that many years ago, the rise of China was just the rise of China in Asia. Since China’s accession to the WTO, and particularly reinforced by the economic crisis that began in 2008, this is no longer the case. Now the rise of China is the rise of China in the world. This book attempts to capture a crucial part of this process, the bilateral/multilateral relations between Europe (the EU and its member states) and China.
This important book consists of ten chapters clustered in two main parts, the first one focused roughly on the international relations of Europe- China and the second on relevant topics, such as human rights, global warming and energy, and “China in Africa.” An unusual but quite interesting chapter on Sino-Vatican relations, by Beatrice Leung, is included. The book’s editor, Roland Vogt, has written a balanced introduction and conclusion, as well as an important chapter on the limitations of Europe’s partnership with China.
Xinning Song’s comprehensive first chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book. A common theme underlying most contributions is a critical examination of the official rhetoric of the Europe-China relationship, for example, the idea of “strategic partnership,” and a sober evaluation of the multiple constraints for the development of a more robust and constructive relationship.
A serious problem in preparing any complex volume like this one is that it is a slow process. In the context of a major European, and developing global, economic crisis some of the issues treated here become, by force, moving targets. For example, the analysis of the repercussions of Li Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize in 2010 and the incident of Chen Guangchen in 2012, which highly impacted the whole human rights disagreement, is virtually absent, as well as any evaluation of the leadership change in China in 2012–2013 and the potential impact of Obama’s reelection in the United States in November 2012. Certainly many of the book’s core ideas will likely remain relevant tools for students, scholars and analysts. Vogt’s conclusion tries to update the analysis. Additionally, no single book can capture all the complexities of the relationship and all the issues on the table, and all the ones analyzed here are indisputably relevant.
This useful book provides a nuanced and balanced analysis of the structural aspects of Europe-China relations. Yes, Kapur’s notion of “distant neighbours” (Kapur, 1990) and Rosenau’s of “distant proximities” (Rosenau, 2003) help us to understand the kind of world we are now living in, but it is China that is increasingly becoming less “distant” for everybody. Yet paradoxically, despite this increasing weight and assertiveness of China, the structure of this carefully researched book done by a balanced team of scholars still reflects a mostly European agenda, more “Europe-China” than “China-Europe.” The lack of a thorough analysis of differences over the question of the full market recognition, an important issue for China, is a good example of this. For this reason, the value of Lai Wang’s chapter on China’s perceptions of Europe is increased.
In recent years there has been a major shift in mainstream discourse in Europe about China, from China being a potential partner and balancer “that could be useful for diminishing or even challenging America’s influence” (1) to China as an economic threat or a rival evolving finally into China as an investor and financial helper, something that might put China in the de facto position of a lender of last resort. More confusing, the three aforementioned visions coexist and quite frequently different countries and the EU express contradictory points of view on them.
A salient issue in the relationship is the EU’s normative power, or mission civilisatrice, an approach that is critically examined in Chengxin Pan’s chapter. The global economic and sovereign debt crisis created an additional dilemma: how can Europe project its normative power (an essential, if quite problematic, identity component) vis-à-vis China when at the same time many of its members are desperately seeking Chinese economic support? There is no easy solution to this dilemma, but at least better management is required. The question of European pressure regarding human rights issues is touched upon by several contributors, and the comprehensive chapter by Tin Wai bravely focuses on it. The importance of this issue is reflected in the fact that Wai’s chapter heads up part II devoted to special issues.
Richard Balme and Steve Wood address two complex issues that have a greater need, and probably more potential, for cooperation: climate change and energy. Linda Jakobson and Jacob Wood take on the daunting task of making sense of the myriad instances of China’s intervention in Africa. Europe has been rapidly losing ground vis-à-vis China in Africa and Latin America, and the economic crisis has reinforced this trend.
Reuben Wong recognizes and skillfully analyzes the grave effect of the US on Europe-China relations, and the chapter is still relevant in helping us understand more recent developments. The US pivot to the Pacific and the rebalancing announced at the end of the first Obama administration, and the new effort for the establishment of a EU-NAFTA Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have the potential to deeply influence the dynamics of Europe-China relations in coming years.
American University, Washington, DC, USA Gonzalo S. Paz
FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE PRC: The Legacies and Constraints of China’s International Politics since 1949. By Robert G. Sutter. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013. xi, 355 pp. US$89.00, cloth, ISBN 978-1-4422-2015-7; US$35.00, paper, ISBN 978-1-4422-2016-4.
Robert Sutter is one of America’s leading students of Chinese foreign relations. In addition to teaching at Georgetown and George Washington University, he spent many years as an analyst for the CIA and the Congressional Research Service and two years as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia and the Pacific. His publications are legion, several of them cited in his footnotes and listed in his bibliography. In brief, this is an important book that will be extremely valuable for anyone who wants to know more about the PRC’s current policies, the historical background of China’s place in the world, and the meaning of China’s ‘rise.”
My only caveat is that it is not well written and is very repetitious. Many editors hesitate to tamper with the work of much-published senior scholars. A determined editor might have shortened the book by as much as 25 percent, bringing Sutter’s arguments into sharper focus.
Sutter’s principal argument is presented clearly on the first page. He rejects the various theories by analysts who postulate a China threat and urge the United States to either appease or oppose China. He concludes that China’s rise “has not and probably will not” lead to a shift in the world balance of power. China’s foreign policy apparatus, he notes, has been incoherent over the years since the establishment of the People’s Republic. Its strategies have constantly vacillated between assertiveness, sometimes violent, and efforts to win the confidence of other nations—especially those of East Asia, as well as the United States. The result has been apprehension about China’s intentions and hedging against it. Its behaviour has limited its influence in the arena that matters most to it: the Asia-Pacific region.
In the pages that follow, Sutter provides a comprehensive review of the history of China’s foreign relations since 1949: Mao’s policies 1945-1969; efforts to maneuver between the United States and the Soviet Union, 1969-1989; and policies after the Cold War. He has a chapter on patterns in Chinese decision making, another on the increase of China’s importance in world affairs, and chapters on relations with the United States, neighbouring Asian countries, and the rest of the world.
In his initial assessment, he makes an important observation about the Chinese public’s ignorance of China’s transgressions and the leadership’s emphasis on Chinese exceptionalism. All of us who study China have been told again and again, by Chinese scholars as well as government officials, that China has always been peaceful, that Chinese culture precludes aggressiveness, that China has always been a victim of malevolent foreign powers—and despite ample evidence to the contrary, most of them believe it. The obvious result is that whenever China becomes involved in a controversy, virtually all Chinese are convinced of their country’s righteousness. As Sutter notes, Chinese exceptionalism greatly exceeds the exceptionalism many Americans imagine for their own country. The kinds of revelations of atrocities and torture by Americans, constantly revealed in US media, are unimaginable in China.
The efforts of the Communist Party to retain power, obviously its primary goal, have led it to stimulate nationalism as a substitute for ideology. To paraphrase an old Chinese proverb, once riding the nationalist tiger, it is difficult to get off. An aroused public has proved to be a restraint on the leadership, most obviously in relations with Japan. Trade with Japan and Japanese investment in China are enormously important, but it has proven all too easy to arouse anti-Japanese sentiment, anti-Japanese demonstrations, that complicate life for policy makers in Beijing.
Sutter is very good at describing the shift in US policy in 1983 when George Shultz took over as secretary of state after the departure of Al Haig. Haig, a Kissinger acolyte, was primarily concerned with maintaining good relations with China, less focused on Japan and other friendly nations in East Asia. Shultz’s team—Paul Wolfowitz, Gaston Sigur and Richard Armitage—were not especially interested in keeping the Chinese happy. They were determined to strengthen ties with Japan, Indonesia and other states on China’s periphery. A few years later, with the fall of the Soviet Union, China was less important to the United States, and the US was less important to China.
The Taiwan issue remained a major source of tension between Beijing and Washington. Many American policy makers, including Kissinger, Brzezinski and Scowcroft, would have abandoned the island to maintain good relations with China, but as Sutter notes, increasing public support—on the left as well as the right—for the burgeoning democracy there precluded that action. There were a number of tense moments over the years, especially whenever Taiwanese leaders appeared to be moving toward independence. The election of Ma Ying-cheou in 2008 and his subsequent reelection have reduced the likelihood of conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
Among the reasons Sutter gives for limited Chinese influence is Beijing’s consistent unwillingness to accept international norms on human rights. In discussions with Chinese scholars and officials over the last thirty years, I have found a stubborn defense of Chinese practices and the suggestion that the rest of the world adopt China’s model. Sutter is also critical of the PRC’s refusal to commit to policies for the “global common good,” and its narrow pursuit of its own interests. He never denies concerns about a rising China’s impact on the world economy, but points to China’s dependence on the world economy. He recognizes the PRC’s increasing military power, but invokes what political scientists would call the “security dilemma”: every step Beijing takes to “defend” itself against the United States prompts American responses, military and diplomatic, to protect US interests.
Strengthening his argument about the limited prospect of China’s rise shifting the world balance of power is his discussion of the overwhelming domestic problems Chinese leaders face. Unrest is widespread. Corruption is widespread among officials, often at or close to the top of the government and party apparatus. The state-owned enterprises suck up funds needed elsewhere—and the banking system is a shambles.
Sutter has written a book that will be enormously useful as a reference for anyone who wants to know more about China’s past role in the world—and its likely role over the next decade or two.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Washington DC, USA Warren I. Cohen
DEFENDING RIGHTS IN CONTEMPORARY CHINA. Routledge/Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) East Asian Series, 12. By Jonathan Benney. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xi, 197 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-69430-8.
Jonathan Benney has written an important book that shows how talk about weiquan, rights defense, became embedded in official discourse and policies, and then was taken up, challenged and modified by different groups in society, such as ordinary citizens, consumer activists, lawyers and dissidents. The book adds to our understanding of how norms and terms develop and travel both among different groups within a given society as well as across national borders. Within the field of human rights studies, several scholars have drawn attention to processes of vernacularization of ideas, and this book, albeit not drawing on this strand of literature, nevertheless can be seen as contributing to the debate. Benney should also be commended for going beyond earlier more static cultural/intellectual studies of rights and human rights towards a more ethnographic-based study that shows how rights are understood, debated and embedded among different stakeholders and in diverse struggles in a rapidly changing Chinese society. The book builds on earlier works on the fragmented nature of the Chinese state, addressing how state-society relations have changed during the reform period, and how new stakeholders such as NGOs, social campaigners and lawyers have emerged and use new strategies and methods such as information and communication technologies (ICTs) to identify and defend their rights. Whereas many earlier works have addressed the history and debates on human rights in China, legal developments, rights struggles as part of protests and social movements, and the views and struggles of special groups of individuals, such as lawyers and dissidents, Benney’s book shows how these debates and struggles are connected. The author accomplishes this by taking an interdisciplinary approach that draws on insights from sociology, media studies and legal studies.
Benney’s book thus aims to provide an overview of the complex development of both the notion and practice of weiquan. The book consists of an introductory chapter addressing the development of the term, and subsequent chapters discuss how the major actors, identified as the government, ordinary citizens and lawyers, separately and in negotiation with each other have understood, used and shaped weiquan. Weiquan, thus, is not a static or uncontested notion, but ambiguous and evolving, and it is used strategically by different actors in specific and ever new contexts. The emphasis on different stakeholders’ “strategic” use turns our attention to the practice rather than the theory behind the notion. By focusing on rights defense as a strategy and framing device, the author avoids getting too bogged down in more abstract discussions on the sources of rights and whether or in what way Chinese citizens’ understanding of rights differ from citizens in the so-called West—a debate that has been raging for some time.
Benney provides a convincing argument for how the government’s own initial use and advocacy of weiquan opened up a Pandora’s box that encouraged Chinese citizens to use and couch their own activities and demands in those terms. Given the prominence and widespread use of the term today, and bearing in mind that according to Benney it was not used at all before 1992, it is interesting how little we actually know about its origin and early developments and the rapid dissemination and appropriation by different groups in society. Despite Benney’s own discussion of the rise and use of the term in the Chinese media and in different policy statements, there is still much left to explore about how and why different official institutions and individuals pushed the notion of weiquan, and how their understanding and use of the term has developed with time. It seems that weiquan developed more as a domestic discourse initiated and pushed by the Ministry of Justice, and thus in some isolation from the official Chinese human rights discourse where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs played a more prominent role. Be that as it may, certain groups such as dissidents and lawyers soon came to relate weiquan to the international human rights discourse, showing how a certain term can get new connotations and be adopted for other uses than originally intended.
The rapid diffusion and adoption of weiquan is in no small part due to the diffusion and growth of the Internet in China. The Internet has, despite tight control and censorship, opened up a space for Chinese citizens to conceptualize, demand and fight for rights, as well as get support from others, thus challenging the official discourse. The diversification and commercialization of the Chinese media has also meant that journalists in the more critical media outlets today are able to report and spread the language of weiquan by publishing successful cases of rights defenders such as the consumer activist Wang Hai, discussed by Benney.
The book’s empirical part draws on a selection of case studies that show how different individuals have appropriated the state-sanctioned notion of rights defense and then used it to legitimize their own struggles, although very often in the process challenging the state. One could argue that Benney’s selection of cases focuses too much on well-placed and informed middle-class citizens whose struggles have been given good coverage in the media, and that their topics, consumer issues and property rights, thus reflect this group’s particular concerns. Although Benney briefly discusses areas such as labour rights and women’s rights, more studies of how other groups of citizens with grievances use weiquan, or if they prefer other concepts, and how successful such appropriation really is, and in what circumstances, are much needed. Benney also addresses the special role of lawyers in rights defense and their more vocal role in society today. The book’s conclusion and recent developments in China reveal an official retreat and backlash for weiquan both as notion and practice, which serves to further alert us to its ambiguous status and the precarious situation for those who try to practice it.
Lund University, Lund, Sweden Marina Svensson
IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE: Striving for the Rule of Law in China. The Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series. By He Weifang. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2012. xlix, 269 pp. US$34.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8157-3390-8.
In his words, Professor He Weifang, a prominent lecturer and researcher at Peking University, argues that there exists a certain division of labour among scholars. Some scholars would like to immerse themselves in academic research; others, like him, “believe that there is a need for people to disseminate the knowledge developed in the ivory tower among the public in a manner welcome and easily accessible to them” (66). As an admirable public scholar, Professor He Weifang has long been both a conscientious scholar and an indefatigably intrepid fighter who has been fighting for a China with judicial independence, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and a constitutional government. Mostly because of his outspokenness and boldness, Professor He was “banished” in 2009 to northwest China for two years (42), a region which used to be an exile venue for criminals who committed felonies in the Qing dynasty.
The book entitled In the Name of Justice: Striving for the Rule of Law in China is a collection of published articles and interviews conducted by Professor He Weifang from 2001 to 2011. Aside from a fascinating introduction authored by Li Chen, this book has been aptly classified into five parts, with each part specifically focusing on one topic that Professor He has advocated, such as Judicial Independence, Constitutionalism, Legal Education, Free Speech, and Human Rights. Throughout the book, we can find Professor He’s humour, insights, and a scholar’s conscience and concerns about China’s judicial and political problems.
As Li Chen correctly writes in the introduction, Professor He has “both idealism and pragmatism in his search for a constitutional China” (xlvii). Chapter 4, “Constitutionalism as a Global Trend and its Impact on China,” mirrors the idealism of Professor He, as he believes that there are four trends related to constitutional government in the contemporary world: 1) increasing justification for constitutionalism; 2) the end of the socialism-capitalism dichotomy and its impact; 3) supranational organizations’ restrictions of sovereignty; and 4) global expansion of judicial powers (101-118). All of them, he argues, will be “significant for China’s legislative and judicial development” (123).
In chapter 3, “China’s First Steps toward Constitutionalism,” a lecture he gave at the Southwest University of Political Science in 2003, Professor He becomes an outspoken and cogent critic of the judicial and political defects in China. Not only did he denounce the Chinese constitution as “empty lip service” (67) because such civil rights as the freedom of press, speech, protests and religious belief promised by the constitution did not exist in reality (67-9), but he also sharply chastised the National People’s Congress as useless and urged the Chinese Communist Party to register and publicize the usage of the national treasure (84-6). In addition, he lauded the tradition of constitutionalism in the West and attributed the tradition to the existence of natural law and Christianity (77-80).
Professor He’s scholarly conscience is best manifested in chapter 10, “Challenging the Death Penalty: Why We Should Abolish this Barbaric Punishment.” He states that there are a total of seven reasons that could justify the abolition of the death penalty in China: 1) the death penalty cannot bring about the “intended effect of curbing crime”; 2) the death penalty fails to “deter crimes but actually incites them”; 3) tortures are often used in decisions of death penalty; 4) the practice of open executions is “actually encouraging cruelty”; 5) the government is not justified in enforcing executions; 6) the death penalty “destroys a person’s dignity”; 7) economic crimes should not result in the death penalty because “man’s life is beyond price” (191-208). At the end of the chapter, Professor He concludes “the human world cannot go on without compassion and sympathy for one another” (215).
Like all books, however, this book contains some minor factual flaws and questionable claims. For example, chapter 1 claims that the “traditional legal and political systems” of China “had been in place for more than two thousand years” (16). As many studies in both China and the West have shown, China’s legal and political system have undergone significant changes through its long history, and the word “traditional” is a cliché and tends to be problematic in generalizing Chinese history. Likewise, Professor He’s assertion that China did not have judicial independence seems incompatible with the historical facts (21). In the Han, Tang and even the Ming dynasties, there were rulers who could respect the independence of the judiciary and some judicial officials could use their independence to reverse rulers’ decisions on punishment. Moreover, the view that sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England had “embraced the democratic system” (219) likely overlooks the class struggles as shown by historian E.P. Thompson in his book The Making of the English Working Class and the Charters movement that called for voting rights for the workers in the nineteenth century.
Those minor scribbles, however, do not lessen the significant value of this book. Professor He’s unique insights in Chinese judiciary and politics and especially his scholarly conscience and valour will make this book a useful source for university students and people in the West who are interested in modern Chinese law and politics.
University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, USA Qiang Fang
ORGANIZING RURAL CHINA—RURAL CHINA ORGANIZING. Challenges Facing Chinese Political Development. Edited by Ane Bislev and Stig Thøgersen. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2012. vii, 240 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-7009-0.
This engaging collection of essays by Scandinavian and Chinese scholars explores new organizational initiatives conditioned by marketization, privatization and migration. Contributors examine “top-down” of state authorities to orchestrate institutional change, as well as grass-roots institution-building by rural actors. The first part, “Political Framework, Discourses, and Experiments,” looks critically at how Chinese elites have construed rural organizations as fundamentally problematic for social and political development, and consequently have envisioned new institutions to address the perceived dysfunctional character of rural communities. The second half of the book, “Local Actors and Practices,” explores more specifically contextualized organizational initiatives “from below.”
In part 1, Stig Thøgersen offers a discursive analysis of alternative remedies prescribed for China’s rural malaise. Against the backdrop of the “Building a New Socialist Countryside” policy initiative, he juxtaposes the arguments of two prominent intellectuals: one advocating establishment of independent “peasant associations” as political interest organizations, the other calling for a new rural reconstruction program focused on a spiritual revival of social and cultural associations. In a somewhat similar vein, Christian Gobel addresses official prescriptions for an ideal countryside and the proper relationships between “peasants,” local cadres, and central authorities. He argues that unfavourable policy outcomes are rarely addressed by substantive modifications in policy, but rather by alterations in rhetorical propaganda: the “strength through unity” narrative tempered by motifs of “rule by division” that portray rural residents and the central government allied against predations of corrupt local cadres. Unn Malfrid Rolandsen considers the direct deployment of urban cadres to rural areas as educated specialists and role models: tasked with fostering new local understandings of how village society ought to be organized and with eradicating ideas and practices party-state authorities deem undesirable. She interprets the development initiatives of such “sent-down cadres” as conscious efforts to create ideal “civilized” village communities conducive to the construction of a “socialist modernity.” Xu Yong and Ma Hua discuss their experience with three rural reconstruction experiments: introducing village electoral institutions, establishing cooperative organizations, and developing expressive and participatory skills among “peasants.” They conclude that the construction of a modern democratic state can only be successful if it is predicated upon human development, respects subjective mentalities, builds upon local initiatives, and fosters the skills and competency of the rural populace. Liu Yiqiang concludes the first part of the book with an overview of China’s dystopian communities: “failed villages” where social order and cohesion have broken down and development has lagged. He identifies a number of problems exhibited by such communities, which he attributes to the “rapid process of modernization” (112).
Part 2 presents more detailed and nuanced case studies of rural organizational initiatives. Mette Halskov Hansen describes how rural boarding schools condition students to abide by authoritarian rule while becoming capable, assertive and innovative participants in a market economy. She argues that the student cadre system, official student associations, and informal spontaneous student networks represent some of the “most important examples in contemporary China of how young people are trained to organize and be organized” (137). Mikkel Bunkenborg explores organizational responses to the dysfunctional rural health-care system, suggesting that the rise of folk healing, spirit mediums, and religious movements spurred the government to launch a new medical insurance scheme in an effort to regain some purchase over rural health care through indirect control. Marina Svensson cautions against viewing lineage revitalization as inherently antithetical to official ideology or threatening to social stability. She describes how ancestral organizations have embraced cultural heritage as an entrepreneurial venture, and how party-state authorities co-opt and appropriate lineage practices for nationalistic patriotic narratives. Cuiming Pang examines a rural migrant cyber-community to illustrate how the Internet may be used to construct collective memory of native place, articulate agency, and express power. She focuses on the techniques used to organize offline public activities, describing how organizers work with authorities rather than trying to evade government controls. The innovative strategies of this marginalized population of rural migrants enable them to create new opportunities by manipulating official institutions to their own advantage. Ane Bislev examines microcredit development programs focused on promoting women’s empowerment, community development, and social cohesion. She highlights the critical interstitial role of local staff as well as the difficulties external actors encounter in attempting to engage in local social structures, particularly the need to balance local sympathies with outside directives. Finally, Jørgen Delman and Yang Minghong use the infamous melamine-tainted milk scandal of 2008 to look critically at the organizational function of large agribusiness in control of extensive value chains that link agricultural producers with consumer markets. They argue that such “dragon head enterprises” are often co-opted by government authorities for purposes of political, economic and social integration. Delman and Yang attribute the melamine scandal to a “lack-of-fit” in the interests of private and public stakeholders. Local producers and middlemen were treated dismissively, denied shareholding rights, and prohibited from forming self-organized cooperatives. Consequently, they failed to become responsible stakeholders in a vertically integrated value chain, opting instead to cope with market stress by adulterating milk.
Loosely framed, theoretically, around the notion of “individualization,” this volume addresses the “re-imbedding” or reintegration of individuals in new collectivities. This common theme could be more fully developed in some chapters, which reveal an uneven quality to the collection. It is also odd to see China’s farmers of the twenty-first century still referred to as “peasants.” Nevertheless, the essays presented here demonstrate quite effectively that there are many different stakeholders with an interest in rural China, and a diverse array of ideas about how rural communities ought to be organized. This informative collection offers thoughtful insight on contemporary development trends and will be of interest to many scholars concerned with the rhetoric, and dynamics, of new organizational forms in the Chinese countryside.
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, USA Gregory A. Ruf
REINVENTING MODERN CHINA: Imagination and Authenticity in Chinese Historical Writing. By Huaiyin Li. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xii, 338 pp. US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-82448-3608-5.
One of the refreshing things about UT-Austin Professor Huaiyin Li’s latest book on historical writing in China, Reinventing Modern China, is that roughly three-fourths of the more than four hundred references cited are from Chinese publications, many of them written by members of Li’s own cohort (Chinese social scientists and historians who didn’t enter academic circles until China’s economic reform era in the 1980s). The rest of Li’s Chinese sources cover a wide range of scholarship from the early twentieth century to the present. Not that he ignores Western scholarship on the subject; far from it. He delves deeply into Western accounts of modern China and theoretical works on history-writing to elucidate cross-cultural influences and contrasting interpretations of historical events.
Welcome too is the tight, logical organization of his arguments that Li offers. What could look like an unfathomable tangle of views and interpretations is made crystal clear, so that the specialist and generalist alike can grasp the arguments with ease. This clarity is achieved in part through what some might call too much repetition, but I took it rather as an opportunity to “review as I went along.”
Professor Li’s overarching argument revolves around the construction of “grand narratives” about modern Chinese history over the course of the twentieth century, and the need to fashion a more balanced and nuanced narrative for the future, if we are to better understand the continuing development of modern China in the age of globalization. Simply put, the book may be read as a history of historiography in (and of) modern China, and a call to continue the project by adopting a more objective approach that is not driven by one ideological construct or another, as has been the case in the past.
Li follows chronological order in describing the origins, proponents and ideological/political motivations behind each of the narratives presented. After a comprehensive introduction that lays out the elements of the arguments to come, two chapters explain in exhaustive detail the origins of the pre-1949 Modernization Narrative (Nationalists) and Revolutionary Narrative (Marxists). Beginning with Liang Qichao’s call at the start of the twentieth century for a “new history,” Li introduces the backgrounds and views of those “mainstream historians” who succeeded Liang in the 1920s and 1930s, and who constructed the modernization narrative in support of the Nationalists and advocated cooperation with the Japanese, both as pragmatic moves more than anything else, according to Li. He points out this modernization narrative’s Western origins, the fact that at the time it was adopted by most intellectuals, in large measure for the sake of the survival of the Chinese people in the competition among nations, and that it was all about Western “Enlightenment values,” ruling elites and governments, ignoring ordinary people altogether.
Equally clear and detailed is Li’s account of contrasting views among Chinese historians that gave rise to the revolutionary narrative before 1949, and became orthodoxy in the PRC. Two intriguing points elucidated here are, one, how Fan Wenlan, a “poor” Marxist because of his lack of interest in class struggle and emphasis instead on Han-Manchu conflicts within Qing society, became the most influential historian during the Mao era instead of the “better” Marxists Li Dingsheng and Zhang Wentian; and two, Mao’s ongoing “struggle against the monopoly on orthodox Marxism by the Comintern” during the first half of the century (109).
The early 1950s, when the PRC was newly established, saw the disciplinization of historiography and several different schemes for the periodization of modern Chinese history. Li decodes the perspectives of the important historians of the period: Hu Sheng, Sun Shouren, and Jin Congji, among others, and the striking contrasts among them. He also points out how much (relative) freedom of debate existed in China during the early 1950s, before the clamp-downs of the late 1950s and early 1960s leading up to the Cultural Revolution.
Here Li’s story begins to read like a chilling and poignant thriller. Chilling in that the “historiographical revolution,” which began during the Great Leap Forward in 1958, involved intrigue and power struggles between older and younger generations of intellectuals, various factions within the CCP leadership, professionalizers and politicizers, those with higher and lower positions in educational and government institutions, those with liberal values and the more radicalized rebels, and privileged seniors vs. those out to “destroy existing hierarchies and establish their domination in the field of historical study and beyond” (134). Poignant because of the lengths to which intellectuals had to go just to survive, to say nothing of maintaining their dignity and integrity. When even the use of original source materials was called into question, or attempts were made to delete the names of dynasties from history books, or the idea that “theory [rather than empirical evidence] guides history” was in fashion, one sees emerging an Alice-in-Wonderland world. Li vividly describes many aspects of this world, and how it led to the even more chaotic world of the Cultural Revolution.
