China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN WAR. A film by Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem; Directed and produced by Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem; Edited by Deann Borshay Liem, Corey Ohama; original music by JJ & Chris; consulting editor, Vivien Hillgrove. Reviewed by Avram Agov
A RIVER CHANGES COURSE. A film by Kalyanee E. Mam; Migrant Films, the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation present; director, Kalyanee Mam. Reviewed by Apichai W. Shipper
DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES, IDENTITIES, AND CONFLICT IN ASIA. Politics, Economics, and Inclusive Development. Edited by William Ascher and Natalia Mirovitskaya. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. xiv, 347 pp. (Figures, tables). US$90.00, cloth. ISNB 978-1-137-33175-5.
This book tackles an ambitious topic. While economic growth in Asia has received much attention, the relationship between the development strategies pursued in the region and conflict has not. This book attempts to fill the void. Its central question is presented as: “Can Asian policymakers find development strategies that minimize violence while still overseeing healthy economic improvement?” (2). Following an introduction which contains a useful overview of the types of, and trends in, violence in the region, the answers to the central question are to be found in the subsequent nine chapters. One provides an overview of development strategies (state-led, liberalizing and unorthodox) and the links with the forms of violence identified in the introduction (sectarian, ideological, clan and tribal, and nativist-outsider).
This is then followed by seven case studies. The case studies cover a wide geographical area and range of conflicts. There are chapters on: the Maoist insurgency in India; the Baloch insurgency in Pakistan; communal violence in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia; Malaysia; Japanese ODA and conflict in Vietnam; ethnic tensions in Turkey and Uzbekistan; and foreign aid violence in Dagestan and Karadino-Balkaria. All of the chapters are well written, closely argued and informative.
Based on the case studies, the editors provide a conclusion which sums up the research and provides an answer to the question which motivated the volume. The conclusions reached highlight several points. These are: that “governments must be concerned about large gaps between the wealthy and the poor, about restricted social mobility, and about circumstances of economic desperation triggering aggressive confrontations over jobs, natural resources, or other assets and opportunities” (316); that conflict can ensue if “development strategies promote population movement (whether voluntary or forced)” (317); and “the crucial importance of the practical implementation of development strategies, and the role of auxiliary policies and institutions that flesh out how a strategy is enacted and how it is perceived” (318). So inequalities, population movements and implementation matter in limiting the potential conflicts which accompany development. This conclusion is hardly likely to be controversial. Despite the richness of the individual case studies the collective conclusions are rather tame.
One reason for this is the complexity of the cases under consideration, drawn from disparate regions within Asia and exhibiting significant variations in types of conflict and types of development strategies. The scope of the project has perhaps led to only rather high-level and general conclusions. Wide-ranging studies can yield valuable comparative lessons but, in this
case, the wideness of the range has limited the conclusions that were available. Perhaps another reason lies in some imprecision in the project itself. While the book is entitled development strategies, these are often lost in the details, which focus as much on specific policies as on strategies. There is an imprecision in the usage of the terms “development strategies,” “development policies” and just plain “development” (which is often reduced to structural change in the economy) and which does not aid the analytical clarity of the book taken as a whole. This is partly reflected in the introduction, which promises a section on “The Challenges for Conflict-Sensitive Economic Development Strategies” (16) but which then proceeds to elaborate on various income inequalities, i.e., development outcomes.
While specific chapters will be of interest to specialists in those areas, the fact that they are not tied closely together by a clearly defined conceptualization and focus on development strategies, means that the collection as a whole is somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada
THE MAKING OF THE ASIA PACIFIC: Knowledge Brokers and the Politics of Representation. By See Seng Tan. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2013. 236 pp. US$62.50, paper. ISBN 978-90-8964-477-0.
This book is in the main a self-reflection of the author’s thinking on the making of the Asia Pacific. He treats such making as a discourse put forward by analysts involved in the so-called Track 2 diplomacy in the region. Track 2 diplomacy is a kind of “semi-official process of multilateral security dialogue and cooperation” (18). It is different from Track 1 diplomacy between governments. Participating in the Track 2 channel are mostly academics, journalists, businesspeople and government officials in their private capacity. Their deliberations are not binding on governments. This situation allows a greater degree of freedom of expression and exchange of ideas valuable to policy makers. The author of this book, Professor Tan of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, calls these participants knowledge brokers. He is interested in how they make representations of themselves and of others towards understanding and promoting their ideas of security in the region, often to the exclusion of interpretations from different quarters.
Professor Tan is a long-time observer of this Track 2 process, so he is telling his story here from experience. He tells his story, however, not from the usual angle of policy making, but from a rather unique perspective of critically rethinking how the discourse of Asia-Pacific security is made and passed on to peers and students. He is not interested in reproducing “a history of Track 2 diplomacy and the policy think tanks and academic institutions that participate in it” (17). Instead, he is interested in the “effects that arise from the discourses on security produced and circulated by the region’s premier knowledge communities” (17; emphasis mine). Tan focuses, with good reason, on knowledge growth and discourse making rather than policy making. He is interested in narratives and ideas rather than political strategies per se. The result is a very well-researched book.
According to Tan, most observers “propose that the Asia Pacific idea had its beginnings in policy discourses in the late 1980s” (13), but the critical period under his study is the 1990s, when “epistemic networks contributed to the post-Cold War Asia Pacific” (17). Many of these networks proliferated during the late 1980s and 1990s, and Tan chooses to concentrate on a few prominent ones such as the Council for Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific, the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, and the ASEAN-ISIS.
Tan is not satisfied with the traditional constructivist school of thinking about Asia-Pacific security, which has become a popular discourse developed, paradoxically, out of Singapore, in particular by a group of scholars associated with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the Rajaratnam School, of which Tan is at present the deputy director. To Tan, the traditional constructivist view has essentialized ideas and norms over material forces; it has assumed the interaction between agency and structure without going deep into the dynamic process involved. Also, traditional constructivism has taken the state as a given, although what makes the state is very much up to the perception of its stakeholders. As a result of these shortcomings, Tan proposes to adopt a radical constructivist view. However, he does not seem to have spelt out in very clear and precise terms what radical constructivism is, referring to it as a “text-based methodology” (22). He seems to stress the need to be more dynamic and critical in analysis, more multi-dimensional in understanding, and more pluralistic and democratic in the making of Asia-Pacific security. His proposal is to be appreciated, but the devil is in the details, and what details that Tan has given us do not seem to lend themselves to vigorous empirical testing. The focus on effects is useful, but the processes and practices involved (referred to on pages 40–4) deserve a much closer tracing. In the end, he seems to have heaped ideas onto ideas, resulting in more polarizations than clarifications. But the contributions that Tan has made are helpful in opening up more different, critical interpretations of the same subject matter.
Another interesting contribution made by Tan is the concept of the “politics of representation.” In chapters 4 to 7, Tan gives us a detailed and elucidated account of how the Track 2 participants or knowledge brokers have represented the “Asia Pacific,” sovereign states, the “in/human” faces of Asia-Pacific security, and the “authority” of knowledge networks. These substantive chapters are preceded by an introduction (chapter 1), the desire for essence (chapter 2, in which Tan sets up nicely the case of essentialism by the knowledge brokers before he proceeds to knock it down, with some success), and knowledge networks (chapter 3). The last chapter (chapter 8) serves as a conclusion, which Tan uses as a platform to encourage us to devote more energy to strengthen the study of Asia-Pacific security.
All in all, Tan has made a valuable contribution by offering a different path towards understanding Asia-Pacific security, a path that can potentially open up new avenues for further thinking. This novelty is to be treasured. The book is not for the faint-hearted, because it is written in a style that is couched in more philosophical terms and concepts than many other books in the field of Asia-Pacific security. Occasionally Tan uses long sentences which have to be read and re-read in order to grasp the message he tries to convey. Those who are persistent enough to plough on are likely to find many words of wisdom, although some of them are partially hidden from the surface.
Gerald Chan, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
WRONGED BY EMPIRE: Post-Imperial Ideology and Foreign Policy in India and China. Studies in Asian Security. By Manjari Chatterjee Miller. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. xiv, 168 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8652-2.
Dr. Miller has written an important book with significant implications for the study of modern India, China and broader Asian and international relations. The clearly presented and sophisticated arguments focus on colonialism and its legacy in India and China. Colonialism is seen to have been a transformative historical event resulting in collective historical trauma that strongly influences the behaviour of these countries up to the present. The collective historical trauma of colonialism is said to cause India and China to emphasize victimhood and entitlement, which dominate their decision calculus. The result is what the author calls “post-imperial ideology” (PII). PII comprises a sense of victimization and a dominant goal to be recognized and empathized with as a victim by others. PII also has subordinate goals: maximizing territorial sovereignty and maximizing status.
Three case studies illustrate the arguments. The first is the failed talks over the Sino-Indian border dispute between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in 1960. Analysis using previously unknown official Indian documents shows that these talks failed because of the respective PII of the Indian and Chinese leaders, leading to an impasse on territorial sovereignty and status and eventual war. Dr. Miller dutifully examines alternative explanations of the leaders’ behaviour leading to failure and impasse before concluding in support of her analysis.
The second case study is India’s decision in May 1998 to detonate five nuclear devices, which prompted Pakistan’s nuclear tests and a major international crisis. Careful review of Indian media is used to support the argument that PII and victimhood drove Indian decision making. Alternative explanations involving state security, domestic politics and prestige are seen as incomplete or otherwise flawed. The third case study is China’s reaction to Japan’s efforts in 2005 to seek a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The Chinese actions included popular demonstrations, high-level leadership opposition and strong attacks in official and unofficial media outlets. A careful review of commentary from Chinese official and unofficial media outlets shows that Chinese PII and a sense of having been victimized by Japan better explain Chinese behaviour than alternative explanations involving state security and domestic politics.
Whether or not specialists are persuaded by Dr. Miller’s thorough arguments, it seems clear that they will be debating her interesting and insightful analysis for some time to come. The book’s assessment also has major policy implications for contemporary Asian affairs. For one, if the world’s largest states remain driven by a sense of victimhood so long after the demise of colonialism and this sense of victimhood requires provision of maximum territorial sovereignty and maximum status, these two states presumably will have a very hard time resolving their differences. Moreover, their respective differences with neighbouring countries that also suffered the collective trauma of colonialism, and to varying degrees have a similar sense of victimization and goals of territorial sovereignty and status, strongly indicate that China and India also will have a very hard time resolving the differences they have with many of their neighbours. An overall finding from this kind of study is that Asia will remain unstable, with governments dissatisfied over issues of territorial sovereignty and status and thus suspicious and wary of one another.
A major question not fully addressed in the book is why the collective trauma of colonialism has endured and remained so vivid for so long. The study suggests that colonialism was so strong and bad that its negative legacy will last a very long time. This reviewer has investigated the China experience and finds that line of reasoning too simple.
For example, Ja Ian Chong’s award-winning book External Intervention and the Politics of State Formation: China, Indonesia and Thailand, 1893–1952 (Cambridge, 2012), shows that Chinese and other twentieth-century state builders in Asia used and collaborated with external powers in successful efforts to counter and defeat domestic opponents. While they may or may not have had a sense of victimization, these revolutionary leaders reached their goals by collaborating and working pragmatically with outside powers.
Scholarship in recent decades on Mao Zedong’s rise to power belies the publicized nationalistic themes of self-reliance and underlines strongly his Communist-led movement’s close dependence on financial and other support from the Soviet Union. And the Chinese Communists from the outset endeavoured in good Leninist fashion to control and manipulate the nationalist discourse prevalent in China for their tactical and strategic advantage in the struggle to gain power.
Subsequently, once gaining power, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) married its deepened control of and efforts to manipulate the nationalist discourse with pervasive image building regarding the PRC. This state-directed effort duly has emphasized the sense of victimization stressed by Dr. Miller as it also has stressed that Chinese actual behaviour abroad has always been consistent, correct and based on moral principles. The latter has led to the unique status of the PRC as the only large contemporary government never to have acknowledged making a mistake in foreign affairs. While the Chinese image building is viewed as grossly inaccurate by Chinese neighbouring countries and others experienced in the actual behaviour of the PRC, the result of this state-directed propaganda is a society that not only feels grossly victimized but judges that its foreign policies and practices are without flaw. Dr. Miller’s fine analysis highlights a need for further study, notably assessing the creation and sustaining of this uniquely self-righteous Chinese approach and its impact on China’s relations with India, other Chinese neighbours and the United States.
Robert Sutter, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA
INTEGRATING REGIONS: Asia in Comparative Context. Edited by Miles Kahler and Andrew MacIntyre. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. x, 320 pp. (Tables.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8364-4.
Continuing globalization has not resulted in a declining interest in regional integration. Quite the opposite: regional integration is analyzed and discussed in a number of regions. Europe and Asia are two large regions that attract the attention of both scholars and policy makers. Miles Kahler’s edited volume examines regional integration processes in Asia, but the book’s chapters also provide a comparative perspective and consider developments in Europe and Latin America.