In the late 1970s and 1980s era of economic reforms, an ideological shift known as the “New Enlightenment” took place. As Li describes it, this period was characterized by dramatic reversals in interpretations of historical events, depending on the dizzying shifts in social conditions and political aims. Once again, the reader is fortunate to have Li’s able guidance through the myriad players and issues in this complex game, the result of which was the defeat of the revolutionary construct built by dogmatist Marxists, and the dominance of the “capitalist construct,” which paved the way for capitalist economic development in the 1980s. An interesting note that Li elaborates is how Western liberal ideas survived the Mao era and were “revived” by New Enlightenment scholars in historiography and the social sciences.
Bringing his argument full circle, Li introduces key figures of the “new generation” of historians, who he says are just as ideologically driven as those of the revolutionary narrative, and who further developed the modernization narrative over the past 20 years by occupying themselves solely with empirical studies of what Li calls “trivial details,” or by adopting Western theories wholesale without offering concepts or theories of their own. Li laments that two Western historians whose work he admires, Paul Cohen and Prasenjit Duara, offer nothing to take the place of the narratives they debunk either. Thus Li’s urgent call for construction of a new narrative of Chinese modernization in the era of globalization, if we are to understand how far China has come in the process and speculate about how it will continue.
On the final page of the volume, Li reiterates the challenge to create a new narrative of modern China that is “non-teleological,” “within-time” (seen from the perspective of actors on a particular stage at a given time, without viewing the results as pre-determined), “open-ended” (without putting closure on the historical record), and most importantly (in this reader’s opinion, at least), “transcends any presumed ideologies and conjectures” (277).
A worthy project, indeed. And Professor Li’s book is an excellent place to begin the journey.
Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, USA Nancy J. Hodes
The avowed purpose of this book is to examine the historical, economic and political background to China’s transformation since 1978 from the Maoist system of totalitarian politics and centrally planned economy to the more market-oriented characteristics of the economic reforms introduced in the last forty years. “[T]his most recent evidence of change,” the author suggests in the preface, “must be seen in the context of China’s overall struggle for modernization if it is to be more fully understood” (xi). While political circumstances in the late 1970s were obviously critical to the radical changes brought forth first by Deng Xiaoping and his line of successors, “the manner and rate of progress from Mao to market, … could be said to be influenced by factors dating from much earlier in the twentieth century, or in the nineteenth century, or even 2,500 years ago” (xiii). Over the course of the book’s 11 chapters, the author explores this thesis from a variety of historical, political, economic and cultural perspectives.
Central to the author’s approach is a belief, quite appropriate in this reviewer’s view, that the essence of any society becoming “modern” is the adoption of advanced technology. What separates the developed regions of the world in North America, Europe, Japan and comparable societies from the world’s “backward” regions is, indeed, the application of increasingly sophisticated forms of technology in virtually all societal realms from military power, to economic production, communication and, most importantly, scientific advance. To the extent China has become increasingly “modern,” it is primarily because of the mobilization and organization of human capital and material resources for developing and absorbing technology, often from abroad.
As a thesis for examining China’s transition from the state-centred structures and policies of the Maoist era (1949-1976) to the more open and market-based institutions of the reform era, the author’s judgment is a sound one. The problem is that throughout the book’s subsequent chapters this thesis often gets lost in a rambling examination of all facets of Chinese history from the very beginnings of the centralized state during the early dynasties to the formation of the Chinese communist government in 1949. Virtually every aspect of Chinese history and culture, from the evolution of the Chinese bureaucratic state to its philosophical underpinnings of Confucianism and ancillary doctrines, to the cultivation of a highly refined literary style, is examined, usually in very short order, with no clear-cut and analytical link to the book’s central thesis. Along the way China’s development and absorption of technology from ancient times to the recent past is given some attention but without linking it to the central concepts that informed the author’s goals. At times, the book reads like a simple compilation of major works on China, virtually all in English, again without any common thread or analytical focus, as the main focus of the book—China’s transition “from Mao to market”—generally gets lost in the shuffle of largely unrelated and well-known material. (This is one of the first books I have ever read on China where I can honestly say I learned absolutely nothing new!)
This fatal flaw is most evident in the chapters that seem to have virtually no organic relationship to one another or to the book’s announced focus. While the first three chapters providing historical background to the 1978 reforms seem appropriate enough, though again without the tight analytical treatment that this subject deserves, the next eight come across as a hodgepodge of topics that lack any organic linkage and often seem completely unrelated to the book’s supposed focus. Chapter 5, for example, examines China’s “Confucian heritage,” followed in chapter 6 by a discussion of “orthodoxy, ideology, and law” and then in chapter 7 by an examination of “technology and political power,” again with very little if any linkage to the goals of the volume outlined in the preface. While some discussion, though very general, is made of topics relevant to the subject of “from Mao to market” in subsequent chapters on “command structures,” “management of China’s enterprises” and “public policies, private goals,” the overall focus on technology as the essence of modernization and how that played out in China gets lost. This culminates in the last chapter’s discussion of the “fifth modernization,” namely democracy, which is rather ancillary to the issues of technology and modernization since, as we know, many societies have adopted democratic institutions and yet remain hopelessly backward technologically and decidedly non-modern. Once again, the topic and goals outlined in the beginning of the book seem to disappear in a fog of sweeping generalizations and little specificity.
Published by Columbia University Press, which has a long record of producing some of the most well-researched works on China, this book, the reviewer was surprised to find, relies, according to the bibliography, on virtually no Chinese-language sources. While the author has had extensive personal experience in the People’s Republic, the book draws entirely on English-language works and indeed comes across as simply a rendition of their findings, which raises the question of why it was published in the first place. Just how it was that China managed to carry out the transformation from one of the most ideologically driven and repressive communist societies under Mao Zedong to today’s second-largest world economy with world-class corporations and enterprises is a fascinating issue that this volume provides little insight on. Such a topic, in this reviewer’s view, requires a very in-depth and extensive research project, with perhaps a few case studies of such highly competitive companies as the telecommunications giant Huawei and the first-class genomic sequencing firm of Beijing Genomics Institute and the policies that made their dramatic advances possible. Instead, the book is filled with well-established and frankly well-worn nostrums—Chinese people fear “chaos”/Confucianism preaches loyalty to the family—that explain little or nothing about one of the greatest social-economic transformations of our time.
Adelphi University, Garden City, USA Lawrence R. Sullivan
Blake has written a remarkable book on a ubiquitous Chinese practice. Ethnic Chinese peoples, including the reviewer himself, have at some point in their life, if not currently practicing the ritual, folded and burned paper money as offerings to ancestors, spirits and close family members who had passed away. In the first instance, the book is remarkable for trying to explain a phenomenon that defies emic interpretations because the Chinese are either coy or disingenuously polysemic when voicing the meanings involved in the ritual. This does not prevent Blake from venturing into holistic theoretical interpretations that go beyond current understandings of burning money as pre-capitalist epiphenomenon, codified ritual performance and expressions of Chinese identity.
Blake’s theoretical venture is a dizzying one, taking us through a survey of the paper money species, an account of its origins in ethnology, history and folklore, a semiotic analysis of its liturgical structure, a historical materialist analysis of its dialectical relationship with an advanced feudal mode of production, phenomenology of sacrifice, to the last chapters on hypertrophy and simulacra in the current transition to consumer capitalism. Regretfully, but understandably, there is no concluding chapter to wrap up the ambitious foray. There is only a brief postscript that points us to the thin but strong thread holding the book together: the Cartesian separation of the material and the spiritual does not apply to the Chinese lifeworld, which dialectically unites both in the material spirit of creating value by infusing nature with the social, producing a mysterious cosmos of immanent spiritual and organic beings to situate the self in.
The book’s strength lies in the recombination of historical materialism and anthropological structuralism in the analysis of value being created, burned and transmuted as the Chinese constantly switch back and forth between socioeconomic and religious-spiritual registers. It is refreshing, which says a lot about contemporary anthropology, to see the semiotic structuralism of Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner and Terence Turner being revived to map out the five phases of Chinese ritual service. The burning of paper is convincingly placed as a threshold practice of sublimating handcrafted value to restore it to eternal nature through fire – humanity looping back into its universal essence.
The liturgical structure thus presented is persuasively situated as ritual mystification expressing the moral quality of labour in the sumptuary order of Chinese late feudalism. Unlike the ideological reification of money in modern times, paper money mystifies the social relations in the imperial order, pulsating through complex networks of differentiated labour and its mediating cash nexus. In a brilliant synthesis of Marx and Mauss, Blake explains money as gift in the Chinese cultural economy.
Crucially, Blake’s analysis of the religious superstructure is augmented by the phenomenological interpretation of burning money as a work of sacrifice. This grounds the practice in the commonsense and everyday consciousness of the Chinese lifeworld. In the folding of baskets of paper money, work in the production of value projects the interiority of the intending subject into the sensuous materiality of the outer world. When burned, with repeated stoking of combusting materials, hand-worked paper money is sacrificed for the sake of the extended family and the imperial order, thereby manifesting the interior space of the Chinese subject attuned to the cosmology of the ancestral paterfamilias. This is how the religious superstructure takes on a life of its own, persisting through the harshest Maoist purges and reviving into the capitalist present.
The last chapters speculating on the revived practice in the capitalist present and its explosion into spectacular forms, including the burning of paper replicas of commodities such as automobiles, luxury handbags and mansions, are disappointing. Blake makes a postmodern turn of sorts and enters into the conceptual headwinds of simulacra. Despite the detachment and irrelevance practitioners accrue to the proliferation of ghost bill designs mimicking and mocking the currency fetishes of late capitalism, Blake reads the ghost bill symbolisms to indicate the transition from the exchange of use values to the exchange of signs.
China, it would seem, is leapfrogging from late feudalism to late capitalism, in which rationalization quickly turns into irrational exuberance and burlesque parody. Despite Blake’s disavowal of the recent turn in American anthropology “towards a politics and poetics of consumption expressed in pathos of resistance, identity politics, and a ‘deconstruction’ that abjures the older possibilities of human enlightenment, emancipation, and reconstruction” (7), he walks right into it by seeing “native satire” as representing the ability of ordinary Chinese in seeing through the mystifications they create and reenact (196).
Nevertheless, there is method in the madness in the heady mix of Marcel Mauss, Karl Marx, Georg Simmel and Jean Baudrillard. The book is less about the specificity of Chinese civilization than it is the continuation of philosophical interrogations of the one fetishism that has inflicted much soul searching in Western civilization: the generalized commodity that is money. It so happens the Chinese civilization, the other of capitalism that is now infecting capitalism with its mystified social forms, likes to burn paper money, making the Chinese custom good to think with to understand the alienating magic of globalizing capitalism.
I have doubts about the linear historical materialism projecting from the gift to the simulation of money underlying Blake’s narrative. But it is truly ironic that we find postmodernity in China in the exemplary premodern religious practice that made one Chinese. Again, the mysterious Oriental, now knowingly mystifying himself, is pressed into service, this time, to give material flesh to the sublime object of desire of the West in the age of financial crises: value.
National University of Singapore, Singapore Daniel P.S. Goh
For the contemporary student of China in recent centuries the idea of China as the “Immobile Empire” seems utterly ancient. Everyone seems to know today that the notion of China as stagnant and immobile is nonsense. Yet, it is always a surprise to realize that Alain Peyerfitte published L’Empire Immobile only 23 years ago. Peyerfitte, the distinguished French diplomat and statesman, thought that China was “asleep.” But he always believed that it could one day “wake up” and “shake the world.” His 1973 Quand la Chine s’éveillera … le monde tremblera, promised just that. The problematic nature of the notion of China’s “immobility” or “sleepiness” confounded earlier generations of scholars, so they stuck with the “immobility” paradigm at the same time as they insisted that the sleeping China has somewhere in its huge body a grain of radioactive matter. The great French Sinologist Etienne Balazs expressed this confusion nicely in 1968 when he remarked, “Hegel’s idea that China was mired in immobility is easily refuted… Yet Hegel was right.” It is astonishing to think that this comment was made when China was in internal turmoil, feuding with both the US and the Soviet Union, claiming leadership of the “Third World,” and deeply dividing the French Left. One should add to this strand of thought about China the numerous times that the “giant in the east” was called upon “to awaken”—by many Chinese intellectuals since the early 1900s—or declared “waking up”—by many, oftentimes petrified, observers since 1949 and the rise of Mao, or since its recent economic surge.
Restless Empire, discussing and presenting over more than 500 pages of new international history of China, should be viewed first and foremost against this image of “immobile” and “sleepy” empire. Lucidly written for both amateur and expert readers, this fine book makes an impressive case for a different image of China—a China that is restless rather than restful. Westad’s major achievement in this book is not only the story he tells, but also the way in which he organizes it. Tacked between an opening statement on “Empire” and a conclusion on “Modernities,” are 11 thematic chapters with self-explanatory titles that any “Modern China in the world” course covers or should cover: metamorphosis, imperialisms, Japan, republic, foreigners, abroad, war, communism, China alone, China’s America, and China’s Asia. Loosely chronologically organized, the book takes us almost to the 2000s with each chapter covering a different aspect of China’s history of foreign affairs. This reader regretted not seeing the first decade of 2000s represented in the book. Two events—China’s celebration of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He’s maritime expeditions in 2004, and the festivals around the 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci’s death in 2010— projected exactly how China wants the world to see it, thereby illustrating Westad’s point. The first celebration projected confident might, the latter a desire to have a “dialogue” between equals with the West. It is interesting to note, however, that both events look back to the Ming dynasty, and not to the Qing period within which Wested locates the “metamorphosis” of the empire.
The book does not address the 200-year-old history, since Hegel, of China’s image as a stagnant polity. But it is clear that Restless Empire runs against it. The author refers only once to past perceptions: “Qing China is often presented by historians, even today, as insular and inward looking. But nobody within their region who came up against Kangxi or Qianlong in real time would have viewed them as looking inward. The Qing were continuously expanding outward” (9). China’s current aggressive pursuit of resources all over the globe, and its increasing involvement, for instance, in the goings on in Africa, the Middle East, and South America, remind us that China, not only the Qing during the times of Abundance Prosperity (Kangxi) and of Strong Prosperity (Qianlong), was always looking outward. In this regard Westad is correct in presenting the few historical moments that China was not looking outwards as instantiations of “weakness” rather than “immobility.” Weakness, better yet the consciousness of weakness, affected China’s international conduct in ways that made it look stationary at times. Weakness sometimes drove some of its leaders into action. The Emperor Guangxu (b. 1871, r. 1875-1908) declared on the eve of the failed 1898 reforms: “when compared with other countries we soon see how weak we are … [w]e must substitute modern arms and western organization for our old regime … obtain a knowledge of ancient and modern world-history, a right conception of the present-day state of affairs, with special reference to the governments and institutions of the countries of the five great continents” (105). That was in 1898. Commenting on Deng Xiaoping’s policies in the late 1970s, Westad remarks: “Deng often said that there would be a time for China to take a more prominent position in international affairs. But that time was not now, when China was weak and needed to grow fast” (373). These are but two examples. The theme of weakness, or the perception of weakness, as a major factor determining Chinese foreign conduct, runs throughout the book. In so doing, Westad reshapes the grand narrative of China’s international history in a very interesting way. The notions of immobility, sleepiness, stagnation and, conversely, awakening, were all born out of early nineteenth-century European perceptions of China that Marx once summarized poignantly. For Karl Marx China was “a giant empire … vegetating in the teeth of time.” Westad uses here Chinese, rather than Western, ways of thinking that place, since the Warring States period, a great deal of emphasis on internal “strength and wealth” as the basis for proactive, mobile, foreign policies.
New York University, New York, USA Zvi Ben-Dor Benite
A HISTORY OF LAND USE IN MONGOLIA: The Thirteenth Century to the Present. By Elizabeth Endicott. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. xi, 228 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$85.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-26965-2.
This short but richly informative book is an importantwork for anyone interested in contemporary Mongolia, or concerned with Eurasian pastoralism. Those familiar with Elizabeth Endicott’s seminal early work on the Yuan dynasty might be surprised to find that the primary focus of the book is the recent past and current condition of Mongolian pastoralism, rather than the deeper history of the region. Of the seven chapters only one is concerned with periods prior to the twentieth century. This book, then, builds on Endicott’s later work on Inner Asian modernization and the persistence of pastoral nomadism, but goes well beyond a narrow focus on land use to provide an overview of Mongolian pastoralism, agriculture, rural society and its use of the environment in historical perspective. As such it also provides a very good introduction to a country in which some 80 percent of the territory is pasture land.
The writing is lucid and accessible, suitable for general as well as specialist readers. There is a short but useful glossary of Mongolian words transliterated from the new script (although, somewhat strangely, the text also includes transliteration from the old script), and a well-organized bibliography. Since her main focus is contemporary rural Mongolia, Endicott is content to give a brief digest of existing literature on the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, rather than presenting any critical new history, and she does not indulge in exploring recent historiographical debates regarding the Qing or other periods, or offer any new interpretations of earlier works. Instead, she provides an expert compilation of existing literature, illuminated by insights gleaned from the author’s long personal experience of the country. Inevitably, she raises questions that could be explored more fully in specialist historical literature; whether ritual practices such as the ovoo cairn rites predate Buddhism, for instance, or whether Eurasian imperial powers such as the Qing and the USSR “sought to settle nomads and transform them into agriculturalists” (95) or “avoided disturbing a deeply ingrained way of life” (79).
Rather than probing any one question too deeply, Endicott provides an expert review of relevant literature on her subject and, with a historian’s eye for evidence and illustration, shapes it into a clear narrative of her own. Good use is made of early twentieth-century accounts, for example, such as the writings of Andrei Simukov (1902-1942?) whose research represents the most detailed accounts we have of Mongolian pastoralism in the 1920s and 1930s, before the transformations accompanying collectivization in the 1950s. Simukov proposed a typology of pastoral movement types based upon different geographical regions of Mongolia, which Endicott neatly summarizes. Although a trifle unclear with respect to the “western” movement type, this is fascinating material and, in my view, could have been explored even further. Alongside his general typology, for example, it would have been interesting to read more about Simukov’s other writings that show the variations within regions and between different sorts of household, such as his 1935 study of Bayanzürkh Uulyn Khoshuu.
But with such a broad canvas Endicott cannot be expected to satisfy every reader’s curiosity on every topic. In any case, it is the present and future of Mongolian pastoralism that really concerns her in this work, rather than its historical backdrop, and she has mastered an impressive body of literature on the subject. She is sensibly sceptical of the recurrent predictions of imminent pastoral collapse as a result of overstocking, but she seems to remain open to the idea that, along with climate change, dwindling water resources and the impact of mining, very high livestock numbers might represent a threat to the sustainability of Mongolian pastoralism. This raises the question as to whether we should see the collective period as one of pastoral “stagnation” simply because the national herd numbers were maintained between 22 and 25 million head. Pastoral productivity can be measured in terms of output, which was relatively high at that time, rather than livestock totals, and many pastoral specialists recommend higher off-takes to reduce herd sizes. This work also raises a number of points for further research and debate: such as the real nature of the malchdyn büleg “herder groups” and belcheer ashiglagchdyn kheseg “pasture user groups” that are the target of various development projects, and the extent to which romantic notions of nomadic “tradition” and “custom” colour our understandings of pastoral practice and the lifestyles it supports. Endicott’s own approach favours the vision of ancient nomadic traditions, surprisingly resilient in the face of modernization; however, she takes seriously the perspectives of those such as Ole Bruun, who is wary of casting practice as tradition and sees pastoralism as dynamic and contingent, shaped by the particular institutions operating at any given time.
But debates of this sort are not the real target of this book, which aims to offer contemporary relevance and historical breadth rather than enormous depth, and Endicott proves to be an expert guide to the wide range of relevant literature on topics ranging from winter livestock enclosures to mining, tourism and foreign aid. By analyzing and illuminating so much of this scattered literature, this book provides a wonderfully handy and informative reference work for both the specialist and the generalist reader.
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom David Sneath
TAIWAN’S POLITICAL ECONOMY: Meeting Challenges, Pursuing Progress. By Cal Clark, Alexander C. Tan. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2012. xi, 203 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-58826-806-8.
Cal Clark and Alexander C. Tan begin this book about Taiwan by clearly stating the paradox that defines the central problem they address: “the very same institutions and strategies that worked in the past have become counterproductive in the present” (3). Taiwan’s economic and political miracles have now been well-studied, and this book’s contribution, as a work of political economy, is to analyze how the two miracles are interrelated and have brought about a new set of challenges. This is nothing new: over the course of the past six decades, Taiwan has repeatedly been a victim of its own success, and the leaders and people have demonstrated an exceptional flexibility in meeting and surmounting these challenges to take Taiwan to a new level. And in good dialectical fashion, this then creates a new set of problems to confront.
The second chapter reviews Taiwan’s economic development from the 1950s through the 1990s. It breaks it down into five main transformations: agriculture to light industry; export orientation; light to heavy and high- tech industry; mature industries moving offshore to remain globally competitive; and the search for new industries, such as biotech, to take the economy to a new level. The authors pay attention to the concomitant changes in social structure, especially the rise of the middle class and improving standard of living with relatively equal income distribution. There are very useful charts illustrating the changing role of the state in the economy at each stage, and how each stage created a new set of social resources which formed the basis for the next upgrade of the economy. They emphasize that the state had no grand design for the economy but met each challenge with admirable flexibility, not bound by any orthodoxy.
Chapter 3 covers the road from authoritarianism to democracy, a process which lagged the rapid and relatively smooth economic transformation. It culminated in the democratic consolidation of 1995-1996, marked by the direct election of the president. They do not neglect the harsh repression, but do highlight the contribution of the constitution, which, although suspended, did set up democratic institutions, and the role of local competitive elections. They step back to observe the democratization process, identifying three stages: removal of authoritarian institutions; exercise of popular sovereignty; and defining the terms of political competition. Going against the conventional approach, which stresses demonstrations and conflict, they conclude that the process actually involved a series of pacts among political parties and factions, with the important contributions of Lee Teng-hui as a “creative policy entrepreneur” (63). Again, a very helpful set of tables lays this out quite clearly. Along the way, they relate Taiwan’s experience to theories of democratization.
The next three chapters expose the challenges currently facing Taiwan. One is whether or not Taiwan’s economy has become “boxed-in,” by which they mean the island faces dramatically curtailed opportunities for rapid growth. This is a clear case of a factor contributing to early success: small and medium enterprises (“guerilla capitalists”) now facing a new world of competition and a lack of ability to adjust or respond to government incentives to reach economies of scale. And then there is the rise of China, which presents a whole new range of challenges. Here in particular, economics and politics are deeply intertwined. The authors are not pessimistic about Taiwan’s chances to adapt once more.
Chapters 5 and 6 look at the political side. One is political gridlock, a situation hardly unique to Taiwan, but definitely very serious due to the island’s precarious international standing and relations with China. The weakened state has also lost its capacity to guide the economy as in the past, further hampering Taiwan’s ability to successfully meet the many challenges before it. Democracy cannot solve all political problems and has left Taiwan in what they call an “institutional imbroglio” (111), namely the ambiguity as regards the center of power: the president or premier. They illustrate the economic consequences with a detailed look at the politicization of the financial sector.
The final substantive chapter examines how the political system has become polarized—again, not something unique to Taiwan—but with serious implications as it involves matters of national identity and cross- strait relations. Based on opinion polls, they conclude that there is a disconnect between polarization among the elite versus more consensus among the citizenry at large.
In the concluding chapter, the authors say they “have presented something of a schizophrenic view of Taiwan’s political economy” (157). I prefer to call it dialectical: each advancement produces a new set of contradictions to resolve. For all that, they still end up cautiously optimistic about Taiwan’s chances, given its legacy of “flexibility and eclecticism” (162) and willingness to confront the serious challenges it faces.
This is a very smart book. It condenses a huge amount of material and never loses sight of its central argument. It addresses a number of issues in political science, bringing the discussion of Taiwan into larger debates in the discipline. It regularly situates the discussion in the sweep of Taiwan’s history to highlight trends as well as discontinuities. The many charts are particularly helpful. I would have liked more discussion of geopolitics, especially Taiwan’s involvement in the East and South China Seas conflicts with China, as well as the role of the overseas Taiwanese diaspora in domestic politics. I was surprised to see virtually no Chinese-language sources in the bibliography, which is regrettable as Taiwan has a vibrant community of academics, opinion makers and activists actively discussing these same issues, in Chinese as well as English, and many of them also participate in public life.
University of California, Berkeley, USA Thomas B. Gold
JAPAN’S SECURITY IDENTITY: From a Peace State to an International State. Sheffield Centre for Japanese Studies/Routledge Series, 45. By Bhubhindar Singh. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xiv, 212 pp. US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-46336-2.
Japanese security policy has been a subject of heated debates between constructivists and realists. Constructivists, on the one hand, argue that Japan has not developed full-fledged military capabilities despite its economic and technological potentials because it has been constrained by so-called antimilitarism, the political culture shaped by Japan’s disastrous experiences before and during World War II (WWII). Realists claim, on the other hand, that Japanese security policy is well within the explanatory scope of realism and offers different types of realist explanations. Bhubhindar Singh joins this ongoing debate from the constructivist side, but offers a view uniquely different from others in this camp.
Singh puts forward two main arguments, the combination of which makes this book unique from others. First, he differs from other constructivists, who tend to detect continuity in Japanese security policy, by claiming that the changes in Japan’s security policy are real (22-32). Second, he argues that this policy shift has resulted not from changes in Japan’s external security environments, as realists claim, but from the change in Japan’s security identity. In his view, Japan’s security identity has transformed from a peace state to an international state (2-5, 41-74).
Singh defines security identity as the collective image of Japan held or proposed by the security-policy-making elite in the area of security policy (42). He defends this elitist definition by arguing that the identity construction process is largely controlled by the security policy elite (43). He then elaborates on Japan’s identify shift. While his concept of a peace-state identity is heavily derived from the previous constructivist works that emphasize the historical legacy of WWII, the Japanese Constitution, and the so-called Yoshida Doctrine, his concept of international-state identity may require some explanations. According to him, the origin of the international-state identity dates back to the late 1970s, when Japan’s role in the world became increasingly contested due to its increased economic power, and its consolidation process has accelerated in the post-Cold War period (58-61). This international-state identity centres upon Japan’s role as a responsible stakeholder that participates militarily as well as non-militarily in international peacekeeping and disaster relief operations but that does not use force in conventional warfare. This identity transformation is reflected in the three aspects of Japan’s security policy: Japan’s conception of national security, the degree of its involvement in regional and global security, and Japan’s security policymaking regime (69-72). The empirical chapters (chapters 4 to 6) elaborate on the changes in these areas respectively.
While making a unique argument, the book suffers from several shortcomings. First, the elitist conception of security identity seems inadequate to capture what constructivists and other international relations theorists usually regard as a collective identity. Identity formation is not a one-way process from the elite down to the mass. Singh’s definition does not capture the other important pathway through which ordinary citizens exert pressure over the elite due to their shared image of Japan’s identity. Second, Singh’s conception of security identity is too inclusive to be useful. This inclusiveness allows him to refer to North Korea’s first nuclear crisis in 1994 and its 1998 Taepodong missile launch as the turning point of Japan’s conception of national security (85-86, 93-95). The author is right to point out that both material and non-material factors contribute to identity formation (42). If the aforementioned factors are significant contributing factors to Japan’s identity change, however, the margin that is left to explain by cultural and normative factors seems rather thin. Third, Singh’s empirical analyses seem more of subjective narratives rather than systemic hypotheses testing or causal (or constitutive) explanations. For instance, Singh elaborates on how Japan’s security policy institutions have changed, but does not pay sufficient attention to why such changes have occurred in the post-Cold War period but not earlier. This may be explained by the change in the normative context in Japan, as the author implies, but it may also be linked to the changes in external security environments.
But the most controversial aspect of this book, and the reason why I believe that this book may be criticized more severely by constructivists than by realists, is the author’s claim of Japan’s identity shift. This claim reminds readers of a fundamental and largely unanswered question for constructivism. That is, how and when can one know a state’s collective identity has changed, independent of its behaviour? After all, other constructivists find continuity where this author finds change, and readers are left unsure of which claim is more valid.
This book’s greatest contribution is the uniqueness of its claim for Japan’s identity change, but this is its most vulnerable point as well.
Chuo University, Tokyo, Japan Yasuhiro Izumikawa
JAPAN AND GERMANY AS REGIONAL ACTORS: Evaluating Change and Continuity after the Cold War. Routledge Politics in Asia Series. By Alexandra Sakaki. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xiv, 209 pp. (Figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-69749-1.
Japan and Germany have been an object of comparative studies in terms of not only their economic power and regional status, but also their historical trajectories in the twentieth century. Yet, there have been few systematic studies comparing these two countries in the area of post-Cold War security and foreign policy, although plenty of works abound focusing on either one of them. This book helps fill the void. In tracing and evaluating the foreign policies of Japan and Germany—using the notion of “national role conceptions”—the book refutes the view that post-Cold War Germany and Japan have followed divergent paths.
In chapter 1, Sakaki explains the theoretical and methodological frameworks, as well as discusses such German and Japanese national role conceptions as “exporter of security,” “promoter and defender of universal values,” “non-militarist country,” “reliable partner,” “regional stabilizer,” “contributor to regional cooperation,” and “respected, trusted country” (this applies only for Japan). In chapter 2, Sakaki isolates national role conceptions through the content analysis of foreign policy speeches made by political elites in Japan and Germany. She then applies the national role conceptions to the analysis of the foreign policy behavior of Japan and Germany in two cases: missile defense policies (chapter 3) and textbook talks with neighboring countries (chapter 4).
Sakaki focuses on the issue of change and continuity in German and Japanese foreign policies in the post-Cold War era, which has attracted much attention but has not been compared in a systematic manner. Her attempt to address this lacuna presents a persuasive explanation of missile defense policies, but less of the respective textbook disputes. Political elites in Germany were reluctant to consider the strategic need for US-led missile defense system while remaining remarkably receptive to Russia’s criticism of the US plans. Sakaki posits that Berlin’s policy was based on an emphasis on multilateralism and negotiation as a way to ensure the overall strategic stability of Europe. In terms of national role conceptions, so the argument goes, this German behavior was associated with the “regional stabilizer” role conception, which in its turn contradicted with a competing role conception, i.e., “reliable partner” of the United States and other NATO allies. In contrast, Japanese policy-makers tended to evaluate the US-led missile defense system rather positively. The Tokyo government argued that the missile defense system in question was conducive to the stability of Asia. Sakaki claims that the Japanese attitude was based on a group of the national role conceptions that were not necessarily mutually consistent: “reliable partner” (i.e., demonstrating the loyalty to the United States), “regional stabilizer” (i.e., seeking deterrence and balance of power as a key policy measure for regional stability in a traditional manner), and “non-militarist country” (i.e., stressing missile defense as a non-offensive measure that corresponds to Japan’s defensive, non-militarist strategy). She uses this missile defense case to counter the assertion often made by political realists that post-Cold War Japan has been undergoing drastic changes in its foreign and security policies. Sakaki thus successfully delineates the specific and complex features of the policies of Germany and Japan, and thereby offers insightful comparisons.
On the other hand, Sakaki seems to be less successful in applying the same analytical approach to the case of textbook disputes. She argues that whereas a successful German policy is owed to Berlin’s strong and consistent political leadership in solving the textbook disputes, Tokyo’s lawmakers have been more hesitant or even opposed to addressing the problem head-on. This lack of political leadership in Japan stems from the fact that no strong consensus exists, according to Sakaki, among Japanese political elites on contrition and self-critical reflection on the past. Consequently, the Japanese decision-makers have been reluctant to pursue reconciliation efforts, fearful of domestic backlashes which in turn might elicit suspicions among neighbouring countries (Sakaki focuses on South Korea).
Sakaki then points out that while Germany’s proactive stance can be explained by such role conceptions as “contributor to regional cooperation” and “regional stabilizer,” Japan’s passive attitude and rightist-nationalists’ opposition to textbook reconciliation seem at odds with the role conceptions of “contributor to regional cooperation” and “reliable partner.” According to these role conceptions, Japan would have played a more positive and supportive role in the textbook issue, especially in the context of recent security tension in East Asia. Sakaki attempts to solve this seeming puzzle by adding one more role conception: “respected, trusted country.” That is to say, she suggests that the nationalist tendencies among Japanese political elites are a reflection of this role conception. But this analytical strategy seems problematic: the more precisely Sakaki tries to explain the Japanese case, the more factors she has to examine in an ad hoc manner.
A part of the problem, in the view of this reviewer, is that the textbook disputes are inherently bilateral in nature: their solution involves South Korea and the Tokyo government’s policy on them inevitably is influenced by the attitude and behavior of South Korea, as well as of Japanese political elites. As such, analyzing Japan’s role conception alone is not sufficient; such an analysis would remain incomplete at best. In this regard, the reviewer wonders why Sakaki disregards nationalistic tendencies in South Korea. More generally, we have to take into account the different policy environment between Europe and Asia when considering the textbook question. The lack of consideration of the regional differences between Europe and Asia on the question of nationalism makes Sakaki’s explanation less persuasive as far as the case of textbook disputes is concerned.
Which general tendency better characterizes post-Cold War German and Japanese foreign policies, change or continuity? Sakaki’s answer to this key question is that “modified continuity” characterizes these foreign policies in spite of some gradual adjustments. Despite her well-balanced and elaborate analysis of Japanese foreign policy, however, Sakaki tends to describe Germany’s regional foreign policy in a too static manner, perhaps because of her efforts to counter political realists as noted above.
Despite such shortcomings, this book should be strongly recommended as a solid comparative study of post-Cold War Germany and Japan foreign policies, not only for the students and experts of the two countries but also for the broader audiences interested in international relations and comparative politics.
Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, Japan Aya Kuzuya
NORTHEAST ASIA AND THE LEGACY OF HARRY S. TRUMAN: JAPAN, CHINA, AND THE TWO KOREAS. Truman Legacy Series, v. 8. Edited by James I. Matray. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2012. xiv, 362 pp. (Illus.) US$28.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-61248-014-5.
Edited books tend to come in two forms. Some volumes collect together ground-breaking work on new areas of research; others focus on the familiar in order to provide a synthesis of the existing historical consensus. The volume under review, which is part of a series on President Truman’s legacy sponsored by the Harry S. Truman Library, leans towards the latter approach. Drawing together scholars from the United States, China, South Korea and Britain, its aim is to provide an overview of the record of the Truman administration in regard to one of its most problematical areas of activity, its policy towards East Asia. This is an important topic, for, as James Matray notes in his introduction, this region during the period between 1945 and 1953 witnessed the end of the Pacific War, the Chinese Civil War and the start of the Korean War.
The book is divided into fourteen chapters, three each on various aspects of policy towards Japan, China and Korea, four on intelligence and the conflict in Korea, and lastly a historiographical review of the literature on the opening of the Korean War. The contributors are in the main established scholars who are experts in the field of American and Chinese international history. The essays are accordingly well-written and authoritative, but many of them are also rather predictable, for they are content to follow well-trodden paths. In particular, the decision to include four chapters on intelligence is curious, for their contents overlap too much – one good comprehensive overview would have been sufficient. The best of the essays is the most original, namely the fascinating chapter by Charles S. Young on the way in which prisoners-of-war from the People’s Republic of China and North Korea were forcibly tattooed with anti-communist slogans in order to deter them from seeking repatriation. This is genuinely innovative research, which raises important questions about the nature of the Korean conflict. In addition, the chapters by Gallicchio and Casey contain fresh material and as a result enliven old debates.
In part, the problem with the volume’s predictability is simply in the nature of the beast, but considering the fireworks that this area of research used to stimulate back in the 1970s and 1980s, one cannot help but think that it might have been possible for the organizers of the original conference to have taken a more daring approach. For example, it would have been interesting to hear how some of the survivors from the generation of “revisionist” Cold War historians, such as Walter LaFeber, John Dower, Bruce Cumings or Ronald McGlothlen, viewed Truman’s presidency in retrospect. As it is, despite the fact that the “revisionist” school raised interesting questions about the forces that helped to shape American policy, most notably by looking beyond the American concern with national security to investigate the role of commerce and finance, by reading this book one would, by and large, not know that any controversy had ever existed. One does not need to believe the “revisionist” version of history to find this disappointing, for surely a volume such as this could have allowed for different schools of thought to have been represented and for reflection on past debates in the light of both experience and new sources.
The only exception to the ignoring of the “revisionists” is the historiographical essay by Kim Hakjoon, which deals with the literature on the outbreak of the Korean War. It argues that some of the speculations that the revisionists postulated about the origins of the war have proved to be unsubstantiated and implicitly lean towards the orthodox line that the conflict arose out of the machinations of Kim Il-Sung and Stalin. That may well be the case, but, giving credit where credit is due, it is disappointing that this essay does not address the main contribution that Cumings made to the debate, which was that the Korean conflict began in the summer of 1948 and only escalated into a conventional war in 1950. One can infer from Kim’s chapter that possibly even that is too much for conservative Korean historians to admit, for it is clear from his essay that, while the conflict may be history to the outside world, it is still highly political within Korea.
In conclusion, this is an edited volume that, while containing a number of perfectly well-executed chapters, does not add greatly to the existing literature and, accordingly, leaves the impression of being something of a missed opportunity.
London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom Antony Best
PROTESTING AMERICA: Democracy and the U.S.-Korea Alliance. Seoul-California Series in Korean Studies, 4. By Katherine H.S. Moon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012. xi, 260 pp. US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-9845909-6-4.
Drawing on insights from the social movement, democratic politics and international relations literature, Katherine Moon delivers a well-researched, richly nuanced study of South Korean activism in post-democratic South Korea, and anti-US protests in particular. Moon argues against a standard line of argument that the wave of anti-American sentiment which swept across South Korea in the 2000s was a manifestation of South Korean national identity, nationalism or a generational gap. Instead, she argues that the process of democratic consolidation, and especially decentralization which granted newfound powers to local governments, created new opportunities for South Koreans at the local and national level to contest US-South Korea alliance-related issues. Moon relies on a wealth of evidence from in-depth interviews with activists, NGO staff, local officials, US military personnel, and South Korean and US elites to substantiate her claims.
Following the book’s introduction, Moon devotes an entire chapter to challenging the idea that anti-Americanism in South Korea is driven primarily by Korean nationalism. As Moon writes, “I emphasize that Korean nationalism – elusive and habituated – is a static, overused, and underspecified explanation for diverse political phenomena” (28). To Moon’s credit, even while dismissing the nationalist narrative of South Korean anti-Americanism, she still manages to present an insightful overview and analysis of the complexity of Korean nationalism within a historical framework. The section on youth and generational change, however, was a bit cumbersome, with Moon describing polling and survey data across several pages to make her point that “the generational gap is not an adequate explanation” (57).
Chapter 2 presents the book’s main argument about the effects of democratization and government decentralization on South Korean activism, anti-US base protests, and the US-South Korean alliance. In essence, democratization and the process of decentralization empowered local residents who in the past had little recourse for action to address long-held grievances against the US military and central government. Moon observes that the opening of political opportunities at the local level created a new dynamic for local-central government relations in the politics of US bases.
Chapter 3 illustrates how decentralization in the 1990s helped unleash civil societal activity at the local and national level, giving attention to anti-US base movements and the coalition movement to revise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in particular. Moon’s research shines in this chapter as she unveils the complex, internal dynamics confronting variegated actors within anti-base movements. Her analysis contrasts the often monolithic portrayal of anti-base movements by the media as anti-American protestors motivated by youthful passion and strong nationalism. The tension between activists rooted in the earlier minjung movement of the authoritarian era and more moderate simin groups which developed during the democratic consolidation period is particularly noteworthy. This theme continues in the following chapter on transnational activism. International solidarity with environmental, women and peace groups in the Philippines, Japan, Puerto Rico and the United States enabled some South Korean anti-base activists to “jettison the old frame of Korean nationalism and anti-Americanism and adopt new values and activist aspirations” (168).
In the final chapter before the book’s conclusion, Moon uses her extensive knowledge of the kiji ch’on undong (military camp town movement) to illustrate inequalities within South Korean civil society. Democratization and decentralization have provided ordinary citizens greater access to political power on the whole, but not necessarily equal opportunities and rights across civil societal organizations. An interesting comparison between the mobilization of kiji ch’on women and comfort womenhighlights how issues of gender and morality intersect with civil society politics, creating winners and losers in the struggle for rights.
Protesting America is a must read for anyone interested in understanding civil society in post-democratic South Korea. However, the book is not without its flaws. The book lacks a coherent theoretical framework which links government decentralization to any clear outcome beyond greater political opportunity for local actors to participate in base politics. At times, the author makes the bolder claim that decentralization opened the door for the type of widespread anti-US protests taking place in the 2000s, in turn recasting the narrative on US-South Korea relations and producing shifts in basing policy. But such claims require making several causal leaps linking decentralization to alliance politics which are never fully explicated in the book.
Moreover, the idea that decentralization has significantly recast power dynamics such that “the central government no longer has a monopoly over foreign policy and national security” (70) may be overstated. At face value, Moon’s statement is correct. Since democratization, civil society has played a larger role in US-South Korean relations. Moon includes specific examples where social movements mattered, such as the closure of Camp Market and the inclusion of a separate environmental clause in the revised SOFA in 2001. However, the central government continues to assert a near monopoly on national security issues, a point often lamented by anti-base activists themselves. Residents and activists opposed to military base expansion and construction in Pyeongtaek and Jeju Island, respectively, have witnessed firsthand the brute force used by the central government to maintain its foreign policy and national security objectives. Meanwhile, support from the city and provincial government has been ambivalent at best. By highlighting positive examples and avoiding discussion of such negative cases, Moon’s decentralization thesis ends up resting on somewhat weaker ground.
Nevertheless, Protesting America brings a refreshingly new perspective to anti-US protests and US-South Korea relations. In addition to its contribution to our understanding of Korean politics, Moon’s interdisciplinary approach demonstrates how social movement approaches and careful attention towards local politics shed new light on issues often addressed from the lens of international relations.
Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA Andrew Yeo
SUPERHUMAN JAPAN: Knowledge, Nation, and Culture in US-Japan Relations. Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, 40. By Marie Thorsten. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. x, 172 pp. (Figures.) US$150.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-41426-5.
This is a new book that covers old ground for the Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, albeit with a slightly different focus. The “superhuman” reference in this case derives from John Dower’s description of Western imagery from the World War II era as presenting the Japanese as both superhuman and subhuman (John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, Pantheon Books, 1986). Thorsten revisits the 1980s and early 1990s when Japan was at the height of its postwar economic power and, as a consequence, had become the subject of much torrid debate about the alleged threat that Japan posed to the United States. While the perceived continuity of the “threat” of Japan to the earlier “threat” of the Soviet Union (or to the present “threat” of China) is well known in this field, Thorsten’s focus on the unexpected Soviet launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and how its technological achievement on the one hand and threat on the other were presented as a catalyst for an educational renaissance in the United States, is unusual. Thorsten argues that in the 1980s and 1990s, many American policy makers, commentators, scholars and authors of cultural works tried to put forward Japan’s apparent economic superiority as another “Sputnik”-like moment in American history in order to similarly motivate change and development, particularly in the fields of education, science and technology, so as to solve the equally apparent problem of American decline. For example, author Michael Crichton, in his 1992 novel Rising Sun, offered, in Thorsten’s view, an “unambiguous polemic on why Americans need to ‘wake up’ to the reality of Japan,” with the solution to Japan’s economic threat being to “to learn about, then kick ’em [the Japanese] out” (30-31). As Thorsten concludes, much American discourse on Japan in this period “called attention to Americans’ need to study and work harder by comparing their inferior performance with the benchmark of Superhuman Japan” (35). She is careful to acknowledge, however, that, at the same time Japan was being presented as “superhuman,” many others in the United States were perceiving and engaging positively with Japan, including those who flocked to learn Japanese, ate sushi, read manga, watched anime and those who drove Toyotas instead of “bashed” them. Thorsten is a strong critic of the myriad presentations of Japan as “superhuman” in the period in question, as she submits that such “reductive pedagogies of fear … constrict imagination and limit our understanding of the world we share” (20). While they also, at least in the Japanese case for the United States, generally failed to produce the outcomes sought, they also allowed “almost dormant obsessions about ‘superior’ others” to be “reincarnated into today’s insecurities,” (2) of which we are all too familiar. In what must have been delightful timing as she undertook the research for this book, she draws attention in the introduction to President Barack Obama’s description of “our generation’s Sputnik moment” in his State of the Union address in January 2011, his connection of “educational performance with international power and prestige” and his comparison of the United States against other, especially Asian, nations (1-2).
The book contains five chapters entitled “America’s Superhuman Japan: from Rising Sun to globalization rising”; “You are Number Two: the awe doctrine from Sputnik to the Japanese economic miracle”; “Supermoms: Kyōiku Mamas”; “Super-inhuman: youth and international relations in Battle Royale”; and “Super cool from Sputnik to Japan.” While the chapters on kyōiku mamas [education mothers] and Battle Royale (the 1999 novel by Takami Koushun and two films by Fukasaku Kinji and Fukasaku Kenta in 2000 and 2003) work as separate thematic studies (the first of which arises out of her MA thesis), the other three chapters are, more or less, parts of the same ongoing narrative and argument, so it is unclear why Thorsten has chosen to structure the book and title the chapters as she has. The subtitles, which are not listed in the contents page, are sometimes just as unclear; for instance, there is both a “Superhumanizing” and a “Superhuman” in the introduction, which offer little enlightenment as to their contents.
Perhaps the only failing of the book, however, is that it lacks a conclusion that brings together the strands of argument that permeate a very dense, strongly researched work that, notwithstanding its overt focus on the 1980s and early 1990s, ranges back in time to World War II and well past September 11, 2001 and also deals with similar Japanese discourse about superior “others,” which could have merited more analysis. Instead, one must revert to the introduction, which is admittedly comprehensive. While there is only a selected bibliography, the reference notes, too, are comprehensive. This is a book which offers a good overview of the period in question, without devolving into the nitty gritty of the trade disputes between the United States and Japan, and one that will interest a wide array of readers.
University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia Narrelle Morris
The massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeast shore on 11 March 2011 set off a 20-plus-metre tsunami which not only devastated coastal villages in the Tohoku region but also resulted in the fuel meltdowns of three of the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. More than 18,500 people perished in the tsunami and 300,000 residents fled their homes. Some two years later, in the fall of 2013, reports of radioactive contamination in the food chain and the environment continue to proliferate in the media even as experts reassure the public that the health risks are minimal. With some estimates predicting that the total damage will reach more than $300 billion, the disaster is among the most costly in history: four times more costly than the Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Katrina and twice as expensive as the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Samuels’ slim new book provides one of the first wide-ranging English-language scholarly accounts focused not on the disaster itself, but instead on the political and rhetorical responses to it.
The book uses interviews with 70 or so Japanese and US government officials and hundreds of Japanese and English books, newspaper articles, and government publications to map out three main discourses about the catastrophe. Samuels classifies these as “put it in gear,” “stay the course,” and “back to the future.” The “put it in gear” camp hoped to use the disaster as motivation to try out innovative policy approaches, while the “stay the course” camp envisioned the event as a one-in-a-million, black swan-type anomaly which did not require a change in direction. The third camp believed that “Japan must return to an idealized past … by returning to the country’s basic values” (x).
The strength of the “stay the course” camp is remarkable. Across the areas of security, energy and local governance Samuels shows how, time and again, rather than opening windows for new opportunities, the 3.11 disaster magnified normal political processes and reinforced status quo responses. Despite the hype about the unprecedented scale of destruction leading to system-level change, few new perspectives emerged in the post-disaster discourse. While some observers predicted that 3.11 would result in a paradigm shift in areas such as nuclear power promotion, local autonomy, and independent foreign and military policy, few of the players in these areas moved dramatically from their pre-disaster positions. For example, while US military planners hoped the disaster would provide impetus to revise and adjust the Bilateral Coordination Mechanism that synchronizes mobilization of US and Japanese forces, “the government was unwilling to risk sowing panic among the public” (105). Antinuclear activists hoped the Fukushima disaster would cause a sea change in the approaches to nuclear energy from both private industry and the government but “3.11 had virtually no effect on the larger national strategy” (150). Some mayors and governors hoped to “supersize” local governments by amalgamating political units into wider jurisdictions while others believed that Tokyo had already centralized too much power. In the end, government committees suggested only “incremental recommendations for improving disaster response” (178).
Samuels does find some evidence of change in these sectors. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces—an institution often distrusted by many Japanese—gained new legitimacy by demonstrating effectiveness under crisis conditions. Conversely, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) lost its legitimacy, share price, and independence (with the government stepping in to bail it out and ending up owning over half of the firm). Local governments saw that the innovative tactic of counterpart support, where localities unaffected by the crisis sent in personnel and logistical assistance to those at ground zero, worked particularly well. Despite such shifts in public opinion and policies, 3.11 “did not cause structural change to the Japanese body politic” (200).
As with any good book geared to generating theories rather than explicitly testing them, this one raises some questions that require further consideration. First, much scholarship has tackled the question of why some governments stick to standard operating procedures while others set new agendas following major crises such as the Challenger shuttle explosion, the 3/11 Madrid bombing, and 9/11 (Boin, McConnell, and Hart, Governing after Crisis: The Politics of Investigation, Accountability, and Learning, Cambridge University Press, 2008). The book references these studies along with various well-known works on political and institutional change (such as Pierson, Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis, Princeton University Press, 2004 and Mahoney and Thelen, Explaining Institutional Change: Ambiguity, Agency, and Power, Cambridge University Press, 2009). Future scholarship could use Samuels’ work to test the politics of post-disaster management with a focus on themes he raises, namely institutional inertia, policy entrepreneurs and political leadership.
Next, while the book considers a number of post-disaster cases from other nations, it opens a tremendous opportunity to look closely at paired case comparisons that might shed more light on why politics-as-usual prevailed in Japan. For example, in stark contrast to the current Japanese government’s ongoing attempt to restart its nuclear power program in the face of widespread public opposition, the German government under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel used 3.11 to halt Germany’s nuclear power program and put in place plans to shut down the 17 nuclear power stations there by 2022. Some potential starting points for investigation include the role of Germany’s Green Party (no such analogue exists in Japan’s party system), the independence of the German media (in contrast to the club-system used in Japan, which generates less scrutiny and criticism), the tighter ties between industry and government in Japan (through institutions such as amakudari), and a more active German civil society (although there are signs of more activism recently in Japan).
Samuels has moved quickly to plot out how an advanced democratic nation has handled a massive, compounded disaster. This book—written and published with astonishing speed compared to the typical glacial pace of academic publishing—properly warns us to look for continuity, and not change, following major catastrophe.
Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA Daniel P. Aldrich
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION POLICY IN JAPAN IN AN AGE OF GLOBALISATION AND RISK. By Robert W. Aspinall. Leiden: Global Oriental (imprint of Brill) 2012. xiv, 207 pp. (Tables.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-23528-1.
This book has come out of Robert Aspinall’s long-standing research on policy for, and the practices of, English-language education in Japan. His critical views on this theme remain in this book: Japan’s dealing with language education as part of its educational internationalization project is a failure. As stated in the foreword by Roger Goodman, the book tries to offer a “full examination” of the mysteries of Japan, i.e., “how, in a country which is so embedded in the global economy and networks of communication, the level of spoken English is so low” (ix-x). By exploring the theme of education in Japan from a variety of perspectives, Aspinall maintains that “Japan’s international education policy at all levels has failed” (5).
Empirical examination starts with Japan’s coping with foreigners and their languages from the middle of the nineteenth century until the 1960s. In chapter 2, the author suggests that the origin of the malfunction of English education in Japan is traceable in, along with its cultural isolationism, old-fashioned educational methodologies, which he indicates as one of the core problems of English education in Japan in the latter chapters as well. Chapter 3 analyzes internationalization policy at the national level—including English teaching methodology, textbooks, the entrance examination systems, school curricular and the day-to-day use of foreigners in the classroom—as a basis of the failure. Although chapter 4 focuses on problems in the teaching side, many of those problems stem from the Japanese education system as such, which is, as Aspinall rightly argues, a reflection of the national policy. The point of his analysis moves on to classroom behaviour and attitudes towards foreign culture and languages shown by the Japanese youth. Their lack of enthusiasm and motivation for learning English is, as argued in the previous chapter, related to the internationalization policy pursued by the state. The focal point of the book shifts to the private sector in chapter 6, while chapter 7 goes back to criticisms about national policy regarding study abroad programs. Those analyses shown in above-mentioned narrative chapters go along with the notions of “risk,” drawn from the ones of Ulrich Beck, which are explored in the theoretical part, chapter 1.
Indeed, this book explains many questions about the failure in English education and, to some extent, internationalization policy in Japan. As shown in his previous writings, Aspinall’s analysis of national policy for English education in Japan is very insightful and justifies his severe criticisms about the policy. His investigation on it is also precise. For instance, he argues that questions about English pronunciation asked in the Centre Exam are not only meaningless for actual conversation, but crucially hinder the development of communication skills of young Japanese students (79). In addition to analytical parts, the author refers to a number of interviews he conducted with those who have been involved in language teaching in Japan. His arguments are also supported by his own experience as an English teacher in various schools and universities. In fact, examples brought up by Aspinall are convincing evidence of the formidable difficulties for most Japanese in their English communication.