The book is organized into five parts and ten chapters. After Kahler’s introductory chapter, in part 2, the authors look at the design of regional institutions. The third part is devoted to a comparison of Latin American and European integration, whilst part 4 deals with Asian regional institutions and their potential future convergence. Andrew MacIntyre and John Ravenhill have contributed the concluding chapter, which evaluates the future of Asian regional institutions.
In the introduction, Miles Kahler argues that some frequently made assumptions about regional integration fail to convince. He suggests that there is no fixed sequencing starting with a free trade area and being completed with a political union as suggested by Bela Balassa more than 50 years ago (13). Sovereign states are exploring the utility of regional integration, but neither is regional integration a process without side-effects, nor is deeper integration in Asia a given development. This caution reflects the difficulties that integration projects all over the world have been experiencing in recent years. Consequently, none of the authors in the edited volume is overly optimistic on the prospects for regionalism in Asia. Advocates of regional integration have discarded grand designs and potent declarations, which have been replaced by incrementalism and a search for a (small) common denominator.
Simon Hix is analyzes the institutional design of integration processes, but his analysis is somewhat dated. His suggestion that European “citizens and state officials share a post-national concept of sovereignty” (31) certainly is not an accurate description of the EU in 2014. Furthermore, the assumption that Europe has been able to “progress so far with such a high level of national and political consensus” (37) shows that the text was written before European societies—from Finland to Italy—have been re-discovering their nation-states.
Judith G. Kelly’s piece is looking at regional integration from a different angle. She argues that the challenge for regional integration is to accommodate “heterogeneous preferences, capacities, and beliefs” (79). Indeed, this is a matter that all projects of regional integration are struggling with. Amitav Acharya, by contrast, provides a more optimistic assessment of regional integration processes and argues that institutions in Asia can contribute to the development of common preferences in Asia. He uses a constructivist approach and argues that socialization can lead to a region-wide “taken-for-grantedness” (226). Without the use of force or coercion, new actors are supposed to adopt “the rules and norms of a community on a long-term basis” (225). However, Kelly has pointed out the failure of that approach in Europe, where the Greek crisis from 2010 has not shown a successful enforcement of the existing rules, but has resulted in the socialization of risk and financial losses (90).
Kevin H. O’Rourke, whose institutional affiliation is not mentioned in the list of contributors, regards the European Union with sympathy and evaluates the integration process positively. However, some of his judgments are not sufficiently clear. He identifies Asia as a single player and suggests that “Asia is not a declining, but a rising power” (146). The decision of the member countries of the European Economic Community to establish a broad integration scheme covering both agriculture and industry reflected the specific regulations of Art. 24 of the GATT (149). In Asia, the interest of Asian states in monetary integration is not caused by their ability to export worldwide without facing restrictions (150), but rather because the countries in the region experienced a devastating financial crisis in 1997–98.
C. Randall Henning discusses economic crises and regional institutions, which is a very interesting debate. However, some of his assessments are not convincing. He suggests that Germany had greater influence than France over the construction of the monetary union in Europe (189). In reality, France had successfully pushed for monetary union, and subsequently Germany contributed to the shaping of the rules in the eurozone. To suggest that the German government or German citizens were eager to give up their currency is a misreading of history. Of course, the principle of the decision for monetary union matters more than the details.
More generally, the edited volume has two weaknesses. The first is that the contributions are not critically evaluating the consequences of the crisis in Europe for the concept of regional integration. Prior to that crisis, regional integration was often understood as a mechanism “to safeguard against future shocks from the global economy” (Kahler, 4). But in Europe, the very process of regional monetary integration has been the source of the crisis. The negative shock came from within, not from abroad. Thus, many observers in Europe have been suggesting that regional integration is not part of the solution, but instead part of the problem.
The second weak point is that the effects of the new mega project in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), are not discussed in an individual chapter. TPP, in conjunction with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment partnership TTIP, has the potential to reshape international economic relations. Simultaneously, TPP and TTIP weaken the multilateral trade regime and exclude China. These two projects constitute a systemic threat to the WTO and cast a long shadow over all existing preferential trade agreements in Asia and elsewhere. Despite these limitations, the edited volume of Miles Kahler and Andrew MacIntyre makes an important contribution to the already significant literature on regional integration in Asia. The diversity of approaches makes the book beneficial for both students and scholars.
Heribert Dieter, German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin, Germany
MEDIA COMMERCIALIZATION AND AUTHORITARIAN RULE IN CHINA. Communication, Society and Politics. By Daniela Stockmann. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. xxii, 334 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-01844-0.
Since the early 2000s, many scholars and observers on China have argued that media marketization does not necessarily undermine the legitimacy of the communist regime. The rise of investigative journalism since the mid-1990s, for instance, has seemingly signaled the expansion of the space of critical reporting and discourses in the media. But investigative reporting in China has faced severe constraints and remained “on party leashes” (Yuezhi Zhao, “Watchdogs on Party Leashes? Contexts and Implications of Investigative Journalism in Post-Deng China,” Journalism Studies 1 no. 2, 2000: 577). From the state’s perspective, investigative journalism, as long as it is under control, can be an effective means to present the image of a caring and responsive government. More generally speaking, if the marketized media no longer serve as a propaganda machine, they may nonetheless act like a “publicity agent” promoting the image of the government and its leaders by more nuanced and/or “softer” means (Chin-chuan Lee, Zhou He and Yu Huang, “Chinese Party Publicity Inc. Conglomerated: The Case of the Shenzhen Press Group,” Media, Culture and Society 28 no. 5, 2006: 581–602).
The implication of this line of thinking is that marketized media can actually help the authoritarian regime in China to maintain stability and legitimacy. The literature, however, lacks studies with solid empirical evidence—especially evidence about public opinion—illustrating why, how and under what conditions marketized media can benefit authoritarian rule. The latter is what Daniela Stockmann’s Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China achieved.
To summarize, Stockmann argues that marketized media can help solve the dictator’s dilemma by serving as a means for the dictator to monitor public opinion. Media marketization entails the need on the part of the media to respond to audience demand. But as long as the Chinese state has the capacity to retain effective control of the media, journalists will also take up the norms and rules about whether, when and how to cover politically sensitive matters. Given the persistence of media censorship and control, the contents offered by official and marketized media outlets in China are actually quite similar to one another. Marketized media do offer content that deviates from the most preferred official stance, but the deviation is often minor and invariably stays within the state’s latitude of acceptance.
Nevertheless, the apparent difference between marketized and official media outlets is enough to help the former build up an image of being relatively independent and even occasionally daring. The non-official media, as a result, enjoy higher levels of credibility among the general public. This higher level of credibility allows the non-official media to exert influence on public opinion. Since the non-official media actually provide information and messages largely in line with the state’s perspective, non-official media effectively lead public opinion to get closer to the preferred government stances on various issues.
In substantiating the above account, Stockmann draws upon data collected through solid empirical research. The range of methods employed is impressive, encompassing in-depth interviews with journalists and officials, content analysis of newspaper coverage of two selected topics (labor laws and foreign countries), and experimental and survey studies about media effects on public opinion. Remarkably, Stockmann also puts China into a comparative framework. She tries to substantiate the point that media marketization can help the Chinese state to maintain stability and legitimacy because China is a strong one-party state. This move broadens the appeal of the book substantially and makes it valuable reading to all political communication scholars interested in issues of media-state relations under different political systems.
Of course, the study is not without limitations. Two questions are particularly worth noting because of their implications on how one should judge the validity of the book’s account. First, the empirical studies focus on the topics of labour laws and foreign countries (the US and Japan), which are, as the author acknowledges, not particularly politically sensitive. It also means that these are not issues or topics that are most likely to present challenges to the state’s legitimacy. In association with this, in the empirical studies on public opinion, the dependent variables are people’s attitudes toward labour laws and the US/Japan, instead of their trust in the Chinese government or perceived legitimacy of the Communist regime. Does the ability of marketized media to generate acceptance for the government’s preferred stance on relatively non-sensitive topics entail the ability of the media system to maintain social stability and government legitimacy in face of serious crises and/or when the truly politically sensitive matters are dealt with?
Second, the content and public opinion data reported in the book are somewhat dated (mostly in the early to mid-2000s), and yet the empirical situation in China is continually evolving. As the author notes, even the marketized media could not reflect the audience’s perspective when the audience’s perspective falls beyond the state’s latitude of acceptance. With the rise of the Internet and social media platforms, the limitations of the mainstream media—both official and non-official—may become clearer to at least the politically aware citizens. Then, over time, what can prevent the media themselves from losing their own credibility if they repeatedly fail to cover important matters in line with what the people want to see? In other words, is the strategy of using marketized media to promote state legitimacy sustainable in the long run?
These two questions are not meant to undermine the value of the book. It is practically extremely difficult to directly tackle public opinion on regime support and highly sensitive political matters in China, and the author herself has acknowledged the uncertainty in how the situation of China may evolve. The book also offers some useful discussions about the Internet and public opinion in China. The above questions simply suggest certain issues on which more and continual research is needed. The book, on the whole, is a significant contribution to the literature on changing media-state relations in China. Readers of the book should find their reading time well spent.
Francis L. F. Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR , China
In this eloquent book, an important subject has met a masterful interpreter. Lu Xun, the foremost writer of twentieth-century China, can be heard addressing himself to critical dilemmas not only in his own culture but in global literature more broadly. Davies’ skilled reconstruction of both the historical and literary contexts that shaped Lu Xun’s voice enables readers to hear afresh the political and creative struggles that shadow subtle minds in times of political violence. In fact, this book offers such a nuanced view of cultural productivity that one almost forgets how rancorous, vindictive and prejudiced Lu Xun could be in his own “revolutionary” circles during the 1930s.
Gloria Davies paints the canvass of Lu Xun’s last decade with dense details that honour the bewildering Nanjing decade of 1927–1937—which also corresponded to the brutal years of the White Terror. The book’s opening section, modestly titled “Guide and Chronology,” aligns key events during the 1920s and 1930s with the timing of Lu Xun’s writings. Not only are these concise pages a great help to historians and literary scholars (be they beginning students or seasoned researchers), they also shed light upon the parametres of thought in the midst of social chaos. In 1926, for example, Davies reminds us, several of Lu Xun’s students were killed on March 18th. Less than a month earlier, he published a sharply critical essay entitled “A bit of Metaphor.” In this confluence we glimpse a larger truth about modern China’s predicament in which literary allusions about carnage do not stay metaphorical for long. The cannibalism of social revolution keeps catching up with and surpassing the worst nightmares of writers, again and again. Similarly in 1935, just a few months after Lu Xun began the serious effort of translating Russian and Soviet fiction, Qu Qiubai was killed by Nationalist troops. Again, the project of cultural transmission was overwhelmed by grief and the demands of commemoration. Mourning and writing collide and reshape the inner landscape of a tired, ill and politically ambivalent leader of the leftist writers in Shanghai.
By evoking with narrative skill the complex terrain of revolutionary debates in the 1930s, Davies’ book stands as a powerful alternative to the “wooden officialese” (316) that characterizes Lu Xun’s rehabilitators on the Chinese mainland. Here, we have a vividly evoked thinker who tried to gain ethical and literary clarity against all odds. Gloria Davies is especially insightful in helping us re-read some of Lu Xun’s canonical essays with a deeper appreciation of the conflicts that coloured his “perspicacity.” Although this concept is a mouthful, it does justice to Lu Xun’s effort as reflected, for example, in his work “On Seeing with Eyes Wide Open.” Written barely six weeks after the killings of the “May 30th Movement” of 1925, this essay is part of the corpus of zagan (mixed impressions), which cannot be reduced to any one political point of view or any literary fad.
It is not only Lu Xun who comes to be seen more clearly in this book, but the larger project of vernacular literature as well. Davies’ focus is mostly on the intra-leftist debates about the role of writing when guns hold sway. Nonetheless, readers interested in the relationship between intellectuals and social consciousness will find important insights here. The baihua—plain talk—movement in China was never about language alone. It was, as Davies shows us, part of an ambivalent effort by classically educated men and women to turn the knife of cultural change against themselves. Davies’ sophisticated metaphor for this project centres on Ouboros, the self-devouring snake of ancient Greek mythology. Thirty-five years ago, when I first began to write about Lu Xun and revolutionary literature, I recall being infatuated with Gramsci, Sartre and Brecht and marveling at what they had termed the importance of being “willing in the face of necessity.” Now, after reading much of the new Chinese and Western scholarship about Lu Xun’s legacy, I find that Gloria Davies’s understanding of a “self-consuming encounter with literature” (271) has the ring of a historically seasoned truth that is absent in previous works.
Davies herself nods with familiarity toward various European literary theorists in order to place Lu Xun’s experimentations in a world critical context. Not surprisingly Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin and Heidegger appear as paradigms for the politically engaged yet self-reflective writer. More enriching than these theorists, in my view, are Davies’ reflections on the luminosity of literature, its unique ability to de-familiarize as well as to cherish the familiar. While Lu Xun was fully (and fiercely) engaged in the internecine squabbles of the Creation Society, Crescent Moon Society and the League of Left Wing Writers, Gloria Davies shows him to be also a kindred spirit to Jorge Luis Borges, who had observed that “we grow blind to the familiar objects in our midst because they ‘serve us like silent slaves’” (313). Even while shouting about the need to free the oppressed and to answer guns with words of fire, Davies’ Lu Xun is revealed as a man who warred against the silence of an unreflective mind. The price he paid for his inner struggles was that he became haunted by metaphorical and political demons—each of which is placed in a historical and literary framework that draws deeply upon classical Chinese culture.