One must note, however, that the scope of this book, the whole-scale examination of why Japan has long kept failing in its policy for international and English education, is a challenging one. This question deserves a number of complex explanations. Aspinall provides analysis not just of ministerial policy, but also history, culture, social structure, and sometimes people’s behaviour or attitudes. To make those analyses sustainable, a wide range of academic disciplines and perspectives must be adopted. It is, at the same time, a huge undertaking to complete a thesis out of multi-disciplinary investigations. For a more comprehensive analysis, each of the cases brought up in the book requires investigation at full length. If the author looks at a slow genesis of failure in foreign-language education, for example, the past experience of oppression on a native (national) language, which Japan has had little of, unlike its neighbouring countries, should not be underplayed. Moreover, readers can occasionally find a heavy reliance on a limited sample of literature on topics addressing a broad range of Japanese education and society. Most analysis about the JET program comes from David McConnell’s book. Critical views about Japanese higher education are often cited from the work of Brian McVeigh and Gregory Poole. Issues about Japanese returnees from abroad (kikokushijo) are based on Roger Goodman’s work. In addition, the issues described by Aspinall are largely, though not completely, outdated as Goodman and Aspinall himself admit.
In sum, the book nonetheless is a product of extensive research and the author’s professional experiences in Japan and the UK. English has now undeniably become the world’s language, including in education by displacing German from science (The Economist, May 29, 2010, 87). In this age of English as “Globish,” this book is not merely an entertaining read for those who are puzzled by Japanese troubles with English proficiency, but a gift of a set of useful reform proposals for English education in Japan which should be taken seriously by policy makers in the country.
The University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan Masako Shibata
THE SOUL OF ANIME: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story. Experimental Futures. By Ian Condry. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. x, 241 pp. (B&W illus.) US$23.95. ISBN 978-0-8223-5394-2.
This book explores the development of anime as a social phenomenon where a range of different actors inside and outside the Japanese anime industry work together, collaborating (sometimes facing tension and needing to compromise) at the various stages of the life of anime, from its planning, production and distribution to consumption. The author argues that the “soul” of anime emerges throughout the process and lives of participants’ hard work and devotion and the creative connection and synergy among them. The soul is not fixed, static and textual but it is evolutionary, dynamic and contextual. Thus finding and examining anime’s soul would be more of an anthropological inquiry than a textual or political economic one. I think the term soul is an excellent metaphor that aptly captures social energy, excitement and commitment that are strongly felt by participants in this field but difficult to be theorized and scientifically explained. Similarly, “dark energy,” another metaphor, cleverly conveys social meanings and dynamics generated by interactions among overseas anime fans, anime text and the industry.
While providing lay readers with a good introduction to anime with many interesting findings, the book would also serve as a helpful reference point for academic researchers who study anime, media, media production and distribution, cultural globalization, fan culture and copyright. The author skilfully combines his insights into these issues and neatly interweaves them throughout his narrative. The narrative is engaging so readers can easily follow the main arguments of the book and feel the social energy in the field (or “world”) of anime, however indirectly. As seen from the table of contents, the book’s organization does not show a clear thematic development. Yet, it is visible that the book moves its weight from the culture of anime production to participatory consumption over the chapters while keeping its focus on the collective nature of these activities. The middle part takes an historical angle to discuss the emergence of anime during the postwar decades, its growth as a franchise business with close relations with toy merchandising in particular and the co-existence of different orientations of anime aesthetics, production culture and business. Throughout the book, anime’s trans-media and border-crossing life across the fictional, real and virtual has been explored via relevant examples and cases. Overall, the book is informative and engaging, and succeeds in making a persuasive argument that contextualizing anime from social perspectives would be the most fruitful way to understand its multi-dimensionality as a medium, practice and culture.
Meanwhile, I want to point out the book’s two limitations, which apparently stem from its two key threads remaining as threads only rather than acting as theoretical arguments or frameworks that evolve over chapters. The first thread is the usefulness of the anthropological approach for investigating the social world of anime. Although the introduction gives us an effective guide to this approach and the main premises of it are revisited when key anthropological findings are discussed in the main chapters, I seldom feel a strong sense of theoretical development here. The book repeatedly highlights social relationships, settings and meanings found “within” the field of anime. I wish that it could stretch its anthropological investigation outward and explore what happens “in between” anime and society, explaining wider social structures and fabrications that underpin the social side of anime. The second core thread of this book is the idea of the collaborative creativity and social energy involved. The issues of collaboration, co-creation, connectivity and convergence have been hot topics for researchers in media, cultural and consumer studies. Indeed, anime and anime fandom would be an excellent example that vividly demonstrates how these phenomena emerge and evolve, shaping media text and media culture beyond national and linguistic borders. Instead of rather repeatedly arguing the importance of collaboration among participants in the field of anime, the book could make further efforts to help readers understand the social conditions that allow and nurture the prevalence of collaborative creativity. At the same time, the book could generate more concrete intellectual contributions to the ongoing debates around co-creation and convergence by exploring the implications of affective, immaterial and often free work/labour of anime production, distribution and consumption, connecting them to the issues of knowledge, training, management, hierarchy and ownership. Paradoxes, conflicts and dilemmas in this regard are commented on but mostly remain to be captured by relevant metaphors, explained and theorized.
Throughout the book, I can sense the author’s genuine excitement about taking part in the world of anime as researcher and fan. In a way, the book itself can be seen as a part of creative collaboration to expand and deepen the collective knowledge of anime and anime culture. It seemingly chooses to fit comfortably within and add new empirical findings to the existing knowledge while being reserved about unsettling and challenging it and proposing alternative perspectives.
King’s College London, London, United Kingdom Hye-Kyung Lee
CONTEMPORARY SOUTH KOREAN SOCIETY: A Critical Perspective. Routledge Advances in Korean Studies, 26. Edited by Hee-yeon Cho, Lawrence Surendra and Hyo-je Cho. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xiii, 226 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-69139-0.
This recently edited book is a rare product in the sense that it is the collaboration of 16 scholars working on diverse issues concerning South Korea, but coming from what the editors prefer to call a “critical” perspective. Critical in this particular context signifies more than merely intellectual; it carries a political significance denoting what in other countries might be termed progressive or leftist. In the 1980s, a group of South Korean scholars, who were at the same time practically activists devoted to the democratization movement, came to form a study group under the flag of “industrial sociology.” They later rededicated themselves to the notion of “critical sociology,” which is now one of the largest academic groups within or around the Korean Sociological Association. Some authors included in this volume appear to have inherited the scholar-activist tradition. Information on its authors’ institutional affiliations shows that some belong to the same institution while others are conducting their research outside of South Korea.
This collaboration, as a product of such a critical orientation, covers quite diverse subject matters: state intervention, authoritarianism, economic development, regionalism, democratization, human rights, gender, civil society, social movement, culture, religion, working class, labour immigrants, welfare, etc. The breadth of topics makes this volume quite an attractive addition to the must-read list of works for Korean studies students and researchers, as most books on a given country these days tend to deal with a smaller number of issues, and not necessarily from critical perspectives.
Most readers will not find it too difficult to understand the importance of critical perspectives in discussing the South Korean case, which the editors repeatedly emphasize in the introduction. As the last year happened to mark the beginning of another conservative regime in South Korea, understanding these critical perspectives would certainly help every reader balance her/his view on what the country has gone through during the last half-century or so. South Korea escaped extreme poverty, is achieving rapid economic change and now exporting quality automobiles, cutting-edge mobile phones, entertainment products, etc. to the global market. However, many hard-working South Koreans feel greatly deprived. Such changes have brought about diverse side effects: very slow democratization and political liberalization accompanied by countless sacrifices, a variety of inequalities and divides, increasing immigration, etc. Contemporary South Korea seems to contain all existing and imaginable modern social problems.
In my view, the publication of this book is very timely. Politically, the last decade has witnessed the gradual weakening of progressives in South Korea, to the point that they have unequivocally lost both local and presidential elections since April 2012. During the same period, the conservatives have more effectively realigned their battle lines, benefitting from the so-called new right movement and other emerging neocon phenomena. A striking difference between the two sides is that the intergenerational transfer of ideology is happening with conservatives only, as seen in the recent Ilbe phenomenon. In the 1980s, when South Korea was under military dictatorship, most people in their twenties and thirties were politically sensitive and even ideologically progressive, unlike those same age groups today. Although it may seem simplistic to divide the process of South Korean politics into just conservative and progressive, it helps to highlight the critically-based value of this book. For many readers of this work, this kind of intellectual effort may help rekindle academic and praxis-centred interest in the realities of South Korea, which may in turn lead to educated activism. These days, the number of Korean studies students and researchers worldwide is increasing more rapidly than ever. Considering the fact that not all of them are fluent in the Korean language, the fact that this book is written in English is significant.
The current edition, however, leaves a few things to be desired. Some chapters would benefit if they elaborated on issue-specific comparisons between critical and non-critical perspectives for those who are unfamiliar with the peculiarities of South Korea. For instance, readers expecting to learn some critical perspectives on class structure may find the book’s introduction of South Korea as having the lowest level of economic inequality (51) somewhat confusing and inconsistent with the overall tone of the volume. This, in my view, seems to exemplify that defining critical is much more thought-demanding than declaring to be so. Critical is relatively easy to define in contrast to conservative, but not so by itself or with diversely interpretable realities. Another question to further think about is: how critical is adequately critical in discussing South Korea when its history has been a complex mixture of quick success and dishonorable events?
Additionally, some chapters that deal with similar or closely related issues, such as the ones concerning gender and social movement, do not seem to organically connect with one another in terms of cross-referencing. The emphasis on critical perspectives from the very beginning would make readers assume that the authors are united in some ways, but their writings turn out not to be so. This probably reflects the reality of academia, where collaboration in the true sense of the word is often hard to realize. Also, use of the term “contemporary” in the title would be more appropriate if some of the statistics and other evidence presented had been more up-to-date. Lastly, unification is an extremely critical issue for the present and the future of South Korea and is directly and indirectly connected to many topics presented in the book. This edited volume, however, does not discuss it in any way.
Hallym University, Chuncheon, South Korea Gihong Yi
THE GREAT ENTERPRISE: Sovereignty and Historiography in Modern Korea. Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics and Society. By Henry H. Em. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2013. xi, 265 pp. US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5372-0.
A quest for sovereignty, or Korea’s validity and equal standing among the nations of the world, is an important feature of modern Korean history, and many political movements unfolded in the process. The “Great Enterprise” that Henry H. Em discusses in his book, however, is not about politics; it is about the writings of modern Korean historians who imagined Korea as a historically valid sovereign nation.
In part 1, Em discusses how Korean elites’ quest for national sovereignty began in tandem with Western and Japanese imperialism in the late nineteenth century. For example, Em analyzes the influence of Western ideas, language and perspectives casting a shadow on Yun Ch’i-ho’s diary entries in English during his years of education in the United States. Likewise, Em finds links between Western Christian missionaries’ search for Korean national language and the Korean vernacular script han’gŭl’s ultimate promotion as a national icon, beginning with its use in the first modern Korean newspaper published by Sŏ Chae-p’il. Japanese influence was evident in the political arena. King Kojong’s acts of declaration of independence and oath before his ancestors were in fact prompted by the Japanese statesman Inoue Kaoru, who sought to ensure Korea’s departure from its historical ties with China and entrance into the global nation-state system. Em emphasizes that Japan served not only as a conduit for modern Western civilization but as a translator of international law and the meaning of sovereignty to Korea.
Em further demonstrates how profoundly Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945) contributed to the formation of Korea’s sovereignty. The colonial authorities not only supplied infrastructure and education to Korea but fused the entire Korean population into homogenized subjects beyond the barriers of class, education, gender and geography. Interested in Korea’s past, the Japanese even presented the Sŏkkuram Grotto in the ancient city of Kyŏngju in full restoration, an example of Korea’s achievement in Buddhist art, long forgotten by Koreans. Japanese colonial historians, inspired in part by Western academia, advanced their theories concerning Korea’s alleged dependency on the Asian continent, economic stagnation, factional divisions, and common ancestry with the Japanese. These studies, in retrospect, laid the ground work for Korean studies and provided emerging Korean scholars with opportunities to articulate their antitheses.
In part 2, in his reference to many colonial and postcolonial Korean historians, Em pays special attention to Sin Ch’ae-ho and Paek Nam-un, who advanced revolutionary historical views. Sin’s groundbreaking historical work, published in 1909, argued that the Korean nation began as an ethnic entity minjok from the time of the legendary progenitor Tan’gun and continued to develop in perpetual fight against the forces of the surrounding peoples, such as the Chinese, the Japanese and the Mongols. Sin’s placing the Korean minjok at the centre of Korean history left a lasting impact, particularly on Korean nationalist historiography. Em sheds light on the less known details of Sin’s later shift to minjung, the opposed and exploited majority of the Korean people, and his work as an anarchist in the 1930s. Em then moves on to Paek Nam-un, a Marxist socioeconomic historian who considered class struggle a key to understanding Korean history. Paek was the first scholar to apply historical materialism and its stages of development to Korea’s past, identifying primitive communal society in the early tribes of the peninsula, slave society in the Three Kingdoms, feudal society in Koryŏ and early Chosŏn, and emerging capitalism in the late Chosŏn period. Paek thus rejected the particularism in both Korean nationalist and Japanese historians and instead depicted Korea as a nation in the path of universal historical development and part of the mainstream of the world.
What is the reason behind Em’s focus on Sin and Paek out of many Korean historians who challenged Japanese views and fostered national identity? One may find an answer in his last chapter on “Divided Sovereignty” discussing Korean history writing following the liberation of 1945. He sees two important groups of historians in postcolonial South Korea: Paek’s Marxist group that soon chose to move to North Korea and the group led by Yi Pyŏng-do who had inherited the Japanese methodology of textual criticism. While Yi’s tradition was passed on to Yi Ki-baek, who became linked to US academia through his incorporation of modernization theory, Paek’s scholarship was passed on to Kang Man-gil and Kim Yong-sŏp, the progressive historians who maintained a strong sense of class, anti-colonialism, anti-collaborationism and anti-dictatorship. Their theme of minjung as the primary subject of Korean history dominated South Korean scholarship, especially after the Kwangju uprising of 1980. According to Em, however, the predominance of minjung-centred historical writing is now giving way to the rise of the New Right historians, defensive of South Korea’s political past and critical of the biases of the progressives.
The readers should note that the book does not offer a comprehensive survey of historical writings related to Korean sovereignty. Em’s primary focus, particularly in part 2, is on the genealogy of class-conscious historians from Sin to Paek to Kang and Kim, who imagined Korea’s past centred on the oppressed and underprivileged minjung. Although the book begins with those who sought Korea’s sovereignty in the world, it ends with those interested in popular sovereignty within Korea. Em’s account of Paek’s scholarship and impact on South Korea makes one wonder what contributions he made in North Korea, the home of historical materialism and Marxism. Em is silent on history writing at the other side of the “Divided Sovereignty.”
The book is studded with references to studies by Western scholars, including Bruce Cumings, John Duncan, Andre Schmid, Stefan Tanaka and many more, showing Em’s mastery of the subject. His detailed analysis of the interaction between Korean sovereignty and imperialism/colonialism is convincing, and his overall genealogy of modern Korean historians is plausible. In sum, Em’s book is an important addition to the study of modern Korea and Korean historiography.
University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, Honolulu, USA Chizuko T. Allen
ARMING THE TWO KOREAS: State, Capital, and Military Power. Politics in Asia Series. By Taik-young Hamm. Annotated ed. London; NewYork: Routledge, 2012. 256 pp., US$195.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-20792-8.
This book is an inquiry into the dynamics of the armament of the two Koreas, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, from the Korean War period to the 1990s. The author aims to describe, analyze, and explain the armament processes of the two Koreas using a more objective and critical perspective.
This book consists of seven chapters, including the introduction and the conclusion. Chapter 2, “State and armament: theory and hypotheses,” overviews approaches to armament in general, and evaluates relative merits and demerits of the external and internal explanations. While criticizing the arms race model, the author attempts to explain the armament process more deeply and fundamentally by following an approach based on the synthesis of the state and civil society that focusses on resource potential, mobilization and allocation. Then, the author suggests four sets of hypotheses of armament of the two Koreas, one on external relations and others on internal processes, to be examined in the following chapters.
In Chapter 3, “On military capabilities: facts and methods of assessment,” the author attempts to find the most appropriate indicator of the armament process that can simultaneously represent military capabilities and the defense burden. The author criticizes the widely used “bean counts” and their variants including “firepower scores” for their exclusive concern with quantity, and defines that the military capabilities are human, material, and organizational components in quantitative and qualitative dimensions. The author suggests that the stock should be compared in the balance assessment, and the ratio of defense expenditures over GNP represents the burden of national defense in resource allocation in the case of the two Koreas. Noting that the defense expenditure is the best available indicator of military capabilities as well as defense burden, the author examines alternative data sets and balance assessments, as the official defense budgets of the two Koreas are not reliable (to varying degrees).
Chapter 4, “Conflict and militarization on the Korean Peninsula” is a historical description of armament efforts of the two Koreas and consequent dynamics of military balance during the postwar years. The author suggests that the military buildups of the two Koreas have periods of acceleration, deceleration, and status quo. He argues that these changes are caused by both internal and external factors, but that the former has become more important as both Koreas have become more self-reliant in armament funding.
Chapter 5, “Military balance and arms race between two Koreas”, is a more systematic and quantitative assessment of the inter-Korean military balance. The author utilizes the stock of military spending to assess the dynamic military balance, and tries to answer the questions of whether and how the inter-Korean arms race has developed in the postwar years. The balance assessment shows some interesting trends of the North around 1970 and the South since the early 1980s that cannot be explained as an arms race. The author asserts that North Korean military capabilities have remained stagnant or even declined because of internal constraints, especially resource potential. On the other hand, the South Korean military buildup since the early 1980s is not arms race behavior but the result of its rapid economic growth.
Chapter 6, “Resources, state power, and armament” is the analysis of the internal sources of armament. Since available estimates of North Korea’s GNP are incomplete, unstable or biased, as the author estimates it utilizing North Korean national income data, assumptions of its inflation rate, and the consequent exchange ratio of its own currency. The analysis yields the following. First,, overall resource base sets the limit of armament. Second, the limit varies considerably — 20 percent of GNP in the North whereas 7 percent in the South. Therefore, the resource constraint is stronger in the North. Third, the defense burden of each Korean state depends on the degree of overall state power. The defense burden grows as state power in extraction grows, reaches a plateau, and then declines as state power further grows. The increased marginal political cost of state power or the increased weight of consent/capital in the composition of state power tends to reduce the relative importance of armament as the means of coercion. Fourth, the autonomy of the state in resource mobilization accrued from massive aid from patron states that enabled both Koreas to over arm themselves until the early 1960s in the North and until a decade later in the South.
Based on the above analysis, the author concludes that, first, the South is far superior to the North in military as well as overall capabilities. Second, it would win with or without US support. Third, the South would be heavily damaged, however, and it would lose what it has striven to defend. Finally, over-arming does not guarantee more security. The author suggests the Korean conflict is not a classical prisoners’ dilemma, for a “tit-for-tat” in confidence-building has not worked well in the past. Then the author suggests that since armament is the outcome of both external and internal processes, one cannot do much with the internal dynamics of North Korea, and asserts that to “buy peace” is a more practical approach. This indeed is true for the economic cooperation between the two Koreas as seen through the success of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, even though it has been experiencing some difficulties in the last several months.
Since the author’s assignment is based on conventional weapons, North Korean nuclear arms and missiles are not taken into account. The author only points out that the North took the nuclear card as it is inferior to the South in the area of conventional weapons. Since this book was originally published in 1999, it could have dealt a little further with North Korean nuclear arms and missiles.
Finally, there was a small but serious error on page 39. The author writes the date of the Armistice as “June 27th, 1953,” but it is actually “July 27th, 1953.” This year commemorates its 60th anniversary.
Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan Tomohiko Kawaguchi
CHOOSING ETHNICITY, NEGOTIATING RACE: Korean Adoptees in America. By Mia Tuan and Jiannbin Lee Shiao. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012. x, 213 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$22.50, paper. ISBN 978-0-87154-870-2.
Tuan and Shiao’s book is a welcome addition to the literature on racial and ethnic identity development and cultural socialization of transracial international adoptees growing up in white adoptive families in the United States. Their book is based on findings from their extensive life-history interviews of a random sample of 61 Korean-born adopted adults (ages 25 to 51) placed for adoption from 1950 to 1975, and drawn from one adoption agency in the Pacific Northwest. The book examines how these pioneering generations of international adoptees negotiate their racial and ethnic identities and factors within the adoptive family and social environments influential to their ethnic and racial identity exploration (or rejection) from childhood into adulthood. More importantly, this book situates the experiences of Korean transracial adoptees’ ethnic and racial identity development and exploration within the broader Asian-American racial discourse and utilizes their experiences as a means of illuminating current race relations in the United States.
As sociologists, Tuan and Shiao’s book is distinct from prior research on transracial adoption, which has been traditionally dominated by psychology and social work; for a review see R.M. Lee, “The transracial adoption paradox: history, research, and counseling implications of cultural socialization” (The Counseling Psychologist, 31 (6), 2003). Rather than examining the impact of racial and ethnic identity on an adoptee’s adjustment, identity achievement or psychological health, Tuan and Shiao attempt to understand the ways in which Korean adoptees negotiate and respond to the social and political realities of these categories in their lives. The authors assert that Korean adoptees have relative choice concerning their ethnicity in their private lives and decision to engage in ethnic exploration, but have relatively little choice concerning their racial status precisely because race is not private. Like non-adopted Asians, whether Korean adoptees choose to embrace their racial identity or not, they must “negotiate the expectations, judgment and stereotypes that others have of them based on their racial status” (5).
The book does an excellent job of historicizing and situating the rise of Korean overseas adoptions, which developed in the aftermath of the Korean War (1950–1953) and helped to establish policies enabling the growth of international adoption in the latter half of the twentieth century. The authors then focus on findings from their study, which are organized from childhood (through adolescence), early adulthood and later adulthood. In exploring Korean adoptees’ childhood experiences, the authors explore how adoptive parents handled difference (adoption, racial and ethnic) in the family, and how rejection or acknowledgement of differences relate to ethnic identity exploration (or rejection or indifference) in adolescents. The authors then examine how Korean adoptees pursue opportunities for ethnic exploration and conditions that foster exploration in early adulthood and late adulthood. Finally, the authors explore how adoptees choose to ethnically identify and the meaning they infuse to ethnic labels as adults.
Many of their findings support current literature, namely, adoptive parents’ attitudes towards racial and ethnic differences, personal experiences with prejudice, and opportunities in the social environment as factors that contribute to ethnic exploration for Korean transracial adoptees. Their study also makes several novel contributions worth pointing out. First, the authors extend H. David Kirk’s theory of “shared fate” to include how adoptive parents not only cope with adoption differences but also ethnic and racial differences in their families. In his seminal book, Shared Fate: A Theory of Adoption and Mental Health (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), Kirk proposed parents coped with adoptive differences by either denying their situation as different from biological parents (rejection-of-difference) or by acknowledging that difference (acknowledgment-of-difference), which facilitated a sense of “shared fate” within the family.
While the study found the main premise of Kirk’s theory to hold, with about half of respondents reporting their parents employed rejection of adoptive difference and the other acknowledgement of difference, the authors found a subset of families resorted to mixed strategies depending on the dimension of racial and ethnic difference. Some families, for example, openly acknowledged adoptive difference but rejected racial difference and were neutral on ethnic difference. In addition, they found how families achieved a sense of “shared fate” varied. In contradiction to Kirk’s theory, not all families who acknowledged differences fostered a sense of shared fate. Namely, families that acknowledged adoptive differences but rejected racial differences and did not provide support for racial prejudice, as well as families that excessively emphasized differences, did not foster a sense of shared fate. Therefore, parents were disengaged in adoptees’ racial struggles leaving them to cope with prejudice by themselves.
Second, their study adds to the growing body of research on the importance of early adulthood, far more than adolescence, as a period for pursing ethnic exploration for transracial adoptees. Their study found regardless of whether their adoptive families acknowledged difference or achieved a sense of shared fate in childhood, the majority of Korean adoptees availed themselves of opportunities for ethnic exploration in early adulthood, a life stage marked by a higher level of personal independence and exposure to ethnic status. During this period, ethnic exploration was dependent on institutional availability and opportunities, as well as personal freedom to use those resources. College was a particularly critical context that fostered opportunities for ethnic exploration. The authors also found early adulthood ethnic exploration influenced whether ethnic exploration occurred in later adulthood. That is, respondents who explored their ethnicity in early adulthood were more likely to continue exploration in later adulthood.
Finally, their study provides critical insights into the meaning of ethnic labels for transracial adoptees. Several empirical studies have relied on ethnic labels (Korean, American, Korean American, Asian American) as indicators of ethnic pride and identification. In contrast, the authors found that as adults Korean adoptees utilized ethnic labels as a strategy for addressing recurring questions about their background rather than as indicators of national or group allegiances. In sum, despite the study’s reliance on self-report, the thick narratives obtained by Tuan and Shiao provide important insights and directions for future research that will further enrich our understanding of adoption and ethnic and racial identity development, and the processes of cultural socialization that facilitate ethnic exploration across the lifespan.
Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, USA Hollee McGinnis
INFORMAL LABOR, FORMAL POLITICS, AND DIGNIFIED DISCONTENT IN INDIA. Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics. By Rina Agarwala. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xx, 250 pp. (Tables, figures.) C$30.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-66308-4.
Rina Agarwala’s book is quite a tour de force. Based on scrupulous research, and gracefully and clearly written, it makes an important and original contribution in two distinct fields. In the first place it adds substantially to understanding of the politics of labour in contemporary India, and through this to the wider field of labour studies in the context of neoliberal globalization; secondly, it is a first-rate contribution to comparative research on the politics of the major Indian states. It is theoretically astute, without being burdened by theoretical exegesis, and it is mercifully free from genuflection to contemporary icons of social science. The case that the book makes for the continuing relevance of class analysis is quietly but effectively done. Another of its great qualities is that the working poor speak through the pages of the book. Agarwala gives the reader a strong “feel” for the lives of the people about whom she writes.
In India the term “unorganized labour” is much more widely used than “informal labour,” the concept that gained wide currency following the seminal work of the anthropologist Keith Hart in the early 1970s, referring to labour that is engaged in operations that are not legally registered and that is not regulated or protected by labour laws. Workers in such forms of employment have always accounted for most of the labour force in India, though in India, as is the case very widely across the world, the competitive pressures brought by increasing integration into the global economy and the influence of neo-liberalism in economic policy, have meant that this share is tending to increase. The “casualization” of labour is taking place very widely, and the labour movement is almost everywhere in retreat. It is generally held that informal workers confront great difficulties in organizing themselves, being divided in so many ways and across very many often small and frequently changing work-sites. But Agarwala’s work shows that the idea that “informal labour” is “unorganized” can actually be misleading. Drawing on 140 interviews with workers and a further 200 with officials, employers and labour leaders, she documents the extent of organization amongst two important groups of informal workers in India, construction workers and those employed in the production of bidis (local Indian cigarettes). These groups of workers, with greater success in some states (notably Tamil Nadu and Kerala) than in others, have mobilized not against employers for workers’ rights—as has been the objective of the labour movement historically—but rather to make demands upon the state as citizens for social benefits, and also for recognition of their status as workers (marked by state-certified identity cards). It is a labour movement that, Agarwala argues, accommodates unprotected, flexible production whilst struggling for greater protection for the working poor. Where the workers’ demands have been met it has been through the establishment of industry-specific welfare boards, jointly funded by government, employers and workers themselves. In return for membership workers may receive scholarships, housing and health benefits, and pensions. This is not a heroic struggle for social transformation, representing as it does an accommodation with neoliberal capitalism, and involving an implicit contract with the state: in return for their benefits workers “provide the promise of their political support and their low cost, flexible labor on an unregulated basis” (192). It is all of a piece with the way in which the Indian state has extended welfare provisioning, so ensuring that capital accumulation can proceed “unencumbered by the burden of protecting workers’ livelihoods” (M. Vijayabaskar, “Global Crises, Welfare Provision and Coping Strategies of Labour in Tiruppur,” Economic and Political Weekly 46, no. 22: 38-46, quoted from 45). But at least these most insecure workers have found ways “to dignify their discontent” (though Agarwala does not elaborate upon the idea of “dignified discontent”).
For this reviewer, however, the most exciting part of the book (and it accounts for two-thirds of it) is concerned with explaining why the informal worker’s movement has been more effective in some states than in others. This leads Agarwala into well-documented, detailed comparative studies of the politics of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Her well-designed comparative framework, which takes account of the varying character of electoral politics and of the approaches to liberalization across major states, also includes Kerala, but she explains that she did not do original research in that state because of the richness of the existing literature about it. One criticism of the text is that she might have made much more comparative reference to the Kerala case than in fact she does. Her analysis shows that the informal workers’ movement has been much more successful in Tamil Nadu than elsewhere because of the electoral politics of the state, in which the two major parties must needs enter into fierce competition for the votes of the working poor. Promises regarding the informal workers’ welfare boards have figured significantly in the parties’ electoral programmes. The commitment of Tamil Nadu, under a succession of governments, to liberalization has also given informal workers some additional leverage. In West Bengal, however, the informal workers’ movement has done much less well, in spite of what might have been expected of the long-lived rule of the Communist Party of India (Marxist): “For decades, CPM retained power by enforcing a reformist ideology and focusing on rural interests, which constrained urban workers’ struggles” (153). The studies of the politics of the three states will be of great interest even to scholars who are not centrally concerned with labour politics.
This is, therefore, an important book. One wishes, however, that Agarwala had been able to provide a clearer picture of how far other groups of informal workers are organized—Tamil Nadu does, for example, have an Unorganized Workers’ Federation, which is not mentioned—and in other states as well as those that she has studied in depth. This is really significant, because some readers may come away from the book with the impression that Indian informal workers are generally organized, which is almost certainly far from being the case. Another limitation of the book is that we learn very little about how the unions that are referred to have been set up, and how they are organized. It is odd, too, to read a book about informal labour that attributes the definition of the idea to Alejandro Portes and others in 1989, and makes no reference to the much earlier research and writing, based on extensive field research in India, of Jan Breman. These criticisms, however, do not detract from my view that this is a most valuable book.
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada John Harriss
The study of nuclear history and policy is reaching an almost-mature stage, and part of the reason for that is the work of M.V. Ramana; this book, written in Bengalaru and Princeton, adds weight to the list of his serious and searching work. With an analytic mind, and trained as a physicist, Ramana has arranged a feast for those of us who want a comprehensive map of the evolution of the Indian nuclear complex, and who want to compare its past with the present. Too much of the strategic and nuclear analysis is ahistorical and unhistorical. Not Ramana’s, however.
Like others of us who study this subject, Ramana rightly criticizes the paucity of the evidence available from official sources, and its unreliability when it is available. In the now-huge offices of the Department of Atomic Energy and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the Atomic Energy Commission there lie “files in piles” of important information, some of it many years old, still unreleased. Relatively recent and non-classified information remains unreleased. And in the minds of key actors, scientists and engineers among them, are stored those crucial interpretations of the data that “make sense” of this complex undertaking, also unrevealed and unreleased. But Ramana has been assiduous in his search, every news clipping has entered his file, every public utterance, every interview (however few). His assistant even “appealed the denial of requests for information.” The book is a map of a labyrinth of half-closed doors and nearly empty files, something that it takes a lot of patience to penetrate, and throws many people off the scent.
This book is written by a person trained as a physicist (even though not now working as one) and reviewed here by someone who is not (the kind of person Ramana is trying to reach). But what would count more with Ramana, as much as what I have to say, is the response of the reactor physicists, nuclear engineers, metallurgists, geologists, and radiation specialists who are or (importantly) were employed to carry out all these complex tasks, and who understand them even if they are unable or unlikely to translate them into our analytic frame, as Ramana does so well. Reviews from people in the nuclear business will (or should) reveal new (more accurate?) evidence on which to base energy planning.
This book is not primarily about weapons, and even the “plutonium” chapter takes in non-defence aspects of this rare unstable element. The nuclear weapons issue he tackled in Prisoners of the Nuclear Dream in 2003; though, as Ramana points out, the 2005 US-India nuclear agreement was a shadow negotiation about nuclear weapons and tests. He tried to check out the sites of nuclear accidents directly, and talked to people responsible for monitoring and change. The book has a first-hand and engaging quality about it that is compelling.
Ramana surprisingly invokes M.K. Gandhi’s criticism in Hind Swaraj (1909) that technologies cast away from elsewhere have been enthusiastically embraced in India, and then applies this point to the modern pursuit of breeder reactors (involving thorium as fuel, of which India has abundant reserves). “The DAE’s pursuit of breeder reactors when countries in the West have abandoned them for all practical purposes offers an excellent but unfortunate example of such ignorant adherence” (187). It was Bhabha (and many others too, in and outside India) who expected a working thorium-based reactor. It was partly on that basis that the US began buying Indian thorium in 1950. But, Ramana says, that remains far off.
Ramana is a close observer of and sometimes an advisor to movements against the choice of sites for reactors, or sites for uranium mines, or against the displacement of people living “in the way.” He concludes that the nuclear program will not be much deterred by the hard news in this book, and that explaining how the cost of electricity per Kw hour is higher in India with nuclear power will not be sufficient to deter elite commitment to this form of energy. No, he explains that “the DAE has to be able to promise limitless abundant energy, even if it never manages to deliver on that promise” (268). This will continue until, he says, movements appear that resemble the Greens in Germany: committed to alternative fuel and energy systems and dedicated to “mass” or “popular” political action at local levels which coalesce effectively at the national level.
For whom is this book recommended? Curiously and refreshingly, it spans the arc across the position of a beginning nuclear activist, the mid-stream student, and the advanced specialist. It is part source book (there is a good explanation of types of nuclear reactors), part critical nuclear history (there is a sharp account of the 2005 US-India nuclear deal), and part political and policy program (an appendix explains the Environmental Impact Assessment process). Moreover, it is easier to use than many academic books, enabling the reader to move back and forth between the carefully arranged chapters, whether on economics, safety or heavy water. It doesn’t address India’s nuclear program in isolation, but compares it with others. And when cost comparisons are made, say to France, it is not with evidence from the PR office of the CEA (the atomic energy authority) but to the evidence before the Court of Audit of the French state.
For most of the reactors in India, Ramana concludes that they “took longer to build, cost more than projected, and performed worse than had been envisioned when plans were made” (41). This is not unique to India, he shows that other reactors elsewhere follow a similar path. Moreover, each reactor requires a lot of land and an enormous volume of relatively clean water, both scarce in India. The puzzle as to why, after fifty years of self-reliant experience, India decided to import Russian reactors for the Koodankulam project (and would now import US models too) is something Ramana lays bare. For that, you need to read this fascinating book!
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada Robert Anderson
THE GREAT INDIAN PHONE BOOK: How the Cheap Cell Phone Changes Business, Politics, and Daily Life. By Assa Doron and Robin Jeffrey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. xxxii, 293 pp. (Maps, illus.) US$29.95. ISBN 978-0-674-07268-8.
The authors of this book say in the preface that they wrote this book for themselves, because both of them, old “India hands,” had been so struck by the “in-your-faced-ness” of Indian mobile telephony (the words mobile and cell phone are used interchangeably), in the hands of poor rickshaw pullers as much, if not more than, the hands of business tycoons. “We aimed to write a book that would hold up its head as both sound scholarship and engaged reading. Our potential readers were us: curious people, eager for understanding and intolerant of jargon” (xiii).
The book comes in three parts: two chapters under the heading “Controlling” are about communications as they were, about state regulation of the old systems, and then about the regulatory struggles during India’s post-IMF market reforms, which coincided with the new technology. This is a story backed up with lots of facts and figures: in 2002 there were 45 million phone connections for 1 billion people: in 2012 there were 900 million for 1.1 billion people. This explosion was accompanied by epic struggles between entrepreneurs, ahead of the curve, and regulators and legislators who lagged behind. The confusion allowed breathtaking opportunism and outright corruption, which drove the process pell-mell down to the lowest cost for the largest market. Capitalism of doubtful propriety delivered new power to the poorest of the poor. The second part, “Connecting,” consists of two chapters that address how hundreds of thousands of technicians and entrepreneurs were enrolled to build the telephone factories and the telemasts, to train the shop-keepers (who sold SIM cards and prepayment cards), and how small businesses have piggy-backed with their repair centres (and training programs sold to would-be “engineers”). Much of this is interesting observation on how existing networks within India’s highly structured society captured different parts of the process. The third and longest part consists of four chapters under the heading “Consuming,” which illustrate the impact of cell phones on large and small businesses, politics, women and households, wrong- doing (covering pornography, corruption, crime and terrorism). The description of how a new mobile-based banking service (Eko) has developed in Bihar for poor and illiterate people is a fascinating example of IT developmental leap-frogging. The presence of mobile phones (and their cameras and instant messaging) has reduced skulduggery at polling booths. New brides may be denied visits to their natal home, because now they can phone instead: or perhaps have their phones summarily confiscated by a mother-in-law.
The last chapter is titled “Conclusion: It’s the Autonomy, stupid,” and it brings in new topics such as health, the waste/recycling industry, and language. Once when I was doing fieldwork in the then south Bihar, I played back the interview tape to my Ho adivasi interviewee. He and the coterie around him were thrilled: “this is Ho radio,” they said. In this last chapter I read of the next step: a Gond news service, in which any person can be a stringer and SMS a message to a central editor, who can then post all acceptable stories for any interested audience. In effect it is “Gond News” on air. This has led to legal challenges: does this service break the broadcasting regulations or not? The newly empowered Gonds will certainly not give up their new service lightly.
The book is infused with little cameos of this kind, and little comparative asides. Mobiles elsewhere in the world have been developed for specific religious users. “The Ilkone i800 is specially designed to serve Muslims all across the world to address their needs, and add value to their spiritual self being” (12). It provides automatic and precise timings for prayers, can point to Mecca, and includes the whole Holy Qur’an, in the original and in English, etc. An Israeli kosher phone company’s mobile multiplies the cost of calls on the Sabbath by a factor of 122.
The book does what the authors wanted it to do. It is overwhelmingly a description of what has happened and is happening. It hardly engages with any arguments. In some ways I think this is an opportunity missed, but perhaps it is for others to delve into the deeper questions. Culture may be changed in small ways by the new technology, but the message is overwhelmingly that the supposedly revolutionary new technology can only work by acknowledging the dominance of local culture. Why does this triumph seem so easy? There is no attempt to go anywhere near such a question.
Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom Graham P. Chapman
THE LANGUAGE OF SECULAR ISLAM: Urdu Nationalism and Colonial India. By Kavita Saraswathi Datla. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xiii, 234 pp. (Map, B&W photos.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3609-2.
It is seldom that one comes across a book that sheds light on a topic long neglected by historians, but of crucial importance to understanding a critical phase in the history of the Indian subcontinent: when different types and forms of nationalism emerged in response to British colonialism. Kavita Saraswathi Datla marshals a great deal of empirical evidence to establish that the political confrontation between Hindus and Muslims that emerged in the 1930s was not driven by primordial religious differences; rather it should be understood as a product of clashing secularisms.
Set in the historical context of the princely State of Hyderabad in South India, one learns about the cultural and identity concerns that informed its educational policy. Although ruled by Sunni nobility, state policy in Hyderabad, including educational policy, was non-sectarian. Nevertheless Sunni-Hanafi principles served nominally as the framework for writing the history of Islam and the content of the theological courses. Those in charge of the university curriculum (some key figures were Shias) strove to project Islam as rationalist and progressive. Osmania University attracted Muslims from all over India, especially the Punjab and northern India, and thus acted as a hub for Muslim intellectualism.
The author concedes that ruling over a vast Hindu majority, the Muslim minority was concerned with establishing its cultural hegemony though without necessarily imposing the Islamic system on all the subjects of the Nizam. Hindus were admitted as students. Schools using Telegu, the main language of the people (47 percent), were established and expanded over time. Other languages spoken were Marathi (26 percent) and Kannada and Urdu (14 percent each). Smaller numbers of people spoke Marwari, Tamil, Gondi and Lambadi.
Some British officials wanted to use the educational system to shape an Islam that was modernistic. Ambitious plans to translate scientific literature into Urdu and use it at the higher levels of education were also pursued with vigour. The author argues that the patronage of the Urdu language by Osmania University (founded 1918) in the capital Hyderabad was an attempt to make Muslim cultural and intellectual forms a part of the larger secular future in which all communities would be included. The debates at the university, particularly in its Translation Bureau as well as in Baba-e-Urdu (father of Urdu) Maulvi Abdul Haq’s standpoint on Urdu’s literary past, were inclined towards proving that Urdu was not the exclusive language of Indian Islam or Muslims.
Reviewing the origins of Urdu, the author asserts that both Hindi and Urdu were once the same spoken language, but beginning in the late eighteenth century the Mughal Court invested Persian and Arabic vocabulary in Urdu. Thus a vintage language began to distinguish itself from the more vernacular forms of it. Such a trend was compounded by the rise of the Hindi movement in northern India in the nineteenth century. Such processes fed into the divisive politics of the 1930s, when the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League entered the contest over the future of India.
Initially the Congress Party’s standpoint was that Hindustani, written both in Devanagari and Persian script, would be the national language of a future, united India. However in 1942 Gandhi began to speak of Hindi as the national language of India while according Urdu the status of a special language with religious importance for Muslims. It made Abdul Haq leave the Congress Party. Gandhi later realized his folly and in 1945 reverted to the original Congress stand that Hindustani should be the national language with Devanagari and Persian as its official scripts.
Meanwhile in the 1930s, the divisiveness which had come to mark the contest between the two main protagonists over the future of India—the Congress for a united India and the Muslim League for a separate and independent Pakistan—was greatly aggravated when the song “Vande Mataram,” written by the Bengali Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, began to be sung in Congress meetings. The Indian Muslims considered it offensive as it was included in a novel, Anandamath (1882), which portrayed both the British and Muslims as foreigners who conquered Bengal. The song went to the heart of the Hindus but alienated the Muslims. Consequently, when Hindu students at Osmania University began to chant it in 1938 as a prayer in the university and college campuses in the state, the authorities banned it and several hundred students were expelled.
The author notes that even within the Hindu student community not all were in favour of that song. The large number of sects and sub-sects among Hindus and then the tension between the religiously-inclined and those of a scientific persuasion also cropped up, but it was retained along with another more inclusive song representing a general spiritual aspiration of all Hindus for divine favours and blessings. In addition, demands to permit the dhoti (loose cloth worn around the waist) along with the sherwani (long coat) that was prescribed uniform were made.
The Hindu nationalist leader, Sarkar, of the Hindu Mahasabha advised the Hindus not to compromise with the authorities. Consequently, many Hindu students shifted to Nagpur and left the university and colleges in Hyderabad. At Osmania University the Hindus began to demand M.A. courses in Telegu, Kanarese and and not just in Urdu and Persian as was then the practice.
After India became independent things changed radically. In 1948 the Indian government launched military action and forcibly incorporated Hyderabad into the Indian Union. With regard to the language question it culminated with English being accepted as the medium of instruction.
The author’s point that Urdu was the language of “secular Islam” is interesting. Datla has provided ample material for debate and controversy in her remarkable scholarly contribution.
Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden National University of Singapore, Singapore Ishtiaq Ahmed
TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE IN SOUTH ASIA: A Study of Afghanistan and Nepal. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 68. By Tazreena Sajjad. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xx, 225 pp. US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-62997-3.
Transitional Justice in South Asia examines the achievements and shortcomings of truth-finding, human rights accountability and reparations in the context of peace and state-building efforts in today’s Afghanistan and Nepal. Tazreena Sajjad combines critical insights into the field of transitional justice with empirical research in two war-torn societies whose differences only serve to highlight what is similar about them: the near-total failure of justice initiatives. She takes a holistic approach to justice by blurring the distinctions between transitional (“extraordinary”) and post-transitional (“ordinary”) justice to problematize the simplistic conceptions and false dichotomies in the theory and practice of post-conflict justice.
Sajjad’s main argument is that local voices should inform contemporary justice efforts. However, the “local” should not be conceptualized as a set of unchanging and homogenous norms and practices. She is particularly critical of national politicians’ and international actors’ efforts to justify inaction in the face of injustices by referencing supposedly local norms, and creating false dichotomies. For example, she provides ample evidence for the cynical use of religious rhetoric to legitimize impunity in Afghanistan despite the fact that Islamic jurisprudence encourages the prosecution of murderers and of violators of warfare rules. Victims’ long-standing activism for retributive justice militates against the simplistic idea that courtroom justice is a Western imposition on the reconciliation-loving “locals.” Against cultural and religious essentialism, Sajjad proposes the “dynamic local,” which she identifies as “domestic politics, power struggles and realities of inclusion and exclusion even within the indigenous civil society and local NGO communities, such that systems of hierarchy emerge and become entrenched in the sociopolitical landscape” (23).
The book warns against the strict separation of backward-looking transitional justice and forward-looking forms of criminal and socioeconomic justice. The problem of justice in Afghanistan and Nepal cannot be reduced to the absence of human rights accountability for past crimes; crimes committed in the present by powerful individuals also go unpunished. Furthermore, a clean transition from conflict and institutional collapse to peace and political order is more fiction than fact—the political salience of warlords in Afghanistan is a case in point. In societies where significant populations suffer inequality and marginalization on the basis of class, status, gender and caste, historical justice and social justice should be combined, without sacrificing one for the sake of the other.
Transitional Justice in South Asia is a sober reminder of all the exclusions and shortcomings of post-conflict justice efforts. National governments are often unsupportive of truth, justice and reparation initiatives unless domestic civil society organizations and external actors (foreign governments and international organizations) put those governments’ legitimacy and funding at stake. The United Nations and foreign governments have their own political agendas, which may or may not be conducive to the dictates of human rights accountability and the rule of law. Furthermore, even the well-intentioned external actors have limited knowledge of the multiplicity of local values and interests, and fall easily into the trap of cultural essentialism. The “local” is the starting point of building a just society for Sajjad, but it should not be glorified uncritically: some of the domestic actors seek to uphold unjust social relations rather than transform them, and what is worse, these elite voices may hijack the claim to “authentic” local representation by excluding the “voices from the margins” (119). The organized human rights sector inspires optimism, but the author is quick to note that for all their achievements, human rights NGOs have their own biases, and their reliance on governments for policy change makes them vulnerable. Finally, newly established quasi-official bodies called “national human rights institutions” have been much more sensitive to the victims’ demands and willing to collaborate with human rights NGOs than conventional state bureaucracies. However, the case studies in the book show that their dependence on government support leaves them in a difficult in-between position where they should constantly struggle for autonomy and efficacy.
One area in which the research project initiated by this book should be carried further is the relationship between neoliberalism and transitional justice. Sajjad claims in various passages (pages 13, 16 and 139, to be more specific) that the contemporary transitional justice discourse exposes the neoliberal agenda, but she does not elaborate on this claim. While one can plausibly argue that some leading international organizations known for their neoliberal biases also try to incorporate post-conflict justice and reconstruction measures into the political mainstream, to the detriment of considerations of social justice, it seems unfair to me to equate transitional justice activism with neoliberalism. Human rights advocates and truth commissioners in many countries come from the political left. At least in the Latin American context, the neoliberal right has been the most virulent enemy of transitional justice measures—one should only be reminded of the reactions to Pinochet’s arrest in London, or Fujimori supporters’ campaign against Peru’s truth commission, or Menem’s presidential pardon of Argentina’s military offenders. Likewise there is no evidence to suggest that transitional justice in Afghanistan and Nepal simply reproduces the logic of neoliberalism, or if there is such evidence, it should be made clear.
Overall, Transitional Justice in South Africa leaves the reader with a crucial—and difficult—question: Is it possible to design truth and justice efforts in such a way that the “voices from the margins” overcome histories of exclusion, marginalization and elite-driven cultural discourses to initiate a dialogue on local values and demands? If the practices associated with transitional justice are to rectify past wrongs in search of a better future, rather than reproduce existing injustices, this is the question that needs to be addressed urgently.
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada Onur Bakiner
THE CHANGING FACE OF ELECTORAL POLITICS IN SRI LANKA (1994-2010). By Laksiri Jayasuriya. 2nd ed. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Social Scientists’ Association, 2012. xxvii, 222 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$20.00, paper. ISBN 978-955-0762-15-6.
What are the compelling questions about Sri Lankan politics? For the last two or three decades the outside world has dominantly been concerned with the causes and course of internal ethnic conflict. The country was in a state of near-permanent civil war from 1983 until 2009. The lack of interest of the Sri Lankan government in anything that could sensibly be described as a “settlement” with the Tamil population ensures continuing critical attention from the international community. There is very little on these issues in Laksiri Jayasuriya’s latest book. His focus is on electoral politics, to a large degree descriptively, and entirely chronologically. Each of the six chapters deals with elections in six periods since 1931, albeit with a strong emphasis on the period 1994–2010. The book is effectively a re-issue of his 2005 book from the same publisher on the same topic, with the addition of a new chapter covering the period 2005–10. The earlier text has not been modified or updated in any way.
I was looking for insight into the other great question posed by contemporary Sri Lankan history: how and why did a polity that was in the 1950s such an exemplar of democratic, law-bound pluralist politics decline to become the nasty, semi-authoritarian and quasi-criminal regime that we see in Colombo today. It is not clear whether Jayasuriya shares that perspective. He certainly has a strong belief in the extent to which pluralist democratic government is—or was—embedded in Sri Lankan political institutions and culture. And he certainly concludes, in pages 168–175, with a judgment on the current government very similar to the one I give above. But it is unlikely that he believes that there is a long-term trend of change in political institutions of a kind that could reasonably be labeled “political decay.” His organizing framework is one of short-term periodic changes (“cycles”) rather than long-term trends. These cycles, sometimes garnished with phrases like “critical juncture,” “watershed” and “epochal change” are defined in terms of what others might view as relatively ephemeral changes in patterns of electoral politics. While super-sensitive to changes in the electoral system—and to electoral consequences of the shift in 1978 from a Westminster parliamentary system to a “Gaullist” presidential system with proportional representation in the legislature—Jayasuriya exhibits very little interest in other changes in political institutions. These include a whole series of changes, beginning with another constitutional change in 1972, which have weakened all political and legal institutions relative to the central executive.
It is presumably this focus on the electoral system that leads Jayasuriya to characterize the current regime as a “one-party state” (141 and 168). It is certainly true that the president has won two presidential elections as the candidate of a coalition headed by the party to which he has long belonged: the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). It is also true that a majority of the members of the legislature were elected on SLFP tickets. But to term this “one-party rule” is equivalent to labeling Stalin’s personal dictatorship as “Communist Party rule.” The party is the legitimating instrument, but it has no organizational autonomy. The ruling clique changes the composition and hierarchy of the party almost at will, inducting members of the opposition parties when it suits them.
Since 2005, Sri Lanka has been ruled by a family. Executive power is concentrated in the hands of the president and two of his brothers. The outer circle that supports them comprises another brother, the president’s son, a number of other close family members, and a few unrelated individuals, most of whom are recruited for specific purposes and few of whom have significant independent power bases. Family rule is not unusual in the world. The distinguishing features of the “Rajapakse raj” are relative stability and the high degree of coherence and cooperation within the ruling circle.
How and why did Sri Lanka descend from liberal democratic pluralism into the “Rajapakse raj”? It was of course a long, complex and to a large degree contingent process. Any analysis will be disputed. But the striking feature about the contemporary social science literature on Sri Lanka is not the disputes but the near-absence of serious engagement with the question of the causes of long-term political decay. Ethnic conflict is an important part of the story, but far from the whole of it. The descent toward unrestrained executive power began in the 1970s, well before the eruption of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict into continuous armed violence.
The electoral data that Jayasuriya presents are certainly relevant to explaining long-term political decay. But so would so many other kinds of data, from the micro-politics of successive regimes through a range of political economy considerations to the changing international context. Jayasuriya is virtually silent on most of these. His engagement with political economy virtually stops with the claim that all Sri Lankan governments since 1977 have pursued “neo-liberal” policies. One would have expected a study of “changing electoral politics” to engage in some way with the considerable long-term changes in the structure of the national economy, occupational patterns, sources of investment, sources of government revenue, and patterns of public spending. Jayasuriya points out that the voter participation rate, that was once one of the highest in the world, peaked in 1977 and has been in decline ever since. But he seeks no explanation. Had he done so, he might have noted that the decline began after the state ceased providing subsidized food to most of the population in the later 1970s, and successive governments have steadily taxed less and less and spent less on health, education and welfare.
Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, United Kingdom Mick Moore
FIGURES OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN MODERNITY. Edited by Joshua Barker, Erik Harms, and Johan Lindquist. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013, c2014. xvi, 302 pp. (Map, B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3741-9.
This book presents a series of fascinating snapshots of a variety of people from all over Southeast Asia who—together—constitute a collective picture of the anxieties of modernity in contemporary Southeast Asia. No less than 90 people from the nine major countries of Southeast Asia are portrayed in short essays of two to three pages, while each country is also briefly introduced. In the introduction, the editors emphasize that the portraits are based on ethnographic research and refer explicitly to wider political and socio-economic contexts. As such the snapshots are not simply portraits, not do they represent typologies. Instead, and following Walter Benjamin, they are intended to present “figures,” i.e., “real people who also operate as ‘symbols’ that embody structures of feeling with larger, seemingly impersonal conditions of a particular time” (3), and who “struggle to define their own historical agency” (4). These figures refer to modernity, which is rather loosely defined in terms of “the expansion of capitalism, the waxing and waning influence of the nation-state, the development of and challenge to particular forms of rationality associated with the rise of science and technology, and the transformation of the self” (12). Moreover, emphasis is put on the aspect of ethos, which is “characterized by a reflexive engagement with and embrace of a broader world […] as well as an engagement with the kinds of self-fashioning that pertain to the advent of neoliberalism” (13). In short, figures of modernity are defined as “persons within a given social formation whom others recognize as symbolizing modern life” (1).