In the end, however, this is a book not only for historians or literary scholars. It is not even limited to cultural critics looking for a dash of comparative elegance. It is about the boundaries of moral empathy in times of social upheaval. Expanding this empathy was not only one Chinese writer’s dilemma but remains a challenge for Western intellectuals today. Lu Xun had embraced this mission with the fullness of his heart and a towering mind. Gloria Davies matches her subject every step of the way.
Vera Schwarcz, Wesleyan University, Middletown, USA
CHINA’S SENT-DOWN GENERATION: Public Administration and the Legacies of Mao’s Rustication Program. By Helena K. Rene. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2013. xiii, 229 pp. (Figures, boxes, B&W photos.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-58901-987-4.
China’s Sent-Down Generation is a rare and detailed piece of scholarship into the management of a core part of the 1968–1978 Chinese Cultural Revolution, namely, the “Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside” rustification program which sent 17 million urban Chinese youth to rural communes, state and military farms for their “socialist reeducation.” These youths, referred to as “sent-downs,” typically laboured for long hours under harsh conditions. While at these farms, many also suffered hunger, injury and abuse, though some ended up at better locations, perhaps using their family’s connections. They are collectively referred to as China’s “lost generation” as their adolescent and young adult lives were thoroughly disrupted and deprived of educational, social and economic opportunities. Some youth were sent for undefined periods, sometimes until the program ended.
Rene’s book is largely based on extensive interviews of 54 sent-downs and others affected by the rustification program. It is an excellent piece of historical research, focusing on program administration. The program is placed in the context of Mao’s political struggles against the inevitably rising bureaucracy, Mao’s last stand to rid China of elitist tendencies of bureaucracy and technocracy and return to the revolutionary ideal of building a communist society based on peasantry. Here, rustification was to address the bourgeois tendencies of urban youth and help them reconnect with revolutionary ideals through physical labour with the peasantry, thereby also providing opportunities for self-actualization and contribution to the country’s development, as well as addressing problems of rising urban unemployment and social strife. Large programs often have precursors, which are described.
Rene describes a highly efficient design for recruiting people, documenting the working of the totalitarian state. At the national level, top leaders in China’s Communist Party (CCP) committees focused on rustification, and the State Council had special task forces. In the middle, trade unions, women’s federations, the Young Communists Leagues and schools were instrumental in assigning sent-downs to locations. At the bottom, neighbourhood or street offices of the government actively persuaded youth to sign up, “often by haranguing them at their homes all day and night” (81). Because of China’s strict hukou (locality registration) system, it was quite easy for the local Knowledgeable Youth Resettlement Office to gather information at the public security offices regarding families with eligible children. As one sent-down put it, “simply put, there is no way they will miss you and you can’t find any loopholes” (104). After youth reported to their neighbourhood school, they were told how to prepare for departure (cancel their hukou, receive tickets and clothes), and soon sent off to their new location. People had to go, because failure would have one’s hukou cancelled, leaving one without food rations and other necessities. An entire logistics chain was set up to ensure their transit. In some cases, volunteers readily signed up for the adventure. Surely, such state strategy and efficiency sound eerily familiar to some other dark parts of modern human history.
Interviewees reported that receiving sites were not well prepared for integrating arrivals with local communities, reporting that farmers often thought they were mere volunteers. Youth slept in sheds and emptied, substandard homes. Food was insufficient and horrible. Sanitary conditions were poor. Accidents were common on farms, and advanced medical care was typically lacking. As one person stated, “you simply could not imagine… how backwards everything was” (170). Language barriers existed. Some sent-downs suffered from sadistic treatment, especially on military farms. Rape and sexual favours were not much reported among interviewees who went to villages, but young women did find strong incentive to marry local men in order to reduce their physical labour in the fields. It was difficult to return to the cities, requiring bureaucratic discretion and connections. To be fair, the qualitative inquiry finds many different situations, including some in which the sent-downs were well treated and even discouraged from doing heavy work.
Some sent-downs report studying Mao’s thought in the morning, and at night reporting their own thoughts and consciousness in “struggle sessions.” Some interviewees found that it was not landownership that was at the root of all evil, but rather a system that failed to distinguish among individual performance: good or bad, efficient or inefficient. Some peasants were poor not because of landowners, but because they could not get ahead in the system; some were lazy or had no incentives. Every now and then an incentive was offered to which they would respond, including going home early when they finished some task. In short, many sent-downs awoke to a reality that was opposite the propaganda. Mao wanted youth reeducated but in the end they became the lost generation also because their ideas were now incompatible with official doctrine.
Some sent-downs found strength in surviving adversity, while others did not. The author also notes a paradox that while Mao’s rustification policy was partly a response to his disdain for rational, Weberian bureaucratic public administration, socialist reeducation would have been served better had it been better organized on the receiving end. All in all, the book relies a bit too heavily on the qualitative interviews, and better integration with existing studies and writings would have been nice, as well as insight into the coercive mechanisms of the state at different levels, and of the logic of people working in them. But the book operates in an area where access to officials and official documents is difficult or impossible. The relevance of this book to current-day affairs is also evident. Those familiar with public administration in East Asia may readily point to other instances of central governments embarking on power-driven and insufficiently conceived plans that are motivated more by political calculations. While the political context in the book has since passed, aspects of the portrayed decision-making style of the leadership still persist today. This book is a very valuable piece of scholarship that is to be celebrated as a significant addition to knowledge.
Evan Berman, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
COMMUNITY CAPITALISM IN CHINA: The State, the Market, and Collectivism. By Xiaoshuo Hou. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2013. xii, 154 pp. (Maps, tables, figures.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-03046-6.
Based on extensive fieldwork in three Chinese villages, Xiaoshuo Hou shows how local party leaders and villagers successfully promoted economic development and raised living standards during the era of reform. In all three villages—Nanjie, Huaxi and Shangyuan—the author learned that cadre and villagers found different ways to mobilize the resources they needed to finance industrialization and secure investment from state officials and foreign investors, decided who should own industrial enterprises, houses and residual farmlands (collectives, joint ventures or individuals), determined how the benefits should be distributed to participants (as individual wages or as collective/welfare benefits and subsidies), and decided who should get them. It is clear from her account that villagers and local cadre took a lot of initiative and used their relative autonomy from central government authorities to adopt rather different strategies to promote economic growth and advance local variants of what the author calls “community capitalism.”
Although local villagers adopted different approaches to investment, ownership and benefit distribution, they all decided to distinguish between “local” residents and “migrants” and subsequently developed a two-tier system for the distribution of benefits. Because migrants outnumbered locals in Nanjie and Huaxi (she does not provide information about the ratio of locals to migrants in Shangyuan), a majority of residents were denied equal participation in political decision-making or in the distribution of economic benefits. Although migrants outnumbered locals 3 to 1 in Nanjie, the author does not seem to regard their treatment as “second-class citizens” as problematic, though their exploitation by locals was, in effect, part of the villagers’ development strategy. Although she discusses some internal debates about who might be incorporated into the group by marriage and who might be, in effect, exiled from the community, she might have done more to explore the dynamics and tensions between local and migrant villagers.
During the last 25 years or so, villagers managed to promote industrialization and transform themselves from rural farmers to urban workers while remaining in the village. By staying in place, rather than moving to other cities in search of work, villagers were able to keep their social networks, parochial values (collectivist in Nanjie; individualistic in Shangyuan), and families intact. The author and the villagers regard this as one of their most important social achievements. In a sense, they were able to realize Mao’s goals during the Great Leap Forward. During the 1950s, Mao promoted industrialization in rural areas, in part to prevent peasants from moving to the cities, which could not accommodate them. Although Mao kept villagers in place during the Great Leap Forward, he was unable to promote successful rural industrialization. By contrast, in recent years, cadre-villagers have found ways to industrialize and urbanize while remaining in the village, without unleashing the kind of out-migration characteristic of rural villages in other countries. Still, their success has encouraged the in-migration of workers from less-industrialized rural villages.
The author provides a careful account of “Community Capitalism” in all three villages. She discusses problems with corruption in Nanjie and the consolidation and transfer of political power by one cadre to his family members in Huaxi, “what most outsiders would look at as nepotism” (83). She identifies how villagers were able to build “close-knit communities” and provide social-welfare benefits to members that were not being provided by central government authorities.
This upbeat and positive assessment, reminiscent of Jan Myrdal’s Report from a Chinese Village, highlights the agency and relative autonomy of cadre and villagers during the reform era. But how representative was this sample? She chose them because they were successful. But how much can their experience tell us about villages that “failed” to industrialize, about villages that provided migrant workers for other, more successful villages and cities? It is difficult to tell. The author admits that “it is hard to generalize the research findings to the whole nation” (134). Moreover, the author’s reliance on a “grounded theory” approach makes it difficult for her to explore the structures, opportunities and constraints imposed by “the State” and “the Market” on small villages in contemporary China. This fine micro-study would have benefitted from an appreciation of the wider political and economic institutions that have shaped “community capitalism” in Chinese villages during this period.
Robert K. Schaeffer, Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA
PROSPER OR PERISH: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China. By Lynette H. Ong. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2012. xviii, 212 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5062-4.
This work adds to a handful of political science studies on China’s rural credit and fiscal systems, a crucial but under-researched area. In highlighting the significance of the subject, scholarly characterization of rural China goes from that of a prime example of rapid industrialization and affluence (largely up until the mid-1990s) to an area of myriad socioeconomic malaises that have aggravated systemic instability in recent years. In both scenarios, the rural credit system and financial institutions play an indispensable role. The volume’s two main research questions examine their roles under two distinct causal designations. Focusing on the peculiar pattern of loan allocation by rural credit cooperatives and rural cooperative foundations (RCCs/RCFs), the leading rural financial institutions, chapters 2 to 4 explore how various political institutional factors along a specific historical path interact to favour allocations to local government enterprises and projects instead of to agricultural development programs—which are supposed to be RCCs/RCFs’ chief beneficiaries. Alternatively, chapters 5 and 6 treat rural financial institutions mainly as a background factor in an attempt to answer why rural industrialization succeeds in certain locales but not in others. These two inferences lead to useful findings that also generate vital theoretical dialogues, while leaving some other key issues unaddressed.
The inference about the first research question revolves around the institutions shaping the incentives of local governments in China. Chief among them, as the book argues persuasively, are the cadre evaluation system, which prioritizes indicators reflective of economic growth, and the central-provincial fiscal scheme, which since 1994 has augmented the coffers of the centre at the cost of the provinces. To take a broader look beyond the scope of this book, this logic of institutional incentive makes sense not only for RCCs/RCFs in China, but also their counterparts elsewhere. For instance, the savings and credit department of farmers’ associations in Taiwan, a democratic system, is also strongly driven by political considerations in credit supply; during both local and national elections, they are often the most reliable institutional provider for campaign funding accessible to particular candidates. During other periods, however, they remain devoted primarily to agricultural development and farmers’ needs, while RCCs/RCFs in China do not.
Hence, explaining why RCCs/RCFs, established in the first place to serve their depositors, do not do so is perhaps even more consequential than explicating what they actually do. Specifically, at least three puzzles stand out in this regard: why has the centre remained unable to rectify RCCs/RCFs and harden their soft budget constraint, as well as alter their credit allocation, despite its repeated bailouts intended to induce local governments’ compliance? Why have RCCs/RCFs been immune from privatization and thus running until now without an effective structure of corporate governance, while most SOEs and TVEs in the nation have undergone varying degrees of privatization since the mid-1990s? And most importantly, why have peasants adhered to RCCs/RCFs as the main depository, despite waves of crises that explicitly revealed the risks? To be sure, these queries point not only to the complexities beyond the book’s diagnosis of RCCs/RCFs’ pathology of being “too big to fail,” but also to the roots of that pathology.
The analysis for answering the second research question concentrates on the effects of two independent variables: whether local industrialization is led by local government or by the private sector and a given locale’s proximity to urban markets and transportation linkages. By comparing five locales scattered among coastal and inland regions, Ong discovers that the locales close to urban centres, whether driven by the government or private sector, attain prosperity. Yet the locales without such an advantageous geographical location, all of which happen to be government-led cases, perform poorly (chapters 5 and 6, and figure 1.7).
This research finding seems to lend more support to a market-driven growth model counting on private firms than otherwise. It also provides critical qualifications for the validity of local state corporatism in China, a theoretical perspective stressing the merits of government-led developmental strategy. By and large, the comparative methodology strengthens the case for a more general application of the findings, compared to the bulk of extant literature debating the developmental role of local government in China.