What follows is a dazzling variety of figures, including a domestic helper, a call centre agent, a beauty contestant, a prostitute, an aspiring overseas student, a mountain village head, a world musician, Miss Beer Lao, an urban slum leader, a kick boxer, a spirit medium, an activist, a street vendor, a career woman, a gangster, a schoolteacher, a journalist, a political prisoner, to mention but a few, which are complemented in an afterword by Benedict Anderson with the liberal and fanatical Muslim, the gay and the lesbian, the genius, the ironist/caricaturist/satirist, and the criminal. In a thematic index at the end of the book the editors suggest a series of headings under which they have loosely categorized their figures, such as activists, brokers, commodification, media, etc., although they readily admit that alternative categorizations are possible as well.
What I like in this book is the variety of figures, whose contextualized portraits offer a highly original and refreshing perspective on actual people inhabiting different socio-economic and cultural landscapes of contemporary Southeast Asia. The portraits help to undermine superficial generalizations of people that are often based on essentialized cultural typologies (the peasant, the aristocrat, the bureaucrat) with whom mainstream audiences tend to be more familiar. The figures also point at the extent to which people’s lives are nowadays caught in much larger transnational economic webs in which they try to make a living. This book is therefore warmly recommended for introductory courses on Southeast Asia but also as a critical sourcebook for thematic courses on modernity.
There are, however, some drawbacks. The loose way in which modernity is defined allows for a very wide range of people to figure in this book. If modernity is overstretched to the extent that almost everything goes, it is no longer a discriminating device as it includes almost everybody. Taking into account the emphasis on economic conditions and a preference for marginal figures, Figures of transnational capitalism would have covered the same range of persons more precisely. Since modernity refers also to agency in combination with development and progress, people representing the state and development agencies are strikingly underrepresented while the figure of the tourist guide is also conspicuously missing. Even more problematic is the relationship between the figure and the ethnographer. The editors claim that the figures are defined by the fact that other people consider them to symbolize modern life. It is, however, not clear who these “other people” are. My impression is that it was the ethnographer, and not the social environment of the figure, who decided this. The people portrayed in the book do clearly figure in a wider web of capitalist constraints but less so in a specific social environment where we can identify the people who consider them to be meaningful figures. Finally, a more straightforward journalistic description of the figures and a somewhat less contemplative interpretative approach would have made this book into a valuable historical source for future generations, who might wonder what kind of people once lived in Southeast Asia. Now they run the risk of encountering a particular type of ethnographer whose figures tend to overshadow real persons.
Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden, Netherlands Henk Schulte Nordholt
MACARTHUR IN ASIA: The General and His Staff in the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. By Hiroshi Masuda; translated from the Japanese by Reiko Yamamoto. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012. xii, 320 pp., US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-4939-0.
Douglas MacArthur altered the history of every Asian country he served in. In the Philippines, he helped solidify the power of the local oligarchy and destroyed Manila upon its “liberation.” In Japan, he implemented large-scale land reform and led the formation of a postwar constitution that renounces war. His final military act—a defense of Syngman Rhee’s Republic of Korea—solidified the borders of a divided nation.
Hiroshi Masuda’s superbly researched book on MacArthur’s exploits in Asia rehearses transnational history through biography. The ambitious work reveals a continent confronting the major events of mid-twentieth-century world history: from World War II to the beginnings of the Cold War. Ostensibly the narrative that unfolds concerns MacArthur and his cordon sanitaire: the “Bataan Boys,” or the group of fifteen officers who escaped the Philippines with the general in 1942 (ix).
Contrary to what the preface may lead one to believe, however, the book is not history refracted through the lens of military homosociality. The stories of the individual Bataan Boys and their relationships with MacArthur are, in fact, incidental. Though Masuda is too modest to make the claim himself, the book is actually an account of events that shaped modern Asia. And, in this respect, the book is a success.
Masuda’s thorough research is most evident in the chapters about the American occupation of Japan. Japan after the war became a social laboratory for a budding American international technocracy. In Masuda’s postwar Japan, New Dealers, economic liberals, pacifists and political conservatives vie to determine the future of the defeated nation. The ultimate triumph, however, belonged to the newly emergent Cold Warriors of the US State Department, who eventually sidelined the recalcitrant MacArthur.
The occupation of Japan began with a purge of conservatives in the government and the military, coupled with a strong resolve on MacArthur’s part to completely disarm the country. But the mainstreaming of anti-Communist containment among American policy makers resulted in an increased support for conservative politicians (hence the rise to prominence of the Japanese Liberal Party, which would constitute one half of the now hegemonic Liberal Democratic Party) and the partial rearmament of Japan, foreshadowing the right-wing, militarist direction of US Cold War-era foreign policy.
The relevance of Masuda’s research exceeds merely providing new insights into the life of a celebrity general. Through the book, we see the contours of late twentieth-century world history. Unfortunately, Masuda is more interested in analyzing MacArthur the person rather than examining the broad historical patterns the general’s biography was emblematic of. The temptation, of course, is to present the narrative as one of hubris, with MacArthur’s miscalculations in Korea serving as the tragic ending to a storied career.
For most of the book, Masuda is ungenerous towards MacArthur, claiming that most of his actions were obscured by political ambition and partisanship. For instance, MacArthur’s attempt to move northwards to Pyongyang after a successful defense of South Korea, we are told, was a result of pride. The loss in Korea and MacArthur’s dismissal from the army could have thus been prevented by more levelheaded decision making.
In later testimony, MacArthur claimed he did not anticipate Chinese intervention, thus emboldening him to extend the war—a justification eminently persuasive at the time. Mao Zedong had yet to be exposed as a politically reckless ultraleftist, and many thought the Great Helmsman would not risk going to war with a nuclear power. Yet Masuda is unconvinced, claiming:
MacArthur’s testimony was unconvincing and undeniably [emphasis mine] misleading. Rather, with the midterm election coming up just two weeks later, MacArthur’s indifference was probably a reaction to Truman’s political strategy. He suspected that Truman would use the success at Inchon to secure a victory for the Democratic Party. As a Republican, and one who had experienced a sense of frustration in the 1948 presidential election, MacArthur had naturally no intention of sharing the victory with Truman. (265–266)
The connection Masuda tries to draw between MacArthur’s miscalculation regarding China’s intervention and Truman’s “political strategy” is barely comprehensible. But what he seeks to insinuate is clear enough: that political considerations rather than military tactics informed MacArthur’s decisions in Korea. This, uncharacteristically for Masuda, is an undocumented claim, and it serves as a bizarre climax to an otherwise superb book.
Perhaps in an attempt to balance his assessment, Masuda’s concluding chapter showers inordinate praise on MacArthur. The earlier achievements of the book—revealing the lasting impact of MacArthur’s governance on the Japanese political system, illustrating the continuities and discontinuities between the administration of the Philippines and that of Japan, telling the Pacific War through the lens of the Bataan Boys—all these recede in favour of an exposition of MacArthur’s Boy Scout qualities. In the final chapter, Masuda concludes: “MacArthur’s personal qualities as a hero in war and in peace can be summed up under seven headings: courage, decisiveness, loyalty, dignity, intelligence, leadership, and conviction” (175). Because there is much to learn from MacArthur the person, Masuda even assesses MacArthur’s health, explaining in the third to the last page that “the key factor in MacArthur’s good health was his indoor walking” (283). Maybe the American obesity crisis made Masuda want to leave his American readers with health tips.
The book, as such, not only traces MacArthur’s career, but also mimics its trajectory: from promising beginning, to towering achievement, to final failure. Like the military career it documents, however, Masuda’s book should be regarded in its totality.
Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines Lisandro E. Claudio
MANAGERS AND MANAGEMENT IN VIETNAM: 25 Years of Economic Renovation (Doi Moi). By Vincent Edwards and Anh Phan. Routledge Studies in the Growth Economies of Asia, 114. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xx, 130 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-58459-3.
Vietnam’s vibrant path of change—following its economic renovation, usually referred to as Doi Moi, approved by the Sixth Communist Party Congress in 1986—has been in place for a quarter of a century now. This volume arrives at a time when both the Vietnamese and the world business community are raising the possibility of renewed reforms, or Doi Moi II. In a compact monograph, just over 110 pages, the authors have managed to bring many interesting insights to international readers who may not have exposure to this type of transition economy, in an accessible manner.
The book contains 9 thematic chapters, focusing on critically important managerial aspects that characterize the Vietnamese business system in a transition period: philosophical foundations (chapter 2); the evolution and structure of the Vietnamese economy (chapter 3); company contexts (chapter 4); the evolution of Vietnamese management (chapter 5); sense and sensibility (chapter 6); and development and self-development (chapters 7–9), where authors make some thematic discussions geared toward implications on HRM practices in the Vietnamese setting. Toward the end, a key question which clearly deserves the authors’ elaborate discussions and attention particularly by policymakers, both foreign/domestic investors and the donors’ community is raised: “Whither Vietnamese management?” (chapter 10). In addition to major discussions from chapters 2 to 10, there are 3 additional appendixes (115–119) on basic statistics, interviewee profiles and the chronology of Vietnam’s major reforms over the 1978–2010 period.
Its main chapters appear to have been organized arbitrarily, perhaps because the authors intentionally mixed insights from an extensive literature review with some original discussions (covered in chapters 7–9). This mixture does not always show a coherence and consistence with the main theme. Much of the discussions rest with the philosophical foundations and socio-cultural traits of Vietnamese managers, blended with the introduction of new concepts from modern management theories. Despite the weaknesses, Edwards and Phan’s comparison of the Vietnamese and Western management systems, embedded with almost diametrically different cultural attributes, has provided their audience with important reflections on the significance of implications of theories for real-world business landscape in an emerging market-oriented economy. The authors also bring some important insights to the surface, such as a mention of “serendipity” in smaller private SMEs on page 71.
The authors make a meaningful contribution to the existing literature on management theories in emerging market-oriented economies in transition, explaining the shift from the old-fashioned Soviet-style models to a market-based system. Managers will now have to meet their responsibilities in line with missions and goals given to them, acting as both “economic agents” (with required skills, adaptation, resourcefulness and attitude at work) and “individuals” (with all the embedded cultural and social traits).
However, there are four major weaknesses that make the book less satisfactory to those who expect to gain practical insights for doing business in the nation. First, it fails to capture the profound changes to the transitional system after Vietnam was granted full membership in the WTO. The authors have not demonstrated the very important relationship between the management system, part of the country’s microeconomic foundations, and macroeconomic policies and environmental variables. This lost connection has proved to be a major shortcoming.
Second, one can hardly find traces of one of the most important new developments in institution building toward a more market-oriented system in Vietnam: capital markets in general, and the stock market in particular. The stock market went up substantially over the past 13 years, starting with an insignificant share of the national economy in the launching year 2000, then growing to 30 percent of GDP by the end of 2012. The functioning of this market alone has already created various changes and marked phases of transformation within the economy; and the majority of the corporate elite could not help but adapt to the existence and influence of new business games and the investment mentality created by such an important market.
Third, the book also fails to capture specific attributes and features of different post-Doi Moi sub-periods, and thus does not discuss the recent emergence of “crony capitalism” and transition turmoil in 2007–2012. Without this critical knowledge, the monograph’s discussions become inadequate; thus, its title is an exaggeration.
Fourth, in different places the authors omit critically important pieces of the puzzle that have significantly contributed to changes in the contemporary economy. Take some examples. Table 3.3 (25) “forgets” to include the World Bank, the most important multi-donor financing source (tens of billions of dollars in debt and non-refundable financial assistance) of Vietnam in any sense. In appendix 3, the authors totally omitted the birth of non-state banking corporations as well as the entrance of foreign banks in the domestic economies in the early 1990s, and ignore the birth of the first-ever Vietnamese stock market, perhaps the single most important event of the country at the turn of the millennium (120–121). At the same time, the authors add further confusion to the book with such details as considering the event of the country’s output surpassing $100 billion to be “major reforms” (121) or the United States lifting its embargo on Vietnam in 1993 (correct date: February 3, 1994). There is no mention of the US-Vietnam normalization of diplomatic relations, either. In contrast, several concepts such as dichotomy between state vs. private management, or traditional vs. modern management practices/cultural values are repeated more times than necessary.
In sum, there are several useful chapters and sections, but the volume as a whole is far from being a good reference, as its title might have suggested. Also, inaccurate information, translations and details, and mistakes make the book less successful than it could have been.
Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium Quan Hoang Vuong
CAMBODIA: Progress and Challenges Since 1991. Edited by Pou Sothirak, Geoff Wade, Mark Hong. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 2012. xxviii, 423 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$49.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4379-82-3.
This very mixed collection of papers emerged from a conference at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore in 2011. It commemorates the twentieth anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia that led to the 2003 elections and a new constitution. The completion of the peace process heralded the first sustained period of relative peace and security for Cambodia in decades. The editors come from diverse backgrounds: Pou Sothirak served as minister of Mines and Energy in the first coalition government of Cambodia after 1993 and was later ambassador to Japan; Geoffrey Wade is an Australian senior research fellow at ISEAS, and Mark Hong, a senior Singaporean diplomat, is also a fellow of ISEAS.
As might be expected given the disparate authorships, the papers are of inconsistent quality and depth. Among the contributors are a current deputy prime minister of Cambodia, one or two outspoken critics of the royal government, Southeast Asian foreign policy practitioners and Western academics familiar with the history and politics of the region. Both the foreword and the concluding paper have been provided by Prince Norodom Sirivudh, half-brother of the late King Sihanouk and former foreign minister in the fractious coalition government of the mid-1990s and no great friend of the current government.
One needs to be selective in choosing which of the papers to read; some are mere conference “boilerplate,” others display a deeper knowledge of Cambodia and the tortuous path it has followed since the Paris Peace Conference. We may skip fairly lightly over the opening pieces on Cambodia’s relations with Singapore. They are reminiscent of the fact that Prime Minister Hun Sen, when asked some years ago what his regional model for development might be, unhesitatingly answered “Singapore.”
In the chapter on “Cambodia and Southeast Asia,” Rodolfo Severino, former ASEAN secretary general, pairs up with Mark Hong to describe the role played by ASEAN in reconciling the warring factions after the breakup of the first coalition government in 1997. This in turn helped facilitate all-party elections in 1998, the reasonably free and fair outcome of which permitted Cambodia to join the regional organization. Carlyle Thayer’s learned paper on relations with Vietnam describes in some detail the historical interactions that have divided and united these mutually suspicious neighbours. The chapter entitled “Cambodia and Others” features papers on Cambodia’s recent relations with China (Julio Jeldres of Monash University), Japan (former Ambassador Yukio Imagawa) and the United States (again, Julio Jeldres), offering factual background data, but few fresh insights.
The chapter on “Peace and Reconciliation…” features widely differing assessments of the role of the UN Transitional Authority (UNTAC) of 1992–93. Yasushi Akashi, who led that operation, is unsurprisingly upbeat, whereas Ken Berry, a retired diplomat and former legal adviser to the Australian Task Force on Cambodia, is more critical of UNTAC’s performance. The youthful Khmer-American scholar Phuok Kung contributes a critical, well-balanced analysis of reconciliation efforts by all sides over the 20 years since the 1993 elections.
In the chapter “Cambodia Today,” we once again encounter varying views; the Belgian academic Wolfgang Sachsenruder, unquestionably an objective source, lays out a clear list of “issues” that preoccupy Cambodia and need to be addressed constructively by its government, including unresolved border disputes, corruption, the plundering of natural resources, land titling, and the emotional “time bomb” created by the apparent inability of minority Vietnamese and Chinese communities to assimilate.
The concluding discussion of “Cambodia’s Future” begins with an excellent paper on the Mekong River by Milton Osborne, the distinguished Australian scholar and author of two excellent books on the subject. This inclusion is by no means incidental, as the great river and its tributaries are vital to the preservation of fisheries and agriculture in the Lower Mekong Basin, not to mention the preservation of several endangered species. Upstream damming for the purpose of hydroelectric development is therefore seen as a serious strategic threat, mainly to Cambodia and Vietnam.
The final word is given to Norodom Sirivudh, who muses on Cambodia’s future in a carefully constructed piece that is congratulatory of the current government’s efforts to grow the Cambodian economy from an extremely “low base.” While paying appropriate homage to Prime Minister “Samdech Techo” Hun Sen, however, Sirivudh manages, largely between the lines, to point out that corruption and impunity remain the major impediments to social and political progress in Cambodia.
This book will be of interest to students of Cambodia and its integration into the area over the last two decades. It incorporates a useful “timeline” and a good index, while the more scholarly contributors provide helpful footnotes.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada D. Gordon Longmuir
THE PERFECT BUSINESS?: Anti-Trafficking and the Sex Trade along the Mekong. Southeast Asia – Politics, Meaning, and Memory. By Sverre Molland. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012. viii, 276 pp. (Table.) US$26.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3653-5.
Four years ago I had the opportunity to visit Phnom Penh in the context of an academic research project evaluating the efficiency of anti-trafficking programs in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS). Largely out of curiosity I arranged for myself and the law professor I was working with at the time to undertake a poverty tour of Phnom Penh that was run by a local non-government organization (NGO). Despite my initial skepticism, the tour was informative, moving and not at all patronizing in its presentation of issues concerning street children, slums and prostitution in streets and massage parlors catering to locals … until the final stop: a bar oriented to Western expats and tourists in central Phnom Penh’s “foreigners’ district.” Our tour guide informed us that many women working in “these sorts of bars” did not really want to be there, and that they only really earned money if they “entertained” clients upstairs or in a nearby hotel. As if to confirm her point, at that very moment one of the women disappeared into a concealed back area with a male customer. My colleague raised her eyebrows and asked, “You mean they are trafficked?,” to which our guide replied with an air of authority, “Yes. They would have been tricked into this work in the beginning.” My colleague shook her head at the apparently tragic circumstances of the women who were so close by, yet hopelessly distant in their unredeemable positions as victims of sex trafficking.
It is in examining the meaning and prevalence of scenarios of the sort suggested in the above vignette that Sverre Molland’s ethnography represents a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stifling and repetitious academic literature on trafficking and anti-trafficking. Rather than detailing the contours of “the problem of sex trafficking” in a particular country, Molland explores how trafficking in persons has become a self-actualizing and impervious discourse, and how this trafficking imaginary is enacted, repeated and legitimized as truth in a variety of domains, including amongst NGOs of the sort mentioned above. This imaginary then encourages (perhaps even dictates) a sorting of places and persons into those that fit the discursive parameters of the anti-trafficking industry and those that don’t. In this sorting process the Phnom Penh NGO’s bar girls would be viewed as classic victims and clear objects of anti-trafficking interventions, while other women, such as those selling sex on the streets of Phnom Penh and whose entry into sex work is mediated through social networks and peer inducement in Phnom Penh’s squatter areas, would raise far more objections as victims amongst anti-traffickers.
Molland makes this very same point in his book: those who present as “clear victims” are constituted as objects of interventions in particular ways and via particular processes. Those whose positionings in sex work are “murky” in terms of recruitment, knowledge of what their impending work entails, and the (lack of) involvement of clearly demarcated criminal groups of traffickers, and are perhaps “trafficked” only a short distance or outside areas identified as trafficking “hotspots,” are problematic for anti-traffickers. Molland’s ethnography is multi-sited in its analysis of traffickers, victims and anti-traffickers, which teases out in minute detail the disjuncture between those charged with envisioning and designing anti-trafficking policy and programs and the subjects of these interventions: namely the victims and the vulnerable. Molland’s key argument is that the anti-trafficking imaginary operates on the basis of a “market metaphor.” Anti-trafficking actors operating at a global, regional and local scale, according to Molland, construct their objects of intervention according to a business model of supply and demand in which the “market metaphor” emerges as ascendant. As Molland states, trafficking is often portrayed by anti-traffickers as a “perfect business,” “governed by laws of supply and demand and operating as a seamless organic whole” (9). His book is devoted to understanding the operationalization of this market metaphor and considers the ways “anti-traffickers imagine trafficking to ‘function’ and how these ideas compare with recruitment practices within the sex industry” (9).
The book is set in the so-called trafficking epicenter of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) in mainland Southeast Asia, and within this broader region casts a scrutinizing gaze towards the Thai-Lao border area near the Lao capital of Vientiane and the Thai border town of Nong Kai. The ethnography is organized in three parts. Part 1 focuses on the emergence of a global discourse of trafficking which constructs trafficking according to particular tropes which are idealized versions of trafficking. The second part of the book moves from this idealized version to “local imperfections” —or on-the-ground departures from this ideal—through ethnographic encounters with sex workers and their employers and maintainers in bars and brothels within the field site. The final part of the book describes the ways anti-traffickers reconcile ideals and practice in anti-trafficking through their own work.
The book yields important insights not only into trafficking and anti-trafficking in a particular context, but also into the disjuncture between “myths” and “realities” of trafficking and the ways those charged with anti-trafficking reconcile these myths. Whilst other researchers have commented on these disjunctures and the negative impacts on human rights that inappropriate and misguided anti-trafficking efforts can have on both victim and non-victim populations, Molland takes this premise much further than his contemporaries in this book. For me the most significant element of the book concerns Molland’s insistence on the importance of social networks, relations and the socio-cultural embeddedness of “trafficking” in his field site.
Despite its novelty and insights there were nonetheless a few areas that begged answers upon finishing the book. What of Molland’s research assistant? Obviously this fellow played a pivotal role in the research process, yet he is mentioned as an accompanying/ translating/ drinking partner figure only. And what of the enactment of social relations when sex workers return home? Molland assumes so much here but never accompanies any of his informants home, despite this tracing being conducted by other researchers focusing on the lives of migrant sex workers. Finally, for me it is difficult to sustain the claim that the book is a multi-sited ethnography, particularly in relation to anti-traffickers. Interviews with anti-traffickers and participant observations in anti-trafficking functions are not convincing ethnographic material and this part of the book was by far the least rigorous. How exactly do individuals learn, reproduce and perpetuate anti-trafficking myths? How do they deal with ruptures to these myths in their programmatic and practical work? It would be expected that an ethnographic treatment of anti-traffickers would address these important questions more directly. Returning to the NGO “tour guide’s” comments at the outset of this review, it would be useful to not only look at who is identified as trafficked and who is not (the bar girl versus the street prostitute), but also the remarkable ease with which these interpretations are reproduced and accepted by others. The book fell short of the mark in this regard, although it has clearly broken new ground as far as who we might think about as constituting a “trafficking problem.”
Nanyang Technological University, Jurong, Singapore Sallie Yea
SINGAPORE MALAYS: Being Ethnic Minority and Muslim in a Global City-State. Routledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series, 45. By Hussin Mutalib. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xviii, 204 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-50963-3.
In Hussin’s words, the Singapore Republic “is not yet a ‘nation’, let alone a successful model of a multicultural nation” (3). Among other things, he blames this condition on the “perennial and persistent plight of Singapore’s ethnic Malay minority,” reinforced by the policies and politics of the governing elites, composed mainly of “ethnic Chinese and Indian ministers” (4). Malays form 13.4 percent of the total population of 3.77 million in Singapore. They are significant not just because they make up a sizeable minority but also due to history and their “indigenous” claim within the Malay World of archipelagic Southeast Asia.
There are four parts to the book. The first section serves as an introduction and justification to the study. The second part contains the author’s diagnosis of the problem or what he calls the “examination” of the “Malay plight.” The third part delves into the sources of the plight and the final part, on “what is to be done.”
Although this book is rich with details, chronicling some of the issues that have understandably made Singapore Malays overly conscious of their identity as a besieged minority, the author is less clear in his theoretical and policy-making direction. The crux of the matter is that, relative to the other ethnic groups within the island nation, Malays underperform in every field that is statistically measurable. In the field of education (from primary to tertiary level) they are under-achievers. In marriage they record the highest rate of divorce. Malays also suffer the highest rates of medical afflictions, from heart disease to diabetes. Among all youths, more Malays are known to be drug addicts and delinquents. Furthermore, in terms of jobs, professions and household incomes, Malays occupy the lowest measures among all ethnic groups. A very distressing characterization of a seemingly homogenous group—that is, if one continues to make a correlation between these statistical indicators with the idea of “race.” Unfortunately, but definitely inadvertently, Hussin has succeeded in reinforcing the perception that race is indeed destiny.
From the above premise Hussin then stresses that the Malays are unhappy with their minority syndrome. On the socio-economic front they occupy a secondary status and role compared to other fellow Singaporeans, namely ethnic Chinese who make up the majority and the more advanced other minority group, the Indians. The second gripe is political, in that the government is said to have imposed its own choice of Malay political leaders upon the community. Hussin contends that as a result of this they lack legitimacy and clout among the Malays. Thirdly, Malays are also said to be unhappy culturally and religiously. This is attributed to government intrusion into their religious affairs, while at the same time doing little to accommodate their ethno-religious interests.
Nevertheless, the author is ambivalent about the state, which seems to be the source of contention, if not blame in his analysis of the problem. On the one hand, Hussin admits that “there is neither overt discrimination by the present government nor collective suffering of the Malay minority as a whole in Singapore,” but on the other hand points out that the problem still lies in the fact that Malays are “lagging behind fellow ethnic Singaporeans” (4). The author vacillates in finding a solution to all these; that while putting the blame on government for not doing enough, especially in not anointing the right Malay leaders to represent the community, he also blames the community for also not working hard enough for itself.
The key to the perspective in this book is that Hussin takes it as a given that competition (an inter-ethnic one, at that) is the unquestioning mission and telos of the Singapore nation. It is as though everyone’s destiny will and can only be shaped by competition. As long as this framework is being used, there are inevitable winners and losers in the system. One either loses (or wins) as an individual or loses (or wins) in solidarity (forced or otherwise) with others in one’s group-designate.
The other assumption of this line of thinking, as suggested by the author, is that members of a group have the obligation to help one another out, or that individual achievement is also translatable into group pride. On this, we may ask, is that so? To what extent do individual members actually seek their sense of belonging to a racial group? Furthermore, is group “solidarity” a function of top-down state policy or a bottom-up, organic sense of togetherness?
Disappointingly, his answer to the problems he has outlined is rather non-committal, if not restrained. Hussin foresees a more optimistic scenario for Singapore Malays when they can commit themselves to “pursuing their expectations and interests within the Islamic paradigm … continue to work hard and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices” (149).
He even admits that the problem is rather insurmountable and Malays will still continue to fall behind other ethnic groups. He hopes for the emergence of a “small reservoir of talented and courageous Malay professionals” and that this “small but significant segment – in line with the emphasis of the Islamic faith on quality rather than quantity – could be the future models or torchbearers of Malay progress” (151).
He gives an assurance that Malays would continue to give support to a “government that is effective and equitable to all citizens” but seeks for more rights among Malays “to choose their own leaders who can better represent their aspirations and concerns” (153). All this seems to be a rather moderate policy recommendation to all that passionate and meticulous detailing of the malaise of the Malays.
National University of Singapore, Singapore Maznah Mohamad
MALAY KINGSHIP IN KEDAH: Religion, Trade, and Society. Asia World Series. By Maziar Mozaffari Falarti. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. xxv, 225 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$75.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-6842-4.
Through a consideration of the kingdom of Kedah, Maziar Mozaffari Falarti portrays the pre-colonial Malay world. Kedah is located at the northern end of the Malacca Straits; it thus was proximate to the Siamese, Burmese and Acehnese empires. Given its geographical environment, it is appropriate to look at Kedah from the viewpoint of mixed riverine and maritime structures as well as that of trans-peninsular inland routes.
Falarti is a polymath who knows the vernacular literatures of the Malay world, the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. He gathers facts relevant to Kedah and assembles them into an overview of the region. The book covers the wide period from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, but focuses on the occupation of Kedah by the Siamese from 1821 to 1841. The sultan of Kedah, who fled to the neighbouring British territory of Penang, was followed by tens of thousands of Kedah Malays, who later joined him in regaining control of the state. The book is structured around fundamental questions: How was the exiled sultan able to ensure his subjects’ continued loyalty for twenty years? What went wrong in the Siamese occupation of Kedah? Who joined forces with the sultan in recapturing Kedah? And what was the impact of the Siamese occupation on the position of Kedah in the Malay world? These questions are discussed in four chapters.
The first chapter is “From Raja to Sultan: The Conversion of the Tantric Malay Ruler.” There are significant discrepancies in the indigenous and more recent scholarly sources on the conversion of Kedah’s raja. Post-nineteenth-century erudite sources tend to omit the miraculous events of this conversion. Falarti carefully analyzes the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa or the Kedah Annals and compares them with indigenous and foreign literature. Prior to the Islamization of Kedah, ministers with knowledge of Islam dethroned the ruler, Raja Bersiong, who resorted to tantric power to counter them. Mahawangsa, the grandson of Raja Bersiong, banished Satan or the great snake with the help of a saintly Sufi disciple and mystic and converted to Islam. Raja Bersiong is described as having a vampire-like taste for human blood and Mahawangsa as having the habit of drinking arak. By denying these barbaric acts, the converted raja, as sultan, established his administration in Kedah.
The second chapter, “The Malay Ethos: The Sultan and His Subjects,” considers the relationship between ruler and people as being modelled after the covenant of the Sejarah Melayu or the Malay Annals. It has been observed in various parts of the Malay world that only God may punish rulers; hence, officials and people should not commit the crime of high treason against a ruler, who should not, in turn, publicly humiliate them. This concept, which is widespread in the Malay world, was even observed in twentieth- century Singapore under British colonial rule. The Siamese treatment of local Malays including women, and minors, was humiliating; it led to the Malay support for the former sultan in recapturing Kedah.
The third chapter is entitled “Controlling Kedah’s Maritime Lines of Communication: The Sultan and the Raja di-laut, or Sea Lords.” Kedah was exposed to the attack of the neighbouring states of Aceh and Siam in the seventeenth century, and the sea people defended it. Meanwhile, the Dutch, in competition with the British, attempted to monopolize the tin trade in the Malacca Straits and join Siam in a blockade of the sea lines of Kedah. Kedah sought an alliance with the British, which eventually led to the emergence of British merchants in the region who weakened the control of the ruler over the local sea people. The ruler employed foreign sea peoples, such as the Bugis and Minangkabau, to encourage civil war in 1681–84.
The fourth chapter, “Bay to Gulf or Gulf to Bay: The Sultan and the Trans-Peninsular Routes of Kedah,” discusses the importance of inland trade routes in Kedah, since the state had many good ports that led to the development of trans-peninsular trade routes. These routes were equipped with animals, such as elephants and buffaloes, to carry goods that were provided by the local inhabitants of the 128 parish-styled divisions, each under a chief. The routes were used not only for trade but also for incursions, kidnappings and escapes. Kedah embarked on the reestablishment of the trans-peninsular routes after 1842, after the Siamese occupation, but the inland trade routes had lost their significance, both because the Kedah lost the districts of Perlis, Satun and Penang and because of the introduction of the railway system in the early twentieth century. Moreover, the administration of Kedah came under the protection of the British after Siam gave up its claim over the region in 1909. The sultan of Kedah gave up control over the trade routes, which resulted in his subjects eventually losing a sense of unconditional devotion to him.
The author successfully portrays the historical world of Kedah, although his arguments could have been weightier and accompanied by fuller quantitative data in the third and fourth chapters. On the other hand, the author makes important points; for example, he points out that the historical acceptance of foreign rulers for the Malays are well explained by the covenant that existed between the ruler and subject, even when a sovereign was not Malay.
If the Hikayats were the form of self-representation in the pre-colonial Malay world, feature films may be regarded as the present-day form of Hikayat. “The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines” was released in 2011 in Malaysia; it is based on the Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, as the Malay title of the film indicates. The centuries-old Hikayat remains relevant as a means of representing Malays and their position in the world. The methodology of this book is not only applicable to restructuring the historical world but also in foreseeing and interpreting the future.
Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan Hiroyuki Yamamoto
CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENTS IN INDONESIAN ISLAM: Explaining the “Conservative Turn.” Edited by Martin van Bruinessen. Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2013. xxxiv, 240 pp. US$29.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4414-56-2.
There is no doubt that this fine book is a timely anthology on the contemporary developments of Indonesia’s post-Suharto Islam and Muslim politics. Edited by Martin van Bruinessen, an eminent Dutch scholar of Indonesian Islam, this collection of essays discusses “new trends” within Indonesian Islam, namely the rise of Islamic conservatism and religiously-inspired radical-militant Muslim groupings, particularly in the aftermath of the downfall of the Suharto dictatorial regime in May 1998. To provide further evidence—and convince the ideas—of the “conservative turn” in the country’s post-New Order Muslim cultures and politics, the book presents in-depth analyses of four case studies, each of which is investigated and written by four Indonesian Muslim scholars.
The first case study (60–104), written by Moch Nur Ichwan, examines the new and shifting roles of the MUI, a semi-official institution of the country’s Islamic scholars (ulama) founded by the late President Suharto in 1975, in the post-New Order Indonesia, from being the “servant of the ruler” (i.e., the New Order regime) to serving as the “servant of the ummah” (Muslim community). By analyzing various intolerant and anti-pluralist fatwas (non-binding Islamic legal opinions), tausiyahs (counsels), and other official statements produced by the MUI, particularly since the collapse of Suharto, Ichwan argues that this organization of Islamic scholars has attempted to redefine its role and reposition itself in the nation’s transitional politics “by defending more conservative Muslim interests and aspirations.”
Moreover, Ahmad Najib Burhani’s chapter (106–144) analyzes the emergence of the “conservative blocs” in the Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization, since 1995, a year that, in Burhani’s view, marked the beginning of a series of competing religious discourses in this body. For Burhani, the rise of Muhammadiyah’s conservatism in the early years of the twenty-first century was not inherent, but rather a product of such external factors as national politics and the resurgence of new ideologies brought by transnational Islamic movements.
The remaining two chapters of case studies focus on the KPPSI (Preparatory Committee for the Implementation of Shari’a) in South Sulawesi and on radical Muslim groups in Solo of Central Java. Mujiburrahman’s chapter (145–189) discusses the historical dynamics and political struggle of the KPPSI in their endeavours to implement Shari’a as a public law and public policy in the province. The chapter concludes that, despite some political successes (e.g., the adoption of Shari’a-based regulations at the district level), the group failed to transform the region into an “Islamic state” or even a “semi-Islamic state.” Lastly Muhammad Wildan’s piece discusses the proliferation of radical Muslim groups in the city of Solo in Central Java (190–223). Despite being a “homegrown” of militant groups, Wildan says, conservative Muslim organizations in this region “have not expressed demands for shari’a-based regional regulations” (218).
Certainly, as the editor has reminded us in his introductory notes, these four cases are only “small instances” of the recent developments of religious conservatism and militancy within Indonesian Islam. Although these “conservative trends” do not represent the whole picture of Islam in the archipelago, these developments, however, by and large, the editor has argued, have changed and challenged the image and perception of Indonesian Islam, which was previously seen as peaceful, tolerant, secular, moderate and democratic to become intolerant, violent, “religious,” “extreme” and less-democratic.
The increase of the contemporary radical Muslim groups, directly or indirectly, was the product of political reformation, liberalism and democracy that greeted the nation since the fall of Suharto. During the early period of the New Order, Suharto severely controlled and ruthlessly treated Muslim reformist-militant groups and devotees of Islamism. Suharto’s collapse was thus seen as providing momentum for these groups to express their political and religious interests. In the name of democracy and civil liberty, the conservative Muslim groups established Islamic centres, organizations and schools, which they used as a means to disseminate anti-democratic ideas and thoughts of religious hatred and intolerance, and, paradoxically, to oppose democracy, which they saw as a Western secular product.
Although post-Suharto Indonesia has been marked by the influx of trans-national Islamists and local conservative Muslim groupings, it is misleading, however, to conclude that conservatism is a new phenomenon in the history of Islam in the country. Since the eighteenth century the archipelago has been an arena of severe political struggle and harsh religious rivalry among various Muslim groupings: reformists, traditionalists, modernists, nominal Muslims, Sufis, shari’a-oriented Muslims, etc. Despite some political repressions against the radical Muslim groups committed by Presidents Suharto and Sukarno, the groups did not disappear, and in fact, they re-surfaced in the stage of Indonesian politics following the collapse of Suharto rule.
However, it is too early to say that today’s Indonesian Islam has been occupied by conservatism. The “battle of thoughts” between the conservatives and the progressives has not finished yet, and in fact plurality, even in such Islamic organization as the MUI, always takes place in Islamic institutions and Muslim groupings. There are also substantial numbers of moderate-progressive figures within the MUI. Even though the actions and views of radical Muslim groups have been dominant in the media and scholarship, the reality of society very often speaks otherwise. It is true that militant Muslim groups are very strong in Solo or South Sulawesi, but Indonesia is not Solo and South Sulawesi; thereby both areas do not represent the image of Indonesian Islam as a whole. Even in these two regions, moderate-progressive Muslims are also very strong. The fact that secular-nationalist political parties always win national and regional elections indicates that the Muslim conservatives do not (yet) have deep roots in the society. Despite massive intolerance campaigns by Muslim hardliners and conservative Muslim figures against Joko Widodo, who was deemed to be less-Islamic, and his running mate Basuki Tjahja Purnama, a Chinese Christian, in the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, the candidate won the majority of votes cast by Jakartans.
All of these complexities and diversities of Muslim groupings and opinions teaches us that Indonesia, which has had prolonged experience of intergroup engagement and the profound vigour of pluralism, has not yet, perhaps never, been “Islamicized” by conservative blocs.
University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA Sumanto Al Qurtuby
THE DANCE THAT MAKES YOU VANISH: Cultural Reconstruction in Post-Genocide Indonesia. Difference Incorporated. By Rachmi Diyah Larasati. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. xxii, 196 pp. (B&W photos.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8166-7994-2.
This remarkable book attempts to show the ways in which the Indonesian nation-state, under President Suharto and his Reform-era successors, has attempted to appropriate and refashion both court and folk dances for their own purposes. These purposes included covering over both past artistic practices and the killings/imprisonment of their practitioners, taking control of a wide range of cultural practices, and using dance to help promote an image of national stability that assists in securing international tourism, aid and trade deals.
While I often found Rachmi Diyah Larasati’s book to be too heavily laden with a theoretical jargon that was not always grounded by concrete examples, it would be hard to deny the deep intellectual quest and profound moral passion that undergird this frustrating and fascinating work. At its best, Larasati’s work allows us to gain a fleeting glimpse of the spectral figures of those dance practitioners of the Jejer and Janger genres who have disappeared or been banned from performing since 1965. Another great virtue is the fact that it clarifies the ways in which the post-1965 Indonesian state has gone to great lengths to claim ownership over refashioned traditional dances, while at the same time controlling the practitioners of these dances through access to privileged travel for performance abroad and strict enforcement of civil servants’ conformity to state norms.
The Dance That Makes You Vanish also insightfully reveals Larasati’s own history as a member of a family stigmatized by association with the pre-1965 Indonesian political left. Furthermore, Larasati’s personal experience during a cultural mission to Cambodia enables her to engage in an original and revealing comparison of the significance of recreated traditional dance in that country and her native Indonesia.
Taken all together, there is much to recommend this work, despite the difficulties of what I felt were its excessive theoretical positioning.
Larasati’s book is divided into five chapters. The first sets out some of the author’s key themes: the state’s efforts to claim ownership over a variety of artistic practices and to replace dancers branded as politically “unclean” as the condition of the construction of Indonesian culture post-1965; the benefits and limits of international mobility for state-sanctioned performers; and a call for practitioners to act out their “embodied historicity” (i.e., to recall in their performances the dance practices of those otherwise erased from history). The second chapter focuses on the manner in which the Indonesian state redefined the arts to accord with its domestic ideological needs and its sense of the global cultural market. Here Larasati argues that the Indonesian state emphasized the “ancient” and the “exotic” traditions in order to attract international tourists and satisfy the multicultural agendas of countries hosting Indonesian cultural missions. Further, she contends that in the process certain forms, specifically Javanese court dances, were privileged and provided an ideological support system for the continued dominance of the Indonesian ruling elite.
Chapter 3 examines the strategies the state has used to appropriate a number of folk forms thought to be contaminated through their deployment by political left-wing groups in the pre-1965 era, specifically through its “magang” (apprenticeship) program in which state-approved practitioners study with an older master of the form, only to then recreate the dance along lines more neatly conforming to state ideological/aesthetic needs and readings of international cultural tastes. The author also touches on the ways such cultural re-appropriations may contribute to a sense of national stability through their evocation of a collective national cultural identity. Larasati asserts that dancers’ potential to make subtle or obvious changes in the state-defined structure and techniques of individual dances may hold a limited subversive power to disrupt the state’s preferred narrative of history (as embodied in a dance and its dancer’s physical movements, and supplemented in the ways the dances are explained).
Then, though she contends that New Order versions of many dance forms are “replicas” in which the bodies of disappeared and banned dancers have been replaced, she critiques Baudrillard’s notion of the “hyper-real” as neglecting the issue of the “traditional” within colonized space, and for not exploring the possibility of injustice in the process of making a “copy of a copy.” Larasati hardly views traditional culture as something unchanging and pure. What she is arguing is that relations of power which result in the violent erasure or exclusion of human practitioners and their contributions to cultural heritage result in a “hyper-real” copy or “replica” of a dance for which Baudrillard’s ideas are not able to fully account, and that are different than those produced by more usual processes of cultural change. Finally, she suggests that the history made to “disappear” by the New Order and its successors nonetheless lives on in the collective unconscious of the dance community. Unfortunately, this is one point where the book fails to deliver a concrete example which might help us understand how this is the case.
Chapter 4 provides an instructive comparison in which the Cambodian state’s reconstruction of “traditional” dance forms is seen as a positive contrast to Indonesia in so far as they help Cambodian practitioners symbolically master the violence of that nation’s recent past. Chapter 5 represents an exploration of the ways in which women dance artists might find a space for challenging state norms for dance. Here, the author is able to draw on her own choreographed works, and those of some of her colleagues, that forcefully show how conventions can be made to speak about forgotten histories, movements, and techniques.
Ultimately, the last chapter is most heavily laden with Larasati’s own hopes and desires for the future of Indonesian dance and its practitioners. Her commitment to achieving social justice also comes across forcefully here in her condemnation of the slaughters of 1965. Thus, this complex work ends on a chord that integrates the author’s personal life with the considerable fruits of her intellectual quest for ways of understanding the history of the constraints under which Indonesian traditional dance moves.
University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada Michael H. Bodden
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
ENGENDERING VIOLENCE IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Edited by Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart; with Caroline Brewer. Canberra, ACT: ANU E Press, 2012. xxvii, 280 pp. (Tables, figures, maps). A$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-9218-6285-4.
This book offers a timely examination of gender and violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG). The country recently attracted world-wide publicity about incidents in several provinces involving the torture, beheading or burning of women accused of witchcraft. The report by Amnesty International, Papua New Guinea: Violence against Women—Not Inevitable, Never Acceptable! (London, 2006) is among many reports by international agencies documenting and decrying ill-treatment of women. The government of PNG recently released a Country Gender Assessment (February 2013) sponsored by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which documents extensive female disadvantage in education, health and the economy. A number of studies have also linked the epidemic of HIV and AIDS to the powerless circumstances of PNG women, for example those in the anthology edited by Leslie Butt and Richard Eves, Making Sense of AIDS: Culture, Sexuality and Power in Melanesia (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). Further, PNG is the only country in the Pacific to be rated by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat as “off track” for progress on all the Millennium Development Goals, in its 2011 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report (August, 2011). Most of the MDGs have indicators related to the status of women.
The collection contains an overview and eight essays, most of them by anthropologists, examining aspects of gender and violence in particular regions of the country. In her introduction Margaret Jolly notes that gender violence is a human universal and suggests that in the context of PNG, gender violence cannot be understood in cultural terms alone, but must also be contextualized in relation to the country’s fraught colonial and post-colonial history.
Male supremacy was once affirmed in most if not all PNG societies by cosmology, ritual and exchange; today, as the contributors to the book show, there are uneasy juxtapositions of old and new religious values and economic forces. Naomi McPherson’s ethnographic case study of the Barai (West New Britain Province) suggests that violent behaviour is particularly provoked by challenges to male prerogatives. Their shift to charismatic, fundamentalist Catholicism has reaffirmed and re-legitimized male dominance, particularly in relation to control of female fertility. Laura Zimmer-Tamakoshi’s historical case study of the Gende (Madang province) examines the impacts of mining projects, migration and new economic opportunity on marriage chances, conjugal relations and increasingly “troubled masculinity.” In the past, young men had to wait many years to obtain wives, dependent on their elders and the slow processes of inter-group politics and an un-monetized economy. Now that some men are financially independent of traditional expectations and obligations, they can challenge status hierarchies, by paying bride prices for themselves and acquiring multiple wives, in a situation of increasingly competitive commoditization of women.
Beliefs about witchcraft and sorcery reflect people’s anxieties about social and gender inequality. Philip Gibbs explains that the Simbu (Simbu province) believe that both men and women could practice sorcery, or might be witches; but men are thought more likely to be victims, while women are more likely to be accused, and violently assaulted or murdered. He suggests a woman might be more feared as an outsider married into her husband’s clan, as a marginalized widow or as someone poor, oppressed, vulnerable and unprotected. Young men have been particularly visible perpetrators of such vengeance in recent years, and Gibbs suggests this reflects negative behavioural affirmations of masculinity.
At present there is little that women can do to overcome their vulnerability to violence in PNG. Anna-Karina Hermkens describes how many Catholic women in Madang province feel spiritually empowered to cope, by taking the Virgin Mary as a model of humility, obedience and faith. So far the courts in PNG have not been successful in decreasing violence in its highly prevalent form of rape. Jean Zorn documents the generally unsympathetic attitudes of judges since colonial times towards the emotional as well as physical effects of rape on victims. This is why, Zorn argues, rape has long not been treated as the serious crime that it is. She describes some improved trends in judicial decisions and sentencing in recent years. Fiona Hukula examines rape from the perspective of sentenced perpetrators. Her case studies demonstrate alarming senses of male entitlement to sexual gratification, or beliefs that sexual violence may rightfully be used as a means of revenge. The author rejects the argument by many other scholars that rape has more to do with power than sex. Arguing that this explanation has “western connotations,” she proposes that the themes of frustration and retribution in the narratives of her interlocutors suggest that in PNG rape is motivated more by generalized anger and aggression towards women. Christine Stewart, in her case study of the brutal treatment of women and girls charged with prostitution, concludes that such anger most likely arises from the perceived challenges to masculine status and authority presented by the wider opportunities and choices available to women in modern PNG.
Martha Macintyre’s discussion of Millennium Development goal 3 for gender equality and the empowerment of women points out that the causes of violence against women are structural and, as the other contributors to this volume show, have to do with constructions of masculinity that allow the denigration of femininity and “deeply ingrained cultural attitudes and economic relations that naturalize female disadvantage and male entitlement” (239). Macintyre argues convincingly that approaches such as gender mainstreaming in development projects, and the targeting of women with programs for their empowerment, rest on the false assumption that women themselves can be the agents of change, if they are educated and given equal opportunities for employment. Violence against women is the ultimate expression of gender inequality and the disempowerment of women, and these essays all suggest that change will only occur when men are required to give up privileges that are currently maintained by the threat of violence.
National University of Samoa, Apia, Samoa Penelope Schoeffel
EBIA OLEWALE: A Life of Service. By Jonathan Ritchie. Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea Press; Oakland, CA: Masalai Press (distributor), 2012. x, 292 pp. (Map, B&W and coloured photos.) US$79.99, cloth. ISBN 978-9980-86-954-8.
Niwia Ebia Olewale was part of that generation which oversaw the establishment of an independent Papua New Guinea. His was the first generation educated beyond the completion of primary school, year 6. Up to the early 1940s schooling was in the hands of missions. In the 1950s a scholarship system was put in place to send selected students to schooling in Australia, and the cut-off age was fifteen. Ebia was selected but he was deemed, at age seventeen, too old. He was sent to Sogeri, a school established during the Pacific War to train Papua New Guineans for vocational work. He trained as a teacher at the Port Moresby Teachers College. He worked briefly as a teacher and union organizer before standing for political office. In 1972 he was elected as the member for his home electorate of South Fly. He did not reveal his membership of Pangu Pati until after his election.
In the ten years he was in parliament he rose to high office, deputy leader of Pangu Parti and deputy prime minister under the leadership of Michael Somare. It is a position he obtained partly through default. Albert Maori Kiki had been defeated in the 1978 election and Olewale was rewarded with the ministry of Foreign Affairs and deputy prime minister at a time Pangu was in decline. In 1982 Olewale was defeated.
The years following his election loss were years of disappointment and dismay, a period of political upheaval, a surge in corrupt behaviour, and the beginnings of the civil war in Bougainville, and a period when he had no influence on Papua New Guinea political life. There was no easy career move available as the public service was closed to him. His political opponents were in office. Moreover, he seemed to have no clear direction as he moved from project to project, even failing as a small businessman.
The leitmotif throughout this biography is a life of service, to Ebia’s people and his nation. In the years after 1982, Ritchie tells us, Ebia served both the people and the nation in various capacities, and avoided the corruption so prevalent in his contemporaries. There is a corresponding theme of destiny. As a young man, standing on the shore looking across the Torres Strait, Olewale dreamed of other places: “Even as a young boy he would stand at the water’s edge by his village and tell himself that he would see the marvelous places around the world he had heard about.”
Ebia Olewale: a life of Service is a biography with purpose. Ebia’s life is described as PNG’s story—“from the village to the world— … retold … through [his] experiences” (6). His “journey from the village to the nation,” the “triumphs and tragedies” (6). Of course, the story of PNG contextualizes Ebia’s life but claiming that his life is emblematic of the nation overstates and simplifies the importance of Ebia.
Writing Olewale’s biography was, Ritchie told his readers, an undertaking where he and Ebia “unknowingly … shared a place” which enabled him to shed light “on the unanswered questions of my own Papua New Guinea experience; it was an opportunity to question and learn about my [Ritchie’s] Papua New Guinean childhood:”
What was I, an Australian child, doing in that country? Does the fact that I was born and spent a happy childhood on its soil allow me to call it ‘my’ country? What assumptions about equality and inequality, about homogeneity and diversity, and about power did I grow up with, based on my experience as a child in what one feature film has called ‘a savage land’? (2)
Yet Ritchie had left Port Moresby by the end of 1970, when he was still in primary school. The biography of Ebia Olewale was a missed opportunity to examine the way Ritchie’s father, who rose to high office in the colonial service, represented the colonial regime, especially when Ritchie discusses Ebia’s rise in the 1960s. In what ways did their paths diverge? What did Jonathan learn about himself? Ritchie lays out these questions in the introduction. Ritchie states that the biography is about “fathers in a generic way. It is about the generation of men and women, who can be considered to be the mentors who helped to bring the infant TPNG to maturity as an adult and independent nation. I consider both Ebia and my Dad as ‘generic’ fathers in this way, as were many of the Europeans and Natives who contributed in their own ways to the creation of the nation of Papua New Guinea”(3).He suggests that colonizer and colonized bring the new nation to fruition, despite acknowledging that as PNG moved toward independence, many expatriate public servants and others left, including his father. He notes that the departing colonizers were not openly obstructionist but more concerned about what would happen to them and their careers.
Ritchie unfortunately can’t escape the language and tropes of colonialism. Why refer to Papua New Guinea as a “savage land”? The use of the language of colonial rule is disconcerting. Not only do we read the inference of children, the infant nation, not being ready and needing preparation for nationhood and independence, adulthood; we also read about “Natives” and “Europeans.” It is as if even now Papua New Guinea is in the waiting room of history, not ready yet.
In the end, Ebia Olewale: a life of service is a biography leavened with undue emphasis on nation-building and seeing Ebia as a role model for future generations.
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia Geoffrey Gray
This is a pretty nice book from the University of Papua New Guinea Press on the life and war of Ben Moide. The book covers the Kokoda Campaign from a first contact with General Horii’s forces at Awala (now on the Kokoda Highway), through the fighting retreat back along the Kokoda Track, then forward again on the mopping up operations towards the end of 1942, to the landing on Scarlet Beach near Finschhafen. This is book-ended with Mr Moide’s recruitment into 1 PIB (‘Papuan Infantry Battalion’) at the age of sixteen in 1940 and something of his early family life and personal life after the war.
It somewhat grates that the book is called “Nameless Warriors.” The author writes:
Over the years, people have also asked Ben Moide: why now? … Frustration at the lack of the taubada’s appreciation for assistance rendered; distrust at the motives of European writers; doubts … on the subject of WWII carriers and soldiers… . (5)
But Mr. Moide is a well-known figure around Papua New Guinea and, far from being nameless himself, was one of 35 PIB riflemen and Bren gunners who fired the first shots at Awala on 23 July 1942, commemorated in the annual Remembrance Day Holiday that all citizens enjoy. In what way do Ben Moide and his peers lack recognition and what evidence is there that historians have doubted them?