The overall consistency and rigour of the findings, however, warrant reassessment. The mobilization of rural financial resources through RCCs/RCFs serves analytically, as mentioned above, as a common background in comparing the locales, instead of as a factor with variances among them leading to diverse pathways and outcomes for local industrialization. The case studies do not really exhibit how the government-led and market-driven allocation of rural credits for firms operates in divergent ways to affect economic performance. This renders the entire analysis on the book’s second research question without a meaningful correlation to that of the first one. The two development models, in addition, are in fact not logically and empirically mutually exclusive. The two models appear to conflate government intervention with public ownership, and market mechanisms with private ownership. Yet private vs. public ownership and government intervention vs. market coordination correspond to two distinct dimensions in property rights. The conceptual matrix stemming from the two dimensions gives rise to four possible models. For example, government-led local development may thus arise in conjunction with principally private ownership, such as the model in Guangdong’s Shunde following sweeping local privatization in the mid-1990s, which is not included among this book’s cases.
This brings us to the next issue. To sort out the causality of the two independent variables—local development model and geographical location—it is necessary to look into four types of cases in the 2´2 matrix. Yet the study covers only three of them and misses the private firm domination distant from urban centres, without telling us why. This shortage leaves in question the internal validity of the present finding, where all the locales marked by private firms prosper, and geographical location determines whether a locale marked by government ownership thrives or perishes. If the locales from the missing category are predominantly wealthy, then the development model overrides causally geographical location, with greater causal assuredness than the findings show. Otherwise, it is only the location rather than the development model—and thus the pattern of rural credit allocation—that matters.
S. Philip Hsu, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
EURASIAN: Mixed Identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842–1943. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By Emma Jinhua Teng. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. xvii, 331 pp. (Illus.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-27627-7.
Border crossings of many kinds flow through this highly readable, interdisciplinary exploration of miscegenation and mixed-race individuals on their journeys between the United States, Canada, Great Britain, China and Hong Kong during a century of particularly fraught Sino-American relations. Emma Teng dissects variations in theories and practices regarding racial mixing, which were influenced by local contexts and power structures, social practices, socioeconomic class, paternal and maternal descent, size of Eurasian population, physiognomy, and individual choices and adaptations. She probes the porosity of racial lines ideologically, institutionally, socially and economically to demonstrate that past interpretations of miscegenation—perhaps the ultimate transgression of racial boundaries—and the resulting biracial descendants were understood not only as violations of nature and thus portents of civilizational decline, but also as vehicles for managing unavoidably hybrid societies and economic activities and even as vessels for merging and thereby enhancing the superior traits of different races with the additional possibility of eventually eliminating inferior attributes. Although such views tended to be held more by Chinese theorists of race, they nonetheless demonstrate that contemporary celebrations of hybridity bear roots in early twentieth-century social science.
This approach enables Teng to dexterously track the many impossibilities of imposing absolute racial segregation through legal and institutional practices, projects undone by the messiness of competing theoretical conceptions of racial difference, the unevenness of lived experiences, and the contingent nature of individual self-representations and identity claims. As illustrated by the author Sui Sin Far, born Edith Maude Eaton of a Chinese mother and British father in England, census counts that acknowledged only one race failed to account for biracial subjects, as did citizenship and immigration restrictions adhering to competing principles of jus solis, jus sanguinis, or dependent citizenship, in which women assumed the status of their husbands. Although she chose to identify as Chinese both socially and professionally, while her sister Winnifred gained fame as the Japanese Eurasian author Onoto Watanna, Sui nonetheless occasionally encountered and took advantage of opportunities to pass for white even as she gained visibility in representing the experiences of Chinese and Eurasians. In Sui’s case, as with many other mixed race individuals, physical appearance and social presentation proved an unreliable guide to ancestral origins.
Teng systematically engages with anthropologist Melissa Brown’s observations that ethnic identities emerge more from social experiences than from ancestry or shared culture (78, 224) in processes that allow individuals to negotiate between generally accepted orders of racial and ethnic signification which then constrain individual identity claims more so than any inherited, essentialized, bundle of racial or cultural traits. When racial and ethnic contexts shift, individuals can make new identity claims. By mining the details of family histories, Teng reveals the different ways in which vectors such as class could shape Eurasian claims regarding being Chinese or European. Thus Mae, the Euro-American wife of Tiam Hock Franking, a Chinese student and then official, represented herself as aspiring to the role of dutiful Chinese wife during their residence in China with his family. Location and varying social practices also shaped options for Eurasians. Despite the tremendous respect enjoyed by Yung Wing of the Chinese Educational Mission (1872–1881) and his wife Mary Kellogg, a descendant of Plymouth Puritans, their sons’ generation confronted the hardening of racial lines and anti-Chinese sentiments, with the passage of Chinese exclusion leading them to choose to pursue careers in China. In Hong Kong, however, Sir Robert Ho Tung chose to identify as Chinese, probably to enhance his standing and economic opportunities despite his evidently Europeanized appearance. Within Chinese circles, Sir Ho Tung could advance further than among the more discriminatory British, while in Shanghai, the Eurasian community was sizable enough to establish its own school and comprise its own community. In predominantly Chinese places such as Hong Kong and Shanghai, where racial boundaries were less absolute, Eurasians gained some advantage by acquiring bicultural abilities that could be used to bridge and negotiate between Chinese and Western worlds.
Theoretical considerations of hybridity also varied across time and place and ranged from Louis Beck’s warnings based on the criminal career of New York’s George Appo during the 1890s, the contrasting views of Robert Park’s students Herbert Lamley and Wu Jingchao, to reformist leader Kang Youwei’s assertions of the evolutionary potential for racial mixing in the grand text One World Treatise. Social Darwinism was the most influential conceptual framework, although Chinese intellectuals also drew upon long-standing Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian principles that held out practices of “barbarian management,” providing for cultural adaptation as a means of incorporating disparate populations. Racially, Chinese views of difference hardened with the twentieth-century emergence of nationalism based on claims of Han racial origins.
The specificity of Teng’s emphasis on discourse and individual trajectories does not provide broader historical contexts such as demographic and other kinds of quantitative contexts. Readers must rely on Teng’s reassurance that the case studies presented do in fact reflect a full range of possible experiences and encounters of Eurasianness. However, the scrupulousness and depth of Teng’s readings of the lives of her representative Eurasians produces nuanced insights that illuminate many contexts and options for operating at the interstices of monoracial conceptions of society. In its transnational scope and multilingual archives, this volume is a highly persuasive and insightful accounting of Eurasian lives and possibilities.
Madeline Y. Hsu, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, USA
THE UNITED STATES AND CHINA: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. Asia/Pacific/Perspectives. By Dong Wang. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013, xi, 377 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7425-5782-6.
Few observers will contend with the assertion that the relationship between the United States and China has, in general terms, become the most significant bilateral relationship on the world stage. Just what does this mean? First, the United States and China, currently hold positions as the first and second largest economies, respectively. If these giants somehow fail to manage their economic conflicts, there most certainly will be dire implications for the global political economy. Second, while the United States continues to occupy the position as the world’s top military power even more than two decades since the end of the Cold War, China has emerged as the most important potential challenger, especially throughout the Asian region. Arguably, these two giants have become too big to fight, as occurred during the Korean War (1950–1953). Third, with the possible exception of the European Union (EU) and some emerging powers like India, no other country is on par with the United States and China in terms of global political influence and the projection of soft power.
The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present examines this all-important bilateral relationship. Dong Wang provides a comprehensive treatment of US-Chinese relations, from the late-eighteenth century when the American colonies won their independence from England, to the present period. She examines the economic, political, military, and social and cultural dimensions of this relationship, illustrating how these dimensions have affected and are affected by various domestic and external forces at play for both parties. The author reveals how the past and present are connected for Sino-American relations, a dynamic which charts their future course. This is a story about two global actors whose bilateral relationship must be viewed in the context of their respective worldviews (and views about each other) and their rise as world powers. Perhaps more than any other factor, the starkly diverse historical experiences and social and cultural peculiarities of these two giants tell the story of their bilateral relationship. Dong Wang illustrates this quite well throughout her book.
Wang’s study is organized into three parts, the early period (1784–1911), the period of the World Wars and turmoil in the Asian region (1912–1970) and, the period of the opening to China (1970) to the present. Each epoch reveals an important aspect of the story, from America’s missionary activity in China and the World War I era, to the triumph of the Communists on mainland China and the Korean War period. At each juncture, Wang carefully examines the particular historical context of the bilateral relationship and the various factors at play. Many lessons are revealed along the way, and these will be familiar to the informed reader. I will list four such points here. First, the respective political and economic development experiences of the two countries, and their rise to regional and global prominence, are and have been a major dynamic in the bilateral relationship. Second, China’s relations with the United States, indeed, with the West, reflect China’s longtime quest for stability at home and regionally, and, to be respected as a sovereign actor in world affairs. Third, various actors have, at times, found themselves to be significant players in the US-Chinese bilateral relationship. Dong Wang highlights the complex role of England in the earlier period as the United States was attempting to establish a commercial presence in China. She also examines the role of Japan, which becomes particularly important beginning in the early twentieth century. Finally, it is arguable that the social and cultural dimension of Sino-American relations has, over time, proven to be the most significant dynamic even in their official bilateral relationship. I believe that Dong Wang demonstrates this quite well in chapter 3, on Chinese immigration to the United States, and in chapter 4, which deals with the spread of American Christianity in China. These two chapters, which are especially well researched and written, reveal much about each side’s perceptions of and interest in the other.
It is a challenge to organize and present a narrative that deals with so vast an amount of material that covers such an expanse of time, but the author does it admirably. While I believe Wang’s treatment of the modern (nineteenth to mid-twentieth century) period to be the overall strength of her study, she devotes ample attention to the issues, events and trends of the contemporary (post-1950s) period: the path toward normal relations in the 1960s and 1970s, and, various contentious issues such as Taiwan, Tibet, trade, human rights, and China’s growing defense spending. There is a good balance of historical and contemporary sources, as well as Chinese and American perspectives, and the Further Reading section at the end of each chapter will be especially useful for classroom settings. I would offer one critical observation. While the author covers a lot of terrain and does it in exemplary fashion, I would have liked to see more treatment of some third parties. Obviously, regional actors such as Japan, the Koreas and Taiwan, and even Russia, at times, occupy American and Chinese attention in ways that affect their bilateral relationship. This is more and more evident for actors such as India, Iran and Pakistan, who are increasingly important to China and the United States in different ways. This is worth exploring further in the study.
In conclusion, The United States and China is well researched and written. This ambitious study is a useful contribution to the literature on the history of Chinese-American relations. This book stands out for its comprehensiveness and balance, and students of history and international relations will find it to be accessible and insightful.
Gregory O. Hall, Morehouse College, Atlanta, USA
SPEAKING OF EPIDEMICS IN CHINESE MEDICINE: Disease and the Geographic Imagination in Late Imperial China. Needham Research Institute Series. By Marta Hanson. First paperback ed. London; New York: Routledge, 2013. xx, 265 pp. (Tables, maps, figures.) US$44.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-83535-0.
If you will read only one book in your lifetime about medicine in China, this should be it. For policy analysts, historians of (bio)medicine, or sinologists, this “biography of wenbing” (warm diseases) ties together past and present, and social, cultural and clinical histories to a sophisticated understanding of China’s regions and epidemiology. After reading this book you will have learned something new, connected disparate concepts, and clarified misconceptions. Hanson’s book is at once an introduction to the basics of Chinese medicine, an advanced course on its developments in late imperial China, and an explanation of its ongoing relevance seen through the application of wenbing theory and remedies to the SARS epidemic in 2003. Hanson demonstrates as clearly as anyone how Chinese medicine did not become “stagnant” in the Ming and Qing dynasties, as its modernizing opponents have declared. Instead, Chinese medicine continued (and continues) to create new nosologies that were (and are) clinically effective and flexible enough to take into account regional variation and even biomedical explanations of disease.
Although most Chinese today will tell you that shanghan is equivalent to typhoid, mafeng to leprosy, jiaoqi to beriberi, nüe to malaria, and huoluan to cholera, Hanson will have none of it: “[b]efore the nineteenth century, not one inhabitant of China suffered from plague, cholera, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, or malaria” (7). So what did they, in fact, die from? Hanson argues persuasively the historical anthropologist’s position that we need to understand pre-modern diseases with pre-modern categories. This “biography of disease” approach has become an important subfield in the history of medicine. Like Angela Leung’s work on li/lai/dafeng/mafeng/leprosy, this book traces a Chinese disease category through its history. But wenbing is particularly remarkable because it has not been displaced by biomedical nosology.
The book does not stop with merely a biography of wenbing, but uses this as “a heuristic device” to explore the Chinese geographical imagination of disease, and through these, epidemiology in late imperial and modern China. Although wenbing appears in the Basic Questions (half of the medical classic, the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) and in Zhang Ji’s Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders, it did not emerge as a distinct disease category until a millennia and a half later during the epidemics associated with the fall of the Ming in 1642. At this time, Wu Youxing (c. 1582–1652) claimed that a regionally specific contagion was responsible for the epidemic, rather than a vague “unseasonable qi”(16–17). Wu began a school of thought that continues to this day that elevated wenbing from a mere variation of an underlying Cold Damage disorder (102). This process of doubting received interpretations of diseases and cures becomes for Hanson “Ming medical skepticism,” a massive and ongoing innovation in the late imperial period that has usually been characterized as “stagnant.”
The second theme is the connection between disease and geography. Hanson demonstrates how the early directional imagination of Chinese medicine stated in the Basic Questions was governed by the five directions (wufang)—the center and four cardinal directions. Each direction was associated with a particular form of climate, foods, diseases and therapies (26). Hanson’s discussion here of Chinese medical cosmology—of yin-yang, the five phases, the five climates—is one of the best I’ve seen (I do not know how Chinese medical concepts, usually presented as fully formed and unchanging, can be understood without such historicization). More specifically, the two major geographic divisions became the northwest (cradle of Chinese civilization) where “heaven is insufficient,” and the southeast (Jiangnan area), where “earth is incomplete.” Later, in the northern areas conquered by the Jurchens and Mongols, private physicians critiqued Song medical orthodoxy and innovated on the old formulas and nosologies. These medical innovations eventually became incorporated into southern medicine, but the north-south split in the Chinese medical imagination remained. Northern bodies, diseases and cures would be distinct from southern ones.
The geographical imagination of medicine became especially important in the Qing when the Qianlong emperor’s massive encyclopedia project, the Emperor’s Four Treasuries, elevated Wu Youxing’s book to the status of a medical classic. In the late nineteenth century, even some foreign physicians praised Wu’s work on disease nosology and epidemics, although this shifted to denunciation by the early twentieth century (150–151).
All of this becomes particularly interesting for students of contemporary China when Hanson demonstrates that wenbing has come to include what biomedicine now calls acute infectious diseases. The key example is SARS, which was not only prevented but also treated with wenbing nosology and drug formulas, depending on whether the patients were in the northern epidemic region in Beijing, or the southern in Guangzhou.
I am completely sympathetic with Hanson’s project, but the historical anthropology approach leads to a problem of consistency. The temptation to shorthand Chinese disease categories is too great, even for Hanson. So guangchuang, “literally Cantonese sores,” becomes unproblematically associated with “venereal diseases and syphilis” (70). Later Hanson again makes simplistic equivalencies between older Western disease conceptions and contemporary nosology “agues (shaking fits of malaria and other diseases) … [and] phthisis (various types of tuberculosis)” (149). To this inconsistency I have no solution to offer because even the historical anthropologist has to communicate using language and disease conceptions the reader can understand.
Despite this conundrum, this book sets a new bar for research on the history of medicine in China. This short review is hardly able to touch on all of Hanson’s main points connecting wenbing, the geographical imagination, and epidemiology. In 169 concise pages of text, Hanson demonstrates conclusively that “China’s wenbing remains a meaningful disease concept,” that Chinese medicine never became stagnant, and that it continues to be an effective and evolving therapeutic system today.
David Luesink, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
HONG KONG UNDER CHINESE RULE: Economic Integration and Political Gridlock. Editors, Zheng Yongnian, Yew Chiew Ping. Singapore; Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2013. xii, 274 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$92.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4447-66-9.
There are few edited volumes in scholarly circles more fulfilling than those that sew the chapters together to present a single theme and dynamic evaluations. The present edited volume could be counted as one of those. There are altogether 13 contributors to this volume, including those of the two editors. Out of the sixteen chapters, nine are co-authored. One contributor alone wrote four chapters while also co-authoring two others. Eight contributors are affiliated with institutions in Singapore, two are with Hong Kong, two are with Macau and one of them works in Melbourne. This edited volume represents both insiders’ and outsiders’ views of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) since its return to China in 1997. Interestingly, it is a product of mostly Asian scholars’ collaboration with one another. It offers original and critical insights into Hong Kong’s developments throughout the years and analyzes the future prospects of the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept.
This volume recounts the 15 years of Hong Kong’s return to China. It is divided into three parts: the first part, “Integration and Interdependence,” studies Hong Kong’s economic development and the substantial integration of the SAR’s economy into mainland China. The second part, “Governance Crisis and Social Discontent,” explains the social anxieties that have mounted resulting from the popular dissatisfaction with the chief executive and the SAR government. After finishing the first and second parts, readers come to a partial conclusion that the success of the economic integration between the SAR and the mainland was of no use in building a stable society. Instead, the Hong Kong society has witnessed increasing tensions. The third part, “Electoral Reforms and Democratisation,” further points out that various parties have asked for faster and genuine political reforms. Not only has the SAR government failed to meet public demands, the legitimacy of the political authority reached an all-time low. In sum, this edited volume delivers the warning that Hong Kong’s economic integration into the mainland has not produced confidence among the local population, who are highly skeptical of the government’s policies and willingness to deliver political reforms.
The contributors of this volume ask the question of why Hong Kong people have lost their trust in the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept. This edited volume is an important source of information and critique for Hong Kong people and Hong Kong watchers, who are concerned about the future of the SAR. One question leads to another: how would the decline in hope of the operation of the concept of “one country, two systems” influence the SAR? Of particular significance are the relations between society and the government as well as the communication between Hong Kong and Beijing.
Two contributors of the volume, Wang Gungwu and John Wong, alert that Hong Kong has not developed any feasible institutional change that can facilitate closer social and political bonding with mainland China. John Wong further raises the question of whether the advantages of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) can bring about the real incorporation of Hong Kong society and government within the “one country” of China. Other contributors question if the economic integration of Hong Kong into the mainland further reduces the SAR government’s ability to reform and to address the grievances of society. The inertia of the governance of the SAR has amounted to increasing social discontent and even crisis. Moreover, the chapters of the second part, “Governance Crisis and Social Discontent,” argue that social disturbances have adverse effects on the identification of the Hong Kong people with mainland China.
The third part, “Electoral Reforms and Democratisation,” puts forth the same argument as the previous chapters. Contributors question whether the ascendance of the present SAR chief executive has provoked further political discontent and problems of legitimacy. The political inertia concerning the SAR’s government structure and civil service, and the lack of capacity for genuine reform lead to worries regarding the future of Hong Kong. The selection of the chief executive remains the crux of the political problems of the SAR government.
Studying the economic, social and political developments, this edited volume is valuable to scholars, graduate students, researchers and Hong Kong watchers who truly care for the future of the SAR. It would be of most use if readers could get some suggestions as to how the Hong Kong government should break away from the inertia, so as to tackle possible political crises in the future. One wonders how the Beijing leaders will react to future crises. There are three parties involved in the implementation of the “one country, two systems” concept: Hong Kong society, the SAR government and the Beijing government. This edited volume warns the readers of the future of Hong Kong. It is important to know how this warning will affect the Hong Kong government and the Beijing leaders. The actions of the SAR government and Beijing leaders will be critical to the stability of Hong Kong society and the legitimacy of the chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR.
Cindy Yik-yi Chu, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China
INTOXICATING MANCHURIA: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China’s Northeast. Contemporary Chinese Studies series. By Norman Smith. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013. x, 298 pp. (Figures.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-07748-2429-3.
In Intoxicating Manchuria: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China’s Northeast, Norman Smith treats the reader to a rich analysis of the roles played both by alcohol and opium in northeast China between the late nineteenth century and 1945. His study aims to examine how “recreational intoxicant consumption was understood and characterized in the first half of the twentieth century,” especially amidst the half-hearted efforts at prohibition by the state of Manchukuo during the 1940s (2). In eight chapters, Smith illustrates very vividly that both alcohol and opium have indeed had deep and substantial impacts on northeastern Chinese life and culture, and that throughout the period under investigation, the dependency of successive regimes on the opium trade ensured its continuity. Through a wide variety of media and literature, including alcohol advertisements, government propaganda, and contemporary Chinese fiction, Intoxicating Manchuria explores a wide array of alcohol and opium narratives, few of which ended happily.
In chapter 1, Smith grounds his later examination of alcohol’s impact in northeast China with a swift and convincing illustration of the historical evidence for alcohol consumption by Chinese since the Xia Dynasty (2070-1600 BCE). From the exploits of the earliest kings to the writings of dozens of later poets and chroniclers to the discoveries of modern archaeologists, Smith demonstrates convincingly that “the intoxicant industries of China today have important precedents in Chinese history” (21). The steady stream of eye-opening references to alcohol consumption throughout China’s imperial history shreds the oft-held belief that alcohol consumption has not played a meaningful cultural role. Likewise, Smith asserts that for most of its history, opium was also accepted and used as a medicine, rather than recreationally, and that while it was not used as widely as was alcohol, it too was culturally important. Smith’s approach here parallels Bret Hinsch’s masterful challenge to the ridiculous assertion that there is no such thing as a Chinese homosexual, which Hinsch destroyed so completely in The Passions of the Cut-Sleeve: The Male Homosexual Tradition in China (University of California Press, 1990).
Chapter 2 sets the stage for alcohol and opium sale and use in Manchuria during the first few decades of the twentieth century, detailing the region’s transition from a Qing-era Manchu homeland, to a local warlord redoubt in the 1920s, to a Japanese-controlled narco state by the 1930s and 1940s. Smith’s third chapter discusses alcohol use in Manchukuo, which was often viewed positively during the early 1930s, but was increasingly criticized by the middle of the decade as newspapers, essays and popular writers warned of the dangers of intoxicants, especially for women (64). Smith closes the chapter by noting that “in the short span of a decade, alcohol had shifted from a marker of modernity to a symbol of disease, disorder, and a society on the edge of collapse” (69). He then turns in chapter 4 to an analysis of alcohol advertisements that appeared in contemporary Chinese-language newspapers and journals. Ads for Asahi and Sapporo beer come as no surprise, but the most revealing ads were for a sweet port wine called Red Ball, created in 1907 by Shinjirō Torii, the founder of Suntory. Red Ball ads promoted the positive, healthy effects of red wine, which was touted as “number one in the medicine world for everyone,” especially for those engaged in physical labour (79). Ads even encouraged “good wives” to ensure that their husbands drank a few glasses every morning before work (81)! Rival products likewise stressed the positive aspects of alcohol consumption, though by 1940 government propaganda began to equate alcohol with smoking, tuberculosis, and constipation as one of “The Four Big Poisons that Destroy Health” (88).
In chapter 5, Smith turns to contemporary Chinese novels and plays dealing with alcohol and especially opium addiction. Despite official guidelines aimed at muffling criticism of the state, these works offered implicit criticism of Manchukuo and its anemic efforts at opium prohibition. Similarly, Smith’s sixth chapter illustrates the alluring dangers of women working as hostesses in modern bars and opium retail outlets during the 1930s. Though they were seen by some as symbols of modern living, they were frequently denounced by social reformers as manipulative temptresses who corrupted public morals. Finally, chapters 7 and 8 illustrate the steps taken by Manchukuo to help opium addicts recover, often at private clinics and hospitals, but also at state-run institutions known as Healthy Life Institutes. Here, Smith makes a terrific contribution to the literature on Manchukuo by detailing the efforts to help Chinese patients recover from years of chronic addiction. While he concedes that much of the available evidence is state propaganda, and that it is also difficult to reconcile the efforts of health professionals with the state’s tacit allowance of the opium trade, there were nevertheless Japanese who attempted to help Chinese in Manchukuo. As Smith asserts, the movement of Japanese into Manchuria was one of the largest migratory waves in modern history, but “the experiences of these pioneers remain hardly known, partly because of the Manchukuo legacy” (197).
As a historian familiar with Japanese business ventures on the continent during this era, this reader wanted more financial details on how the state opium monopoly functioned during the Manchukuo era, especially given the importance of tax revenues during Japan’s “Holy War” against Anglo-American imperialism (90). Smith seldom discusses production costs, distribution channels, pricing, or state revenues directly, as his principal focus is on cultural perceptions of opium and alcohol, rather than the economics of the trade itself. Nevertheless, readers looking for these kinds of details will find many valuable references in his extensive and varied bibliography.
The depth of Smith’s research is impressive, and he writes with the admirable flair and ease of a scholar well-versed in Manchuria’s history. Intoxicating Manchuria features over 40 well-placed photos, ads, cartoons and illustrations that bring the narrative to life, and at just 198 pages of text with richly detailed endnotes, it will appeal to scholars and students alike.
Jeffrey Alexander, University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, USA
CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE POLITICS: Institutional Changes and Power Shifts. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Tomohito Shinoda. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xvii, 328 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-15853-4.
Contemporary Japanese Politics, by Tomohito Shinoda, is the most up-to-date English-language account of contemporary Japanese politics. It covers both the 38-year period of the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) stint in power (the so-called 1955 regime) as well as the changes that have occurred since the 1990s, culminating in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) becoming the government party in 2009. Since thus far there have been only analyses of specific aspects of this change in government (e.g., elections) available in English, a detailed treatise discussing this three-year “DPJ interregnum” is welcome. The facts have been well known, so a reader well versed in the history of party politics and administrative reform will probably not have to readjust his understanding of the developments. That being said, so far nobody has spent the time and effort to put the facts and the substantial existing literature together and present it all in a coherent and concise way. In that sense, the book is a good overview for readers seeking a summary of postwar politics with an emphasis on institutional changes and their effects on political leadership. What is more, the author’s categorization and diligent citation of the existing literature should help those looking for further readings.