Two unit histories chart the course of the war from the perspective of the PIB / NGIB / PIR: Green Shadows by G. Byrnes (1989) and To find a path: the life and times of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment by J. Sinclair (1990). Both are highly respectful of the Papuan and New Guinean enlisted men and give a good insight into the context of the times. They both detail the exploits of the unit war heroes—whose kill rate, if official sources are to be believed, was astonishing—recounting many of the same actions that Ako does, complete with the medal citations, a full list of all who served and the Roll of Honour (those who died). The latter has a physical presence at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, in brass, just as there is for all other units from conflicts that Australia has taken part in since the nineteenth century. The list of those who served has been publicly searchable on the AWM’s website for many years, and Ben Moide is in it under his service number, PN67. It must be said that the AWM’s oral history programs are weak on the experiences of Papua New Guineans, but the cold arithmetic on the original numbers of enlisted men, and numbers of survivors today, from Australia, Japan and PNG, means that only a few PIB men like Ben Moide have survived into the 2000s to add their reminiscences. Which is why the book under review is an extremely welcome addition.
Sinclair’s book gives us clues about the treatment afforded to “native” soldiers during the war. While the Australians they went into combat with held them in high regard, niggling incidents at the hands of those who didn’t reminded them of their official station while in the Australian forces. As well as low pay, an order later in the war was that men must wear their badges of rank on their laplaps instead of on their shirt sleeves like everyone else. This did not go down too well with battle-hardened men credited with killing dozens of their enemy. This theme of facing the same hardships as white soldiers in war, but being pushed back to the ghetto or village after it, is a familiar one worldwide and most recently explored in the highly acclaimed 2006 French-Algerian film Indigènes.
Ben Moide is credited and is briefly seen in the 1982 documentary film Angels of War (not mentioned by the author of this book). Again, a theme of the film was that the PNG veterans of World War II had been neglected in the postwar period and had received few of the benefits that white Australian veterans enjoyed. In that film, the son of one of the veterans, intoxicated at the Port Moresby RSL Club on Anzac Day, says aggressively “We know nothing about this World War. We only supported the Australians … We get nothing from Australians.”
However, 1982 is as distant from us today as it was from the end of ANGAU rule in PNG at the end of the war. The greatest gift to Papua New Guineans was in fact for Australia to walk away, an event that seems ever more remarkable in regional terms as time goes by. Subsequently, Australia has provided in the region of A$10 billion in aid. While aid is always controversial, for the first fifteen years after independence, 90 percent was in the form of untied support straight into the national budget—right through the period when the veteran’s son said “we get nothing from Australians.”
Historians are still writing that the Allies, led by America, were the winners of the two World Wars. The benefit of hindsight shows that this is a simplification. In reality, the World Wars were about who should rule other countries and the outcome was that no-one should. Ben Moide was one of the ruled who fought to be there when this was decided.
Australian National University, Canberra, Australia John Burton
MUNDANE OBJECTS: Materiality and Non-Verbal Communication. Critical Cultural Heritage Series, 10. By Pierre Lemonnier. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2012. 205 pp. (Figures.) US$74.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-61132-056-5.
Until about the middle of the last century, chapters on “material culture” were a common component of ethnographies. Often this inclusion was related to many early anthropologists’ close association with museums, but it also fit into anthropology’s larger agenda, that of cataloguing and ultimately accounting for the myriad lifeways of the peoples of the world. Things changed, and by the close of the twentieth century it was difficult to identify what, if any, agenda characterized the discipline.
Today, while art museums and galleries continue to draw admirers of masks and carvings, it is unusual to find analytic as well as descriptive attention to “mundane objects,” those artifacts “that would not find their way into museum cases and that are uninteresting to most anthropologists, sociologists, and historians, but nonetheless lie at the heart of the systems of thought and practices of their makers and users” (13). His particular interest here is in garden fences, eel traps, drums, and magic bundles as these are fashioned and used by the Baruya and Ankave people, speakers of languages of the Angan family in Papua New Guinea, among whom Lemonnier (often in collaboration with Pascale Bonnemère) has resided for years, producing a rich body of sensitive, yet rigorous, ethnography.
We learn here a great deal about the manufacture and use of such objects—not only those of the Baruya and Ankave, but also the model racing cars that captivated youths such as Lemonnier in the 1950s but still enthrall matured baby boomers—though such documentation is mainly the context for a larger point: “What these particular artefacts wordlessly evoke deals with basic rules, tensions, or unspeakable aspects of social relations that pervade people’s everyday lives, their strategies, material practices, anxieties, and hopes” (13).
Here the reader initially will recognize the functionalist premise that has been a subtext of most social/cultural anthropology for almost a century, viz., that societies and cultures are systems, with each component both reflecting and reinforcing others. Thus, the design of their garden fences “communicate the nonspoken ultimate interest of the Baruya … in cooperation”; an Ankave eel trap “refers simultaneously to primordial violent sexuality, patrilineal rights, and mortuary rituals,” and the magic bundles used in male initiation rites manifest “the link between the Anga’s formidable past and the present, and are the basis for their gender relations, collective force, and ultimate fate” (20)
But Lemonnier wants to say more than this, to stress “what needs to be understood; namely, how objects, gestures, or physical activity participate in human relations in a way that nothing else but material actions and artefacts can achieve” (77), or, in another formulation, that “some objects, their physical properties, and their material implementation are not only wordless expressions of fundamental aspects of a way of living and thinking; they are sometimes the only means of rendering visible the pillars of social order that are otherwise blurred, if not hidden” (13; emphasis added). Further, he wants us to see “why material objects and actions lend themselves particularly well to blending thoughts, which in turn allows the actors to mentally grasp cardinal social relations and values underlying their daily life” (14). Thus, “mundane objects” do not merely illustrate the functionalist premise, but validate it in a special, maybe unique, way.
It is true that Baruya fences serve the utilitarian purpose of keeping pigs out of gardens, but they are “too sturdy to be mundane” (21); rather, underscoring a purported Baruya cultural emphasis on cooperation (unlike their Ankave neighbours’ value placed on autonomy, “the built artefact is in itself an image of the strength and efficiency resulting from leaning on each other” (41). Similarly, the magic bundles employed in Ankave initiation rites contain ingredients that are commonplace, but in the right context, they serve as a “conjunction, [a] way of putting together myth, ritual action, and living things” (97).
What Lemonnier wants us to appreciate is the role of “mundane” objects as “resonators,” and that “(1) their making and using relate different domains of social life that are thus brought together in the actors’ mind in a unique way; (2) they are part of some kind of non-verbal communication; (3) that special communication concerns key values or key characteristics of particular social relations that are usually hidden, although they pervade everyday life; and (4) the very physicality of the artefacts in question is involved in that process and is not equated to a vague and putative link with their ‘materiality,’ but it can be precisely shown” (119). Such artefacts, in a simultaneous “gathering,” do not just “refer to” but “communicate something about the ensemble of these spheres of life that underlies all of them” (120).
Expanding upon the insights of colleagues who have proposed the power of art as being due to “the triggering of non-verbal messages resulting from the confluence of thoughts and domains of experience” (133), Lemonnier sees the same role being served by his less visually spectacular subjects: “these objects, plus their physical making and use, are not [just] another way to say things. They are a particular and unique way to deliver essential statements about the actors’ social lives by serving as reminders that some things and thoughts and hierarchies and histories and materials and gestures have to be thought together” (138).
It is difficult to predict what impact Lemonnier’s argument might have on future ethnographers. Given the “irruption of modernity” (122) that has transformed so much of the world, including neighbors of the Ankave, as both their material and cosmological inventories have altered radically, few may have the opportunity to enjoy this gifted ethnographer’s experience of being enmeshed in such a living system of objects and thoughts, although his disquisition on “Race Cars, Dinky Toys, and Aging Boys” (chapter 5) gives one hope.
Rhode Island College, Providence, USA Terence E. Hays
CAPTURED: The Forgotten Men of Guam. By Roger Mansell; edited by Linda Goetz Holmes. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2012. x, 255 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Map, Illus.) US$33.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-61251-114-6.
Guam, 200 square miles in area, is the largest of all the small islands and coral atolls that form Micronesia, an area scattered across the central and north Pacific between the Philippines and Hawaii. Guam was of strategic importance to both America and Japan in World War Two.
Prior to the outbreak of war, life on Guam was very relaxed and was like a posting in paradise, according to the US military and Pan Am Airways personnel stationed there. This changed dramatically when the island was invaded by Japanese forces and the almost 800 Americans there were captured and transported to POW prison camps in Japan. There they endured three and a half years of brutal treatment, starvation and disease, as they worked as slave labourers for the Japanese.
The late Rodger Mansell was widely known as a researcher into American POWs in the Pacific in World War Two. He compiled a vast database and shared his information with the families of missing POWs and others researching the subject. He spent the last ten years of his life completing research and writing about the experiences of the Americans captured on Guam. After Mansell’s death in 2010, his manuscript was edited by Linda Goetz Holmes, who also prepared a bibliography and index for the book, which was published in 2012.
The book tells the little known, previously largely untold story of the men from Guam. It describes the camps where they lived, the places where they worked and how they managed to survive life as prisoners of the Japanese.
The strength of the work is that the author interviewed many ex-POWs and recorded their stories first-hand. For every particular event of interest, for every unit involved, military or civilian, he seems to have at least one firsthand account. Often Mansell quotes directly from his interviews or from the diaries the POWs kept while in captivity. This provides a lot of interesting information and detail which make the book a gripping read. But in addition to collecting oral history from the survivors, Mansell has backed this up with thoroughly researched archival material which is well used and documented in the endnotes.
The early part of the book deals with the capture of Guam by the Japanese, transport of the prisoners to Japan and their lives in several POW camps. Initially they were all taken to Zentsuji, Japan’s first POW camp in World War Two, situated on Shikoku Island. As time passed and more prisoners arrived at Zentsuji, the men from Guam became split up, with groups going to new prison camps: Kobe, Hirohata, Tanagawa, Osaka and Rokuroshi, all on the main island of Honshu. As the war progressed, conditions for the prisoners worsened. The 160 men sent from Zentsuji to Tanagawa found the new camp to be one of the most brutal in Japan. Had Japan not surrendered when it did most of the prisoners would have soon died of starvation and maltreatment.
The latter chapters of the book tell of the ordeal of the indigenous people on Guam under two and a half years of Japanese rule; the last months of the Americans’ imprisonment in Japan; the dropping of the atomic bombs and the return of the prisoners to America. There are also moving stories of how some Japanese guards showed kindness towards prisoners and how, after liberation, prisoners showed their compassion and helped the starving Japanese civilians with gifts of food.
The main text of the book occupies some 200 pages, split into 26 chapters. This makes the individual chapters rather short. Some chapters take up only three or four pages. Perhaps the material could have been organized differently, with fewer, longer chapters. For example, the three separate chapters dealing with the Japanese attack, invasion and occupation of Guam, could have been amalgamated into a single chapter. Similarly, a single chapter about Zentsuji prison could have replaced the three short chapters titled Zentsuji, Life in Zentsuji, and Labor in Zentsuji.
The bibliography is adequate and the endnotes thorough but the index is poor. For a book with an extraordinary amount of information and detail, the index is extremely brief and basic. So much so that it is all but useless. The index was not compiled by the author but was the responsibility of the editor.
There is only one map in the book. This is a good descriptive map of Guam, presented as the frontispiece. The book would have benefited from the inclusion of at least one map of Japan, showing the locations of the prison camps and the islands where the prisoners were taken.
I found errors in details in the book. When writing about the British prisoners who were captured in the Gilbert Islands, the author mistakenly refers to these islands as the “Makin Islands” (60). The modern name of the Gilbert Islands is Kiribati and there are two references to Kiribati in the book, each with a different spelling, neither of which is correct (225, 249). Names of some Gilbert Islands are spelt incorrectly: Betio (231), Abaiang (225). Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands is incorrectly called “Juliet Island” (225). In one sense perhaps these and similar minor mistakes could be forgiven because Captured is such an interesting story containing much new information and is obviously well researched. On the other hand, a simple spell-check of the complete manuscript would have raised many questions and provided opportunities for corrections to be made.
Independent Researcher, Auckland, New Zealand Peter McQuarrie
INTERPRETING CORRUPTION: Culture and Politics in the Pacific Islands. Topics in the Contemporary Pacific. By Peter Larmour. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012. xvi, 188 pp. (Tables.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3514-9.
Interpreting Corruption is an exacting and exhaustive survey of research on corruption in the Pacific Islands, covering most states and territories in Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia. The author, a political scientist, brings his four decades of experience with public institutions in the Pacific (including a stint as an official in the Lands Department of the Solomon Islands during the 1970s) into conversation with data from a multi-year study conducted by Transparency International, of which he is a member. An insider of the anti-corruption movement, Larmour nevertheless takes a compassionate, relativistic stance on this morally and politically charged topic.
Pointing out that “[c]oncern with corruption is in many ways a foundational one for constitutional democracy—how can we design things to stop leaders abusing their power over us?” (3), Larmour engages with the question of why Pacific Island nations seem to be such hotbeds for “talk about corruption.” Is it because there is objectively more of it, whatever “it” might be? Do cultural factors, including an apocalyptic Christian “Gothic” worldview and fears about the decline of traditional custom, amplify citizens’ concerns about governance? Is there something about the structure of Pacific societies—for example, their relatively small scale and the maintenance of kinship links between elite and rural social strata—that creates more opportunities for corrupt dealings? Or, is it simply that economic dependency and hunger for development have created conditions in which those in power can get away with exploiting their positions?
Larmour addresses these questions and others through seven chapters in which he carefully splits, defines and clarifies the phenomena described as corruption as well as the various strategies proposed to correct them. Chapter 2 lists the types of vernacular Pacific discourses through which talk about corruption is articulated, including gossip, satire, radio, news media, sermons, policy and law. Chapters 3 and 4, in asking “[w]hat is all this talk (and silence) about?” (42), demonstrate the multiple purposes to which corruption talk is used, and the many “diagnoses and cures” implied by different representations of corruption. Chapter 5 examines the rise of corruption indicators and the production of international statistics about corruption, and the problems of measurement and generalization that competing indicators create. How should we interpret the fact that, in the Pacific, perceptions of corruption are often much more extreme than individual experiences might warrant? Why must developing nations bear the stigma of corruption rankings, when the biggest malefactors (for example, timber company executives and investment fraudsters) are so often based in the First World? Larmour emphasizes the importance of carefully critiquing of these indexes, considering their potential use as “a basis for withholding aid…, as arguments for economic reform, or as justifications for military coups” (96). Chapter 6 helpfully identifies twenty-five subtypes of corruption, grouping them into seven categories: general administrative corruption, vulnerable branches of government, distributions of cash, corruption within anti-corruption agencies (among which Larmour includes court systems, police and armed forces), political corruption, corruption outside government, and sovereignty sales. The book’s many meticulous lists and charts can occasionally overwhelm the reader, though they are ultimately helpful deconstructions of the heterogeneous phenomena categorized as corruption.
The seventh chapter, “Culture and Corruption,” begins with a discussion of the vagueness of the culture concept, but eventually narrows its focus to an element of culture that Pacific Island societies have preserved from pre-colonial times: institutions of gift exchange and reciprocity. At what point does a respectful, sincere gift to an official, voter, or landowner become a bribe? In such an exchange, who is the corrupt party: the giver or the recipient? Larmour points out that resources obtained through corrupt means may later be redistributed in ways that transform them into positive, ethical acts, highlighting the importance of studying corrupt transactions in the context of larger cycles of accumulation and exchange. He suggests that when it comes to corruption, culture matters most in constructing a willingness or unwillingness to accuse, ostracize, punish, or forgive perpetrators. Furthermore, in multicultural contexts—as most Pacific Islands are—corruption accusations can be used as a way of distinguishing in- and out-groups. The production of Asians as moral and cultural outsiders (and fonts of corruption) in Melanesia, he suggests, is an example of this trend.
As “politics” is widely identified as the most “corrupt” aspect of life in contemporary Pacific nations, Larmour’s final analytical chapter focuses on “Politics and Corruption,” discussing what local ideas about corruption can tell us about theories of political life more generally. There are perils to the “anti-politics” hiding within anti-corruption discourse, Larmour suggests—potentially giving license to “coup rhetoric and the ‘cleanup campaigns’ that coup leaders launch against their enemies” (150). Even anti-corruption measures can themselves be corrupted, as when privatization schemes, intended to reduce political interference in bureaucracies, lead to insider deals in procurement and outsourcing (111). Larmour identifies a deeper ambivalence about anti-corruption discourses that is belied by popular expressions of outrage: people may outwardly rail against corruption while also supporting industries or politicians who promise them development (143).
Ultimately, Larmour concludes that all this fuzziness, ambivalence and uncertainty is part of the nature of corruption: as the illegitimate use of legitimate institutions, it almost always involves “decisions that turn on fine differences” (160)—the difference between a gift and a bribe, after all, is a difference of context and of degree. While this book does not provide answers, it does suggest avenues for further inquiry, and would be a valuable resource for students and scholars interested in developing new research projects on corruption in the Pacific Islands and beyond.
New York University, New York, USA Barbara Andersen
POLYNESIAN OUTLIERS: The State of the Art. Ethnology Monographs, no. 21. Edited by Richard Feinberg and Richard Scaglion. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2012. viii, 225 pp. (Maps, illus.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-945428-15-2.
This book problematizes a classificatory convention we have come to take for granted: that the 22 Polynesian outlier societies (from Nukuoro in the Caroline Islands to West Uvea in New Caledonia) are starkly distinct populations isolated among culturally Melanesian or Micronesian archipelagos in the western Pacific. Feinberg, Scaglion and their contributors demonstrate that the outlier concept is an imperfect response to the limitations of Dumont d’Urville’s reductive early nineteenth-century demarcation of Oceania into Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. Moreover, these 12 ethnological essays compile and analyze a wealth of information on the complexity of Oceanic settlement processes and cultural interaction over the last three millennia. The thematic chapters are highly interdisciplinary and shift from archaeology, linguistics, material culture and economy, to kinship, social structure, performing arts and religion. In its own way, each essay asks how the Polynesian outlier societies are similar and different, and attempts to identify the settlement processes, cultural interactions and independent transformations each has undergone to alter an initially Polynesian people into 22 diverse and hybrid populations.
Following Feinberg and Scaglion’s clear and synthetic introduction, the prehistory of outlier settlement is reconstructed by essays from Patrick Kirch, Mike Carson and Robert Early. Originally published in 1984, Kirch’s chapter synthesizes data drawn from lexicostatistics, voyaging simulations, excavation and ceramic analysis to overturn the relict hypothesis that the outliers were anciently settled from the west, in favour of the (now dominant) blow-back model of easterly settlement from West Polynesia circa 1500 AD. Kirch also emphasizes the complexity of the archaeological record, acknowledging the presence of post-Lapita plainware ceramics on some outliers as one part of several intricate histories comprising multiple, successive occupation events. Carson updates the archaeological representation to 2012, and assesses each outlier’s history, economic interactions and identity formation to develop a sophisticated model of diverse outlier settlement processes. He concludes that outlier societies flourished by developing successful strategies for utilizing marginal atoll environments, minimizing competition and suppressing conflict with pre-existing populations. Early considers the linguistic relationship between the outliers and broader Polynesia, and observes that, although language contact and word borrowing make outlier languages more complicated than those of triangle Polynesia, all sit comfortably within the Samoic language group. He characterizes two outlier language clusters, Futunic and Ellicean, which imply two distinct expansions; the former westwards from the vicinity of ‘Uvea or Futuna, and the latter north-westwards from Tuvalu.
In chapter 5, Feinberg and Marianne George shift the book’s emphasis towards recent human-environment interactions by examining the material culture and techniques of outlier seafaring. These cultural elements are more locally hybridized than language, it seems, with sailors in the northern Solomon Islands outliers using typically Micronesian outriggers and shunting sails, while those of Tikopia and Anuta followed the pre-kalia West Polynesian form. Paul Roscoe’s essay on outlier economic activity observes that poverty of materials motivated considerable long-distance trade networks, but supports Raymond Firth’s longstanding assessment that such trade barely impacted on subsistence itself. Roscoe describes a fairly typical Polynesian economy of taro, banana, coconut, fish and birds exploited by small household units, although the rarity of yams and pork undoubtedly reflects the marginal environments of many outliers. Tim Bayliss-Smith’s discussion of root cultivation briefly considers the virtual absence of yams and sweet potatoes from the outliers, before exploring the cultivation and ceremonial use of turmeric and taro on Ontong Java. He interprets turmeric as a signifier of mana in liminal ritual phases, and highlights taro’s continuing significance as the pre-eminent food of ritual presentation. Both Roscoe and Bayliss-Smith comment significantly on the gendered division of labour in outlier economies, which exhibit typically Polynesian complementarities within alternating phases of the same economic activity.
Feinberg and William Donner’s exploration of outlier kinship systems equally emphasizes core Polynesian terms and relationships, reflecting a basically conservative approach to familiarity. They argue that outlier kinship is notably simpler than that of West Polynesia, due to the development of a more flexible approach to descent as a rational response to scarcer resources, more frequent natural disasters and more different neighbours. This is a theme which recurs in Scaglion’s assessment of hereditary chiefship, that most Polynesian of political institutions. Although he recognizes the typically West Polynesian emphasis on inherited rather than achieved status, that region’s complex political and class hierarchies either failed to develop, or were wholly abandoned, on the outliers. Whatever the stressors, the authors make a convincing case that outlier conditions fundamentally transformed West Polynesian culture into something new.
As well as highlighting the retention of cognate dance leader roles and dance-song forms throughout the outliers, Richard Moyle’s review of performance arts examines the centrality of song as ritual practice and religious observance, and explores its resultant importance as an ideological battleground during Christian conversion. This leads nicely on to Feinberg, Judith MacDonald and Roger Lohmann’s discussion of religious practice, which recognizes an unconcern for sorcery among outlier populations when compared to their Melanesian neighbours. Equally, they read the notable absence of Tu, Rongo and Tane cognates in the outlier pantheons as a significant divergence from Polynesian norms. These absences are entirely consistent with the West Polynesian pantheons, however, and this illustrates a key challenge to any ethnological undertaking of this kind: each essay enters into dialogue with a specific regional construction of Polynesian-ness, which inevitably erases the finer differences between its many societies. As Anne and Keith Chambers observe in their closing discussion, it is a remarkable collective achievement for the authors to have identified as much cultural uniformity and distinctiveness in the outliers as they have. Like all good scholarship, this volume raises more questions than it answers, but it establishes a new level of debate and interpretation in outlier studies, and should be indispensable reading for anyone keen to understand Oceanic culture and history.
University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom Andy Mills
THE ACT OF KILLING. By Joshua Oppenheimer; director, Joshua Oppenheimer, co-directors, Christine Cynn and Anonymous; producer, Signe Byrge Sørensen; executive producers, André Singer, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris. Copenhagen: Final Cut for Real ApS, 2012. 1 DVD (159 min.) In Indonesian with English subtitles. http://www.theactofkilling.com.
Anwar Congo is confused. He is proud of having executed accused communists back in 1965-66. As a low-level mafioso in the city of Medan, he enjoys his reputation as a tough man of violence. When a filmmaker from the United States enters his life, he jumps at the chance to put his past exploits on film so that the whole world will recognize him as a hero. Even those he killed will honour him from their graves: the final scene in the film he scripts is set by a waterfall with women dancing like celestial fairies on the rocks as his victims place gold medals around his neck, thanking him for releasing them from a life of iniquity.
Amid his grotesque exercises in self-aggrandizement, doubts continue to plague him. Was it really right to bludgeon and strangle defenseless captives? As he re-enacts the scenes of the killing in a variety of Hollywood genres, he imagines himself as one of his victims facing death. We see him recoil from the experience and plead for a break in the filming. The film that was meant to glorify his heroism turns into a display of his inner torments. The climax of the film (to the extent that this genre-bending documentary has a climax) comes when he returns to the site of the killing, a rooftop terrace, and admits, while stricken with nausea, that it was wrong (salah). Crestfallen, shoulders hunched, he recognizes his failure, after all the work in filming with Oppenheimer, to place the garroting of tied-up detainees in a heroic narrative.
The complex subjectivity of Anwar Congo makes this a compelling documentary. We first see him living with gleeful amorality: he orders his minions (anak buah) to collect protection money from storeowners, obsesses about his dandyish clothes, does the cha-cha after describing his methods of execution, and expounds on being a “freeman” (preman) outside the law. Yet even this contemptible creature comes close to acquiring something like an examined life and a vague, inchoate sense of ethics. His anak buah appear more vulgar and his preman peers appear more cynical. I was disturbed when I realized that I had begun to empathize with him.
Choosing to focus on Anwar Congo was just one of the brilliant decisions of the director, Joshua Oppenheimer. Another was the decision to have Anwar and his associates—all film buffs—create their own film and re-enact the scenes of killing. These perpetrators of atrocities are not narrating their stories as talking heads; they are putting their inner fantasy world on display. Those viewers who find this method obscene, who see it as giving the perpetrators the chance to play dress-up and have some fun, miss the point: it is precisely the re-enactments that provoke them into candid reflections about what they did. By indulging them, Oppenheimer challenges them. They discover their self-presentation resembles the images of the sadistic communists in state propaganda. “We were more vicious than the communists,” concludes Congo’s friend Adi.
Such admissions are explosive amid the longstanding silence of the Indonesian state about the killings of 1965–66. Even the perpetrators have not had a public hearing of their stories. The killings were largely done in secret and they have been kept mysterious ever since. The incessant anti-communist propaganda only works if the morally indefensible executions of political prisoners is left unrepresented. The Suharto regime (1966–98) glorified the violence in the abstract as “the crushing of the Communist Party of Indonesia.” This film undoes so much of that propaganda simply by having the heroes of that violence talk about what they did and what they have been doing since. It is revealing that the military today has been suppressing showings of the film, even though it only presents the story from the perspective of the anti-communists.
This sophisticated film comes into a world that knows next to nothing about the slaughter. A single film cannot redress this pervasive ignorance. As a “documentary of the imagination” (Oppenheimer’s term in the press notes), the film does not present an analysis of the patterns of the killings in Medan. The army played a crucial role in organizing them but its role, while acknowledged, is largely unexamined. The experiences of the victims and witnesses are not explored in any depth. These are inevitable limitations, not faults, of a film centred on the civilian perpetrators.
The viewer should not freely extrapolate from the particulars of Medan. Not all perpetrators in Indonesia are so eager to speak in public about the killings, especially in this post-Suharto era, and not all are so boastful when they do. The thuggish organization to which Congo belongs, Pemuda Pancasila (PP), did not play a prominent role in the killings in other areas of the country and is not very powerful today outside of North Sumatra. I suspect the figure of three million members that the film provides is an exaggeration. The PP’s ongoing power in Medan has created a little ethics-free zone for Anwar Congo and his gang; they allow themselves to be filmed extorting money and talking about plans for more lucrative extortion schemes, oblivious to the idea that most viewers (including viewers in Indonesia) would find this reprehensible. Their brazenness is extreme, but it does accurately reflect the kind of power that preman wield in many parts of the country.
Seven patient years in the making, The Act of Killing is a profound study of the subjectivity of executioners who have enjoyed total impunity.
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada John Roosa