Shinoda’s specific aim is the analysis of the power balance between Cabinet, bureaucracy and the Diet against the backdrop of institutional change and what effects these changes had on the government’s operation, more specifically the prime minister’s leadership. He starts out by describing the institutional framework and workings of the government and the LDP under single-party rule. While LDP Cabinets traditionally maintained an effective working relationship with the bureaucracy, they were lacking in leadership. This traditional setup did not last, however, as a series of changes, such as the electoral reforms of the 1990s, as well as administrative reforms strengthening the prime minister’s authority, thereby paving the way for more prime ministerial leadership. According to Shinoda, these institutional changes were merely a “necessary” but “not a sufficient condition” (7), as “institutions do not produce leadership; they only enable it” (7). To prove this point, he discusses the effects of the reforms on the decision-making process, paying particularly close attention to the Koizumi administration and the DPJ Cabinets. The former is seen as the best example of effectively using the bureaucracy, while exercising the prime ministerial leadership afforded by the new institutional framework. Meanwhile, the three DPJ PMs were unable to effectively use the bureaucracy and/or exercise strong leadership. The same, to a lesser degree, was true for the three LDP PMs that followed Koizumi. Meanwhile, current PM Abe in his second stint is tentatively praised for exercising leadership and making effective use of the bureaucrats, being favourably compared to Koizumi.
While the underlying argument is certainly deeper and more differentiated, the book occasionally comes across as suggesting that the institutional changes of the last two decades created a framework in which all that was needed to succeed in realizing one’s political agenda as prime minister were leadership skills and experience, while ensuring that the bureaucracy cooperates. There, we are told Koizumi and maybe Abe during his second term have excelled, whereas the post-Koizumi PMs, in particular from the DPJ, had failed by either being unable to secure the cooperation of the bureaucracy and/or exercising leadership. There is a pattern here, though, namely that with the exception of Hatoyama, all five PMs between Koizumi and the second Abe Cabinet faced a twisted Diet (nejire kokkai) which was abused by the respective opposition at the time to derail the government regardless of cost. Shinoda discusses various issues pertaining to bicameralism, e.g., the balance of power between the two houses and the different election systems in various chapters, but I believe the book could have benefited from singling out this issue more clearly as one key institutional variable that determines the ability of the PM to exercise leadership.
The second issue that has to be pointed out is a certain selective view towards leadership. Koizumi is described as the golden standard, while in particular the failures of Cabinets headed by non-LDP PMs are described and criticized in much detail. I would have welcomed a slightly more balanced analysis of the latter. For instance, given that the author discusses foreign and national security policy in quite some detail elsewhere in the book, the lack of any reference to the re-approachment initiatives in the 1990s could be viewed as an important omission. Arguably, Hosokawa and Murayama (successfully) showed considerable leadership in pushing the government to attempt to settle Japan’s long-standing disputes over the interpretation of and reflection on modern history with neighbouring countries, in spite of considerable domestic criticism. Similarly, the critique of the DPJ’s post 3.11 disaster management “excessively” focusing on the nuclear incident in Fukushima, which is contrasted to “each ministry tried hard to respond to the needs of the damaged areas in Tohoku” (220) could have benefited from a more balanced assessment. In this context, more background information on the inefficient nuclear oversight regime which the DPJ had inherited from previous LDP administrations would have been helpful. This system had not only placed the regulatory body (NISA) under the umbrella of the ministry most strongly in favour of nuclear energy (METI), but also provided the veto players like the utility companies with the means to avoid more costly, tougher security measures which may have prevented the meltdowns in the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. Without this information, the book conveys the message that slow post-disaster management was primarily the result of the Kan administration’s ineptness, which against the aforementioned backdrop is questionable.
Irrespective of the aforementioned issues, Contemporary Japanese Politics is a worthwhile read. While various aspects, such as the effects of electoral reform and the rise of the two-party system, have been explored by many authors in detailed studies, Shinoda has to be applauded for presenting the overarching storyline of changing postwar politics and prime ministerial leadership against the backdrop of institutional change in an accessible and concise manner.
Chris Winkler, German Institute for Japanese Studies, Tokyo, Japan
ISAMU NOGUCHI’S MODERNISM: Negotiating Race, Labor, and Nation, 1930–1950. By Amy Lyford. Berkeley: University of California Press with the assistance of the Getty Foundation, 2013. viii, 273 pp.,  pp. of plates (Figures.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-25314-8.
Isamu Noguchi’s Modernism: Negotiating Race, Labor and Nation, 1930–1950 provides compelling evidence to reconsider the work of the artist within larger social, economic and political contexts of pre- and post-World War Two. Amy Lyford brings fresh insight towards a much-needed corrective of the binary of identity that has manifested itself throughout discussions of Noguchi’s work, obscuring larger issues of race and identity. With hindsight as its backdrop, Lyford recontextualizes the early work of Isamu Noguchi within a compelling and nuanced interpretation foregrounding racial and identity politics. This approach is central in decoding both the choices in artistic form and the places through which the artist laboured.
Noguchi was anomalous in many ways. His identity as a Japanese-American, artist, furniture maker and landscape designer, who worked in Paris with Brancusi and voluntarily interned himself at Poston Relocation center during the Japanese-American internment, has provided rich fodder for analysis. No identity is singular, and yet the racial discourse of the first half of the twentieth century was part of a very different ideological understanding of race, identity and community, which may account for its apparent lack of sophistication now.
The book is driven by the social and political discourses of the 1930s to the1950s, to which Noguchi’s work is responding. Divided into two main areas, the first half of the book is dedicated towards his integration of notions of labour, work and the artist and the second focusing on his identity as Japanese-American during World War Two. Part 1, titled “Labor,” provides detailed discussions and documentations of Noguchi’s works and unrealized plans that all foreground the notion of artist as social agent. These works, including Monument to the Plow, the Carl Mackley Memorial, and the design for the Associated Press mural, are developed as the forms through which Noguchi can express the collusion of identity of artist as labourer. Particularly for the Associated Press mural, located at Rockefeller Center where Diego Rivera’s iconic Man at the Crossroads mural was censored, Noguchi’s left-leanings would have to manifest themselves in other ways. Lyford uses these plans and sculptures to illustrate how Noguchi invested himself in the production of his work, the subject of which conflated the individual and the labour through the physical representation of the sculpture, and where the production of the work itself provided labour and collaboration among artist and worker. This beautifully crafted argument draws attention to lesser-known and unrealized Noguchi works and plans, as well as the reinterpretation of well-known ones.
While previous literature both by and about the artist has rooted much of the analysis of his work in his Japanese and European ancestry, implicating identity as a biological constant arbitrating his work, this analysis resituates the complexity of identity and community. Part 2, “Race,” focuses on Noguchi’s nisei identity and his voluntary internment at Poston, as well as an analysis of his group, the Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy (NWAMD). Noguchi’s own ambivalence towards his identity as nisei is examined through his work with the NWAMD and his essay I Become Nisei (appendix 2), as well as through recently uncovered FBI documents and letters. While race is the overarching theme, it is subtly divided into two sections, internalized and externalized racial identification. Section 4 draws out potential psychologies of Noguchi in his response to the sudden foregrounding of the Japanese part of his identity during World War Two. While always present, as indicated through reviews of his work, Lyford offers more critical analysis of how those reviews continue to mark the artist in gendered and racialized ways.
Particularly apt is her own analysis of both Thomas Hess’ and Clement Greenberg’s critiques of Noguchi’s work in the last sections of the book. Here she utilizes the contemporaneous reviews of his sculpture and exhibitions to delicately, almost surgically, dismantle the Eurocentric and misogynistic construction and conception of the modernist artist as white male, and how that may have impacted Noguchi’s own self-presentation, discussed at the end. This book also illuminates the social and political importance of the shifting relationship between Japan and the US, and its impact on labels of race and nationalism. Lyford’s work is an important reminder that identity, community, race and nation shift over time and important new information often comes from neglected sources.
Lyford makes it easy to see why Noguchi has been interpreted in the ways that he has, but also, why that may not be sufficient. This book surveys the cultural environment to portend precisely why such difficulties and distinctions about both his work and identity will never be fully answered, but can continually be mined to garner a deeper understanding of social and political influences that both compel and restrict both actions and interpretations.
All writing is culture-bound. It reflects the sensibilities and ideologies of its time and place. Noguchi’s work can easily be reconsidered through an analysis today that has articulated hyphenated and hybrid identities, through more sophisticated and nuanced understandings of community, race, ethnicity and identity. His time provided little of that ability, which makes it no surprise that certain aspects of that were either knowingly or unknowingly concealed by the artist, or misunderstood, willfully or not, by his critics. Lyford’s research has provided a more cultivated analysis that may bridge many of his earlier unresolved acts that culminated in the artist so well-known today. It provides new opportunities for examining Noguchi’s political alliances, his work itself and overarching social agendas of the time.
Stephanie Takaragawa, Chapman University, Orange, USA
AN IMPERIAL PATH TO MODERNITY: Yoshino Sakuzō and a New Liberal Order in East Asia, 1905–1937. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 346. By Jung-Sun N. Han. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor] 2012. viii, 231 pp. (B&W illus.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06571-0.
International historians of twentieth-century Japan have understood for a long time that liberals found ways to accommodate the colonialism and expansionism of Imperial Japan. This is usually portrayed as a reluctant compromise with ascendant authoritarian ideologies and behaviours. The contribution of Jung-Sun N. Han’s new work is the assertion that leading liberal political theorists, notably Yoshino Sakuzō, embraced the goal of Japanese expansion on the continent and advocated achieving this goal through liberal internationalism. Japanese imperialist stature abroad would enable at home a political life that met the needs of people regardless of pedigree.
An Imperial Path to Modernity fulfills two purposes. First, itis an intellectual biography of Yoshino. It treats Yoshino as a thinker while a student at Tokyo University and in Europe, as a Christian of Hongō Church and disciple of Ebina Danjō, as an on-site observer of the human and political realities in China and Korea, and as a scholar at Tōdai and a publicist for Chūō kōron and the Asahi newspaper. Han does not take the reader on excursions into Yoshino’s childhood, his family, his personal religious faith, or his final years. Second, it is an account of the journey of a set of notions, labeled variously by Han as “liberal imperialist expansion.” These concepts solidified in Yoshino’s mind during the Russo-Japanese War and the Great War, persisted through the Manchurian Incident in the hands of the Japanese Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, and culminated in the Shōwa Kenkyūkai ideology of the late 1930s. Despite the prewar timeframe of the narrative, these ideas are not posited as causes of war, but rather as considered responses to the continental violence, political chaos, economic change and big-power hegemony that confronted Japan.
Jung-Sun N. Han is on the faculty of International Studies at Korea University in Seoul. The present study is an outgrowth of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Washington. She utilizes a wide range of primary and secondary Japanese and English-language sources and conducted research at the Yoshino Sakuzō Memorial Museum in Miyagi.
Han reminds us that in the early twentieth century the notion of “ethical imperialism” was embraced by liberals throughout the world, including Yoshino and his associates Tokutomi Sohō and Ukita Kazutami. Yoshino’s education at Tokyo University grounded him in a Hegelian, nation-state-centred view of human progress in which government was the primary agent for betterment. Under the preaching of Pastor Ebina Danjō, Yoshino came to understand this as a secularized Christian cultural order. It was at Hongō Church where he listened to Shimada Saburō’s liberal rationale for colonization, wherein Korea could be lifted from its backward torpor and transformed by a rigorous and progressive Japan. Throughout his scholarly career ran a consistent commitment to the Meiji ethos of constitutional monarchy to which Yoshino applied the term minponshugi, or government in the interest of the people. He was a liberal in the sense that he wished to cleanse the Meiji spirit of the absolutist influences of bureaucracy and transcendental cabinets. After the First World War, Yoshino was drawn to the labour activism of Suzuki Bunji—also a Hongō congregant—as a means to spread economic benefits among the working classes and to the democratic socialist movement which called on the government to be the mover for economic reform and efficiency.
Drawing from the reports Yoshino sent back to Hongō Church, Han vividly depicts the field experience of Yoshino in China. The recent university graduate spent three years after the Russo-Japanese War in Tianjin as the private tutor of the son of Yuan Shikai. What he saw in China convinced him of the educational role Japan could play to bring China into modernity. When the Qing Dynasty abdicated in 1912, Yoshino was disappointed that China embraced the republicanism of America rather than the constitutional monarchy of Japan. In 1914 Yoshino supported Japan’s Twenty-one Demands, even the notorious Fifth Group of requests. Throughout his career Yoshino accepted the common wisdom that China was incapable of the polity and borders of a modern state. Nonetheless, he welcomed rising nationalism in both China and Korea as signs that, with patient guidance by Japan, these societies could be cleansed of repressive social institutions and throw off the shackles imposed by Western, and even Japanese, commercial exploitation.
Yoshino’s sensitivity to the interest of colonials increased noticeably after World War I. In his writings he enjoined a debate on the application of the Meiji Constitution in Korea and Taiwan, and was critical of condescending attitudes toward colonials among his compatriots. The Reimeikai—a liberal student organization he inspired—promoted yūwa (amalgamation) as a colonial policy alternative to dōka (assimilation). Yoshino believed that, in the postwar settlement and the founding of the League of Nations, the might-is-right ethic had been uprooted, and Japan should follow suit by eschewing naked militarism and selfish interest. By applying the new tenets of international morality, Japan could mount liberal internationalism to an elevated stature among nations. At the same time, he warned that the new world order was conservative in that the powers retained their dominant role.
In the final two chapters of the book, Han moves away from Yoshino to address how Yoshino’s brand of liberalism played out in the hands of others during and after the Manchurian Incident. Here the focus is upon the Japan Council of the Institute of Pacific Relations, which wrestled in the IPR’s biennial conferences with Japan’s military action in Manchuria, the form of Japanese leadership in post-Mukden Manchuria, and an East Asian order to succeed the demise of League of Nations influence in the region. In his many references to the IPR, it is surprising that Han says nothing about Nitobe Inazō, chairman of the Japanese Council from 1928 until his death in 1933 and head of the delegations to the IPR conferences Han treats. Han does rightly focus on an intellectual, Rōyama Masamichi, who was Yoshino’s student and successor at Tōdai and a leading theorist and spokesman for Japan at IPR meetings. As a member of Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro’s brain trust, Rōyama after the opening of the China War laid the intellectual foundations for kyōdōtai, or “East Asian cooperative community,” which rationalized aggression. Here we see in full bloom what Eri Hotta terms meishuron Pan-Asianism, or East Asian integration under deliberate Japanese instigation.
Han’s work on Yoshino Sakuzō’s thought adds immeasurably to our understanding of early twentieth-century Japanese liberals and how their benevolent impulses were folded into the self-serving imperial project.
Thomas W. Burkman, University at Buffalo (SUNY), Buffalo, USA
How and to what extent does Japanese religion (referred to as JR below) respond to, carry and deal with the influence of globalization? Is the gurōbaru (global) of the 2000s parallel to the kokusai (international) of the 1980s in being primarily discourse rather than actually being manifested as practice? Does globalization have important alternatives to the often implied “Westernization,” and what does JR globalization look like? These are some of the questions raised and responded to by Ugo Dessi in the present work.
The book is divided into nine chapters plus an introduction and conclusion.
The introduction serves as the theoretical framework for the whole book, outlining a general list of six roles played by religion within globalization which are further developed in a Japanese context with a typology of 14 different ways in which JR accommodates globalization. These naturally overlap, but are separated as types with which to analyze responses to globalization, primarily observed at the systemic and institutional level within both traditional religions and new religious movements.
A discussion of key concepts (“religion,” “globalization,” “glocalization”) is necessary particularly in a Japanese context. The author shows an acquaintance with important theories and debates within the research literature, and although aware of challenges, such as the biases of relativizationand eurocentrism, he is not afraid of using models from the sociology of religion in particular, as well as giving working definitions (16) and an outline of periods of Japanese globalization (19–23).
The rest of the chapters are based on the typology of the 14 topics. Chapter 2 illustrates religious pluralism (interreligious dialogue at Mt. Hiei), inclusivism (religious cooperation through ideas of a common, religious source), and exclusivism (Meiji persecutions of Christianity/Buddhism and Soka Gakkai’s aggressive mission). Such strategies of negotiating (types 1–3) with other religious traditions and their truth claims are part of the theologian’s toolbox, but also function as an analytical tool to capture varieties of institutional religion, including hierarchies, hegemonies and culturalism as disguised universalism (nihonjinron).
Modern Shinto weddings and human rights issues are examples of “Western” influences incorporated into JR (type 4), and it might be interesting to have this topic followed by contemporary “Westernized” versions of Asian “spirituality” (yoga, meditation, feng shui, etc.) having returned to Japan. The opposite direction of selecting “native” elements to produce “new,” glocal religion (type 5; such as Shinto ecology, animism and syncretism) shows the diverse process of chapter 3’s “shaping new glocal identities.” The latter is related to the cultural chauvinism (chapter 4) also voiced in discourses of the superiority of JR (type 6) compared with foreign influences, or even involving the rejection (type 7) of such influences. Dessi illustrates this with Mahikari and Kofuku no Kagaku, as well as general, reverse orientalist images of “Western individualism” as “Western values” (65).
Glocalization overseas (chapter 5) parallels but also puts into different perspective the challenges of JR. These can be revealed in the marking of identity, either by emphasizing the superiority of Japanese culture (type 10), or by rejecting foreign elements (type 11). Such reactions are particularly typical of first-generation immigrants, and are often implied as an institutional strategy of mission or accommodation. Another response involves the adaptation of foreign elements (type 8; e.g. Zen being “Americanized”) or hybridization based on native elements (type 9, as when Pure Land Buddhism incorporates Zen meditation).
Chapter 6 deals with JR as a carrier of globalization, by influencing other cultures (type 12). Such “soft power” is seen in today’s popular culture, but earlier proselytizing of traditional or new religions, the “Zen boom” and trans-institutional initiatives such as macrobiotics are also examples of this. Particularly the latter and the paragraph on JR organizations funding academic work on JR are new and illustrative.
The author understands secularization as the processes of functional differentiation in which religion is one such system. Negotiation and competition with other such systems are the subject of chapters 7 and 8, corresponding to type 13 (negotiations with politics, science and education), and further discussed in chapter 9, corresponding to type 14 (addressing social problems that are unresolved by other subsystems). The postwar constitution, Soka Gakkai’s and Kofuku no Kagaku’s involvement in politics, the issue of Yasukuni shrine, religion in school education, ethics, environment, poverty, inequality, health and values are topics that are discussed with concrete illustrations from organized religions, networks and NGOs.
In the concluding chapter, the varieties of responses to and negotiations of globalization are wrapped up, asserting that globalization “provides the framework through which religious communication is conceived and religious change takes place, be it intentionally or unintentionally” (149). So what might be against globalization from an emic view is actually, from an etic view, within globalization (149). Globalization is thus seen as a condition, the consequence of an irreversible process, which is also how modernity is often positioned. This might be so, but the assertion of the final line, that religious change is likely to be more and more the outcome of globally minded choices “irrespective of the extent to which they are perceived as such by the religious actors involved in the process” (304) would perhaps benefit from the support of additional arguments.
Another critical remark could be made regarding the overall typological setup framing the content of the book. The framework with the 14 types of responses to and negotiations of globalization is not only relevant and insightful, but also highly applicable as a tool to comprehend the varieties of representation. So it is a pity that they do not stand out more clearly. Why are the two typologies (5–6 and 6–7) not made to correspond more clearly, for instance by compressing the 14 items, several of which are closely related, into a smaller number? Or perhaps an illustration could do the trick, thereby relieving the reader of the somewhat onerous task of remembering all the types thoughout the book.
Notwithstanding all this, Japanese Religions and Globalization deserves praise as a very important scholarly work. Globalization has not been addressed in such a focused and comprehensive manner before in relation to the context of Japanese religion; and the book is thus highly relevant, also more generally for Japanese studies and the comparative study of religion.
Jørn Borup, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
CHANGING LIVES: The “Postwar” in Japanese Women’s Autobiographies and Memoirs. Asia Past & Present: New Research from AAS, no. 10. By Ronald P. Loftus. Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2013. 206 pp. (Figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-924304-69-9.
In Changing Lives: The “Postwar” in Japanese Women’s Autobiographies and Memoirs, Ronald Loftus applies feminist critic’s Kana Masanao’s argument that men and women experienced Japan’s emergence into the postwar era differently. Indeed, the personal essays and memoirs that Loftus elegantly interweaves reveal Kano’s contention that for women, the heavy weight that had been lifted after the warwas indeed the “albatross” of “the very concept of the Japanese ‘male’ (otoko)” (2). But it is much more. As memoirist Yoshitake Teruko explains, the era represents “a revolution in consciousness” for women through their active participation in the antiwar movement of the 1950s and 1960s and women’s lib movement of the 1970s. Casting in relief Yoshitake’s notion that “defeat in war had been, for women, the most wonderful treasure imaginable” (2), Loftus traces moments of historical and personal reflexivity that allowed women to redefine themselves in resistance to a culture that continued to make inhabiting their newfound rights as equal citizens under the law an ongoing challenge.
Introducing some of the “Endings and Beginnings” that these women faced immediately after hearing the “imperial broadcast” (gyokuon hōsō), the garbled words of the emperor who explained that Japan must accept defeat, Loftus opens his analytic translation by juxtaposing this important historical moment with an array of personal moments that function as sites of self-discovery within the lives of women: for example, Okabe Itsuko’s retrospective embrace of the meaning of her fiancé’s final words to her, “this war is a mistake” (11); and Yoshitake’s ability, years after being gang-raped by American GIs during the Occupation, to confront her feelings of hatred and fear through the women’s movement.
Loftus convinces us of the value of these women’s writings as not only personal, but historical writings as well, providing us with telling details of women’s experiences and perspectives that histories so often lack. Knowing that Japanese women were granted the right to vote in April of 1946, for instance, is not the same thing as knowing that girls like Yoshitake “dragged” their mothers to the polls because they knew that “if you do not exercise this important right, then the status of women is likely to revert to what it was in the prewar period” (45). Loftus reminds us that the early postwar women’s movement represented a commitment to peace that spanned the Korean and Vietnam Wars, a torch passed “from woman to woman” through consciousness-raising (62), especially as women struggled to recast their roles as wives and mothers against their new roles as (often token) career women. Yoshitake’s narratives provide the transition between the antiwar and women’s movements so often missing from the histories of postwar Japan, the notion that women’s participation in these important protests paved the way for the Women’s Lib Movement in 1970, in which women unfurled their flag of resentment (怨) in the streets of Tokyo.
The idea of the transformative moment is extended to the writing process in Loftus’ focus on journalist Kishino Junko, who came to see her battle with breast cancer as “the inevitable rebellion of my own body against … me placing work above all else” (115) in a journalistic career that eventually caused Kishino to feel “haunted by recurring feelings of regret that I had virtually erased a part of me that is woman … and had made myself just like me, for whom competition and one’s success in the workplace are everything” (137). And yet it is the transformation of experience into language that becomes the sense of “consciousness” that Kishino craved as a feminist in the 1970s. As Loftus observes, Kishino “occupies that moment of reflexivity” through her writing and, “in effect, not only encounters her own agency but transforms it as well” (117).
Following up on a previous collection of women’s memoirs from the interwar years, Telling Lives, Loftus wisely foregrounds the voices of the women whose lives he chronicles in this new volume, rather than let his analysis get in the way of the women’s writing. My one minor criticism is that I think that Loftus could have retained this primacy of the women’s voices even while weaving his analyses a bit more subtly into the fabric of his chapter, rather than saving the bulk of the analysis for the end of the chapter under the subheading “analysis,” which too radically marginalizes his strong interpretive abilities.
What intrigues me as a scholar of the postwar and contemporary women’s literature is the way in which the authors’ postwar experience is examined through the lens of the contemporary, with Yoshitake and Okabe’s memoirs both being written as recently as 2006, for instance. Looking at history through both ends of the telescope, we find ourselves in the present day in the final chapter, “Framing Gender Questions,” in which Kanamori Toshie, whose professional career allowed her an active life and way of supporting herself after her husband’s death, discusses very current women’s questions revolving around male participation in the domestic sphere. Claiming that women must let go of the “curse” that they must be the sole caregiver of elders, for instance, Kanamori asserts that increased social services should play a role, but so too should men themselves. Males who participate in caring for elders not only allow women to play more significant roles outside the household, but in doing so, men can also glean “the very human experience of understanding how fragile and precious life can be, which comes with
the act of caring for another” (164). This “horizontal” personal experience, as opposed to the vertical “chain of command” experience that many men are accustomed to in their working lives, allows men to expand their own frame of reference as human beings. While it would appear in some ways that women are still struggling to free themselves from the heavy weight of the otoko, Changing Lives offers compelling evidence for just how the transformation of women’s lives has been taking place in Japan for nearly three quarters of a century, moment by moment, story by story.
Lee Friederich, University of Wisconsin-Barron County, Rice Lake, USA
Engaging and lucidly written, ethnomusicologist David Novak’s Japanoise offers a dynamic analysis of Noise: an underground experimental music formed through transnational circulation of recordings, discourses, cultural imaginaries and creative agents, ranging from listeners to cassette tape collectors, record shop owners, and performers. The book’s title refers to the common view that Noise hails from Japan—an origin myth the book complicates through a series of incisive cultural analyses. Based on extensive fieldwork in Japan and North America spanning the past two decades, Novak weaves lively ethnographic narratives with archival, discursive and sonic analyses to provide innovative theoretical insights into global media circulation.
At first glance, the focus of Novak’s study seems dauntingly elusive. As an aesthetic practice, Noise is characterized by its ambiguity as neither genre nor music; it is defined by its “antisocial, antihistorical, antimusical obscurity” (15). Furthermore, the Noisicians and Noise fans who comprise the “scene” often lack self-identification, social cohesion or geographical foundation. This poses the methodological challenge of tracing the global movement of the loose assemblages of Noise fans and Noisicians, musical media and meanings. Rather than proposing an explanatory model for capturing this moving target in transnational circulation, Novak calls for an open-ended analysis that takes into account unanticipated consequences, productive misunderstandings, and new possibilities.
Despite these challenges, Japanoise maintains coherence through the notion of “feedback”: the conceptual anchor and the most innovative and productive contribution of the book. At once an ethnopoetic lens into the aesthetic principles of Noise and an analytic for describing social processes of cultural exchange and reciprocity, feedback foregrounds how circulation is not simply a movement or process but rather an inherent constituent of creative cultural formation. In Noise performance, feedback is generated by overloading a circuit, often made with guitar effect pedals, microphones and other electronics, by feeding output back into input. The result is an increasing intensification and distortion of sound that reaches the threshold of disintegration. This acoustic principle works as an effective metaphor as a “critique of cultural globalization, a process of social interpretation, a practice of musical performance and listening, and a condition of subjectivity” (17). Rather than conceiving circulation as a passive background against which cultural exchange happens, this powerful concept puts relational analysis of global circulation into constant movement, enabling us to see the productive forces of the messiness of circulation.
The impact of this innovative conceptualization of “feedback” spans various fields, including cybernetics, anthropology, economics, media studies, and popular music studies. Two areas of debate where Novak’s notion of feedback makes a significant contribution are highlighted here. First, while the notion of feedback has already been in use in various social scientific fields to analyze cultural circulation as a mechanism for social equilibrium, Japanoise animates this self-contained notion of feedback by highlighting inherent dynamisms and their potential for producing new possibilities, as well as failures. Secondly, Novak’s notion of feedback challenges Jacques Attali’s canonic work on noise by complicating his mutually exclusive formulation of music and noise, and showing the limitations of his monolithic conception of noise as a totalizing category of difference. Feedback, dynamically conceived, generates differences as it spins out of control; Novak’s insistence on ethnographic attention to the micropractices and individualized embodiments of Noise is a valuable reminder of the importance of recognizing differences within Attali’s “noise.”
Japanoise also challenges the presumed binary between recorded music and live performance, between musicians and audience—analytical variables that are, despite some critical misgivings, still pervasive in scholarship on popular music. Rather than simply assigning agency to consumers, as many cultural studies scholars have done, Novak shows how participatory listening is constitutive of Noise performance, and how the circulation of musical media is a productive culture-making practice. Whereas creative repurposing of technology has been examined in popular music studies, Novak’s take on the agentful role that technologically mediated listening plays in the formation of Noise is a fresh perspective, one sure to impact how creative agency is conceptualized in popular music studies and ethnomusicology.
Echoing the acoustic principle of feedback, the well-crafted book’s key themes loop back to reveal layers of meaning—a case in point being the way the aesthetic description of Noise in the earlier chapters leads to a nuanced analysis of the political potential of the practice in the later chapters. Chapter 1 establishes the idiosyncratic aesthetic principle of Noise, which is based on producing feedback until reaching a breaking point; Noisicians seek to be subsumed by technology, rather than to exercise control over technology. The next three chapters familiarize the reader with the esoteric Noise scene by locating the subterranean distribution networks of Noise recordings (chapter 2), examining the recursivity of listening and playing among Noise fans (chapter 3), and providing a nuanced account of the paradoxically constitutive politics of genre-labeling (chapter 4). In turn, the aesthetic logic of Noise lends itself as a metaphor for the political possibilities of revealing the human confrontation against an overwhelmingly technologized society (chapter 5), a critique of the self-destructive trajectory of technocultural capitalism in Japan (chapter 6), and a form of resistance against the anonymity of online culture and excessive consumerism (chapter 7).
One question remained unanswered for me: precisely what kind of concretely situated social “differences” are embodied and experienced by Japanese Noisicians in contemporary Japan? With a few exceptions, Noisicians portrayed in the book are primarily middle class and male. The lived differences of Noise fans and Noisicians within Japanese society are somewhat obscured by the radically individualized and gender-ambiguous notion of “technocultural subjectivity.” In what ways might social unevenness and difference be implicated in the Noisician’s radical cultural politics? By tenaciously staying underground, what kinds of exclusionary politics might the Noise scene produce, and how does this exclusivity—in terms of access to technology or cultural capital—play into one’s ability to critically engage with/against Japan’s capitalist technoculture? In light of the author’s commitment to the embodied differences among creative subjects of Noise, readers might benefit even more if Japanoise pushed its analytical insistence on differences further to show how the individual embodiment of Noise articulates with social differences in everyday lived experience.
A remarkable display of scholarly integrity, Japanoise is grounded in deep commitment to the aesthetic drive of an expressive culture, locally grounded intellectual insights, and theoretical interventions with broad interdisciplinary implications. As Novak recuperates the productive culture of Noise from—or rather, through—obscurity, he offers significant cross-disciplinary analytical contributions. It won’t be long before we start to hear the amplified echoes of Novak’s analytical insights, resonating in the feedback loops of future scholarship on global media circulation, underground cultural movements, critiques of technocultural subjectivities, and other aesthetic forms of creative destruction.
Marié Abe, Boston University, Boston, USA
NON-TRADITIONAL SECURITY ISSUES IN NORTH KOREA. Hawai‘i Studies on Korea. By Kyung-Ae Park. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai‘i 2013. ix, 265 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$54.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3739-6.
A recurring, though mostly unspoken current in many analyses of North Korea builds on a perception of North Korean immutability. This notion of North Korean stasis in turn leads to a high predictability of responses to developments in North Korea. This predictability is fed by a very narrow interest span. Simply put, North Korea gains international attention when it stirs political waters and reminds the world that the Korean conflict is ongoing, the war unfinished. Policy towards North Korea is then unsurprisingly reduced to and driven by security concerns. Non-Traditional Security Issues in North Korea seeks to address this question from two different angles. For one, it questions the prevailing realist approach to North Korea as sterile and largely out of touch with the development of both IR theory (Copenhagen School) and practice (UN initiatives regarding Responsibility to Protect and human security). Second, this volume engages this new theory and agenda and asks what non-traditional security issues North Korea faces and how these inform the traditional security agenda. Brendan Howes’s concluding chapter neatly summarizes these theoretical developments and how they confront the international community with a North Korean “insecurity dilemma” (239): how to deal with an internally weakened state that adopts an outwardly strong posture, in a changed international normative environment driven by “comprehensive security” concerns. A very concrete example of this dilemma is raised in Tsuneo Akaha’s chapter on Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in the face of North Korea’s failure to protect its citizens. In a meticulously crafted chapter introducing the development of the UN debate on R2P, Tsuneo Akaha not only shows the normative shifts taking place within the international community, but also highlights the tension between a formally rather narrowly defined R2P and the broader concept of human security (as favoured by the UNDP). Despite the fact that the UN General Assembly in September 2005 agreed that the principle of R2P meant the international community had “a responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means … to help States build capacity to protect their populations” (159), Akaha narrowly interprets international intervention as military intervention only. Intervention as meant by the above cited paragraph 139 reads rather (and primarily) as a call for engagement.
How engagement leading to the easing of some of North Korea’s non-traditional security issues affects traditional security concerns is broached in the contribution by David von Hippel and Peter Hayes, from the Nautilus Institute, on North Korea’s energy security and in W. Randall Ireson’s chapter on food security. Written by experts with plentiful experience on the ground, these chapters stand out for their detailed, nuanced and informed assessment of the complexity and interrelatedness of these security challenges, and of the role the international community can/has to play in alleviating them. (In turn, Mark Manyin’s statistically rich chapter on North Korea’s external sources of food security is an antidote for daydreamers who ignore Pyongyang’s strategic playing off of foreign partners.) Both chapters on energy and food security are also refreshingly nonpolitical in their reading of the problems and their solutions, something that returns in Scott Snyder’s nuanced discussion of the specific contribution NGOs can make to North Korea’s non-traditional security. Snyder reminds us for example that both North Korean authorities and NGOs went through a learning curve after North Korea opened up to international aid. He makes a particularly strong case for a specific NGO role in alleviating non-traditional security needs, whether in terms of energy, food or health-related development projects. He stresses in this respect the importance of NGOs’ political independence from both the home and local government. The same is true when it comes to securing the rights of North Korean refugees, a subject raised by Shin-Wha Lee in a chapter on the international legal ramifications of the North Korean refugee situation, particularly in China. The legal complexity of the refugee crisis is readily apparent in the confusion regarding the naming of this group: refugees, asylum seekers, defectors or illegal migrants. Clearly, politically independent NGOs have an important role to play in raising public awareness and keeping pressure on the UNHCR and relevant governments.
Looking at security beyond the state, Kyung-Ae Park reminds us that there is a gender-specific aspect to North Korea’s economic crisis. The economic meltdown of the late 1990s and the rise of a market economy led to a certain economic empowerment of women. However, this empowerment is qualified by the largely unregulated nature of the markets and the actual legal void within which women traders operate. Another gender-specific aspect is the overrepresentation of women among refugees, many of whom end up in various kinds of exploitative relations.
In a bold contribution, David Kang returns to the 2005 Banco Delta Asia episode, demystifies North Korea as the “Soprano State,” and questions the politics of the criminalization of North Korea. Not only does he do what any serious scholar and/or journalist ought to do: the sobering exercise of checking the facts; he also brings in a much needed comparative perspective when discussing North Korea’s alleged counterfeit super dollars (78), or its drug trafficking (81–2). While not discounting North Korea’s illegal activities, Kang does ask a pertinent political question: “Is the United States willing to co-exist in a long-term relationship with North Korea?” (86).
Although the individual contributions are somewhat uneven, and the various case studies are too narrowly North America focused (ignoring EU programs), this is a stimulating collection of papers that may help scholars, analysts and policy makers think differently about North Korean security issues. A greater effort could have been made to integrate the different contributions into a well-structured edited volume.
Koen De Ceuster, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
POPULIST COLLABORATORS: The Ilchinhoe and the Japanese Colonization of Korea, 1896–1910. By Yumi Moon. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2013. xiii, 296 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5041-9.
The most notorious Korean organization, denounced by many (then and today) for its “treasonous” role in the 1910 Japanese annexation of Korea, was the Ilchinhoe, translated by the author of this full-fledged study as “Advance in Unity Society.” Yumi Moon’s is a bold and meticulously argued study, with incontrovertible evidence filling up all its substantive chapters. Yet ultra-nationalists on either side of divided Korea today are not likely to take kindly to her findings, for while never questioning the Ilchinhoe’s odious role in Japan’s takeover of Korea, the author also shows it to have been a reformist organization that was able to rapidly build a truly mass following, ranging anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 members.
It combined a sharp critique of the corruption, incompetence, and “tyranny” of the Chosŏn dynasty’s moribund years with concrete actions for reform, designed not only to ameliorate grass-roots economic distress but also to empower the dispossessed and disenfranchised sections of society, especially in the rural areas. Its early reform platform, stressing people’s “natural” rights, popular participation in government, a limited monarchy, and a national assembly, recalled the writings of Western-inspired reformist elites in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially the failed movement of the Independence Club (1896–1898). The Ilchinhoe also incorporated, however, the more widely based elements of another failed movement called the Tonghak Uprising (1894–1895).
During the late nineteenth century, the Chosŏn Dynasty feebly limped along due to internal factional squabbles, foreign meddling and plots, palace upheavals, assassinations, revolving-door politics of rather bewildering sequences, and reforms announced and reforms quashed. Amidst all this, many Koreans came to admire the Japanese achievements in political, social, educational, cultural, economic, technological and military advancement. The weakness and defeat of Qing China in the 1894–1895 Sino-Japanese War had made China an unreliable ally for the Korean reformists. Russia, looming large, was aggressive, untrustworthy and beyond the average Korean’s cultural pale. Japan, with its Confucian-Buddhist-Daoist threads of affinity with Korea, which in ancient times had served as an intellectual and cultural bridge from continental Asia to the island nation, assiduously cultivated Korean supporters for its own ambition in the country and on the continent by presenting itself as a model that Koreans could profit from. Beyond that, many Japanese leaders, some inside the government and others outside, and some more subtly than others, also championed the concept of Pan-Asianism, under which Japanese tutelage would offer Korea shared prosperity and progress over time while keeping the predatory Western imperialisms at bay.
Thus when the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) broke out, the Ilchinhoe emerged as a vocal and active supporter of Japan while steadily gaining adherents for its tax-resistance, tax reform and other significant economic plans for the masses. And plans quickly translated to action. Though inevitably there was some disarray in its rank and file, some uncoordinated action at the bottom with its central leaders, some heavy-handedness by its followers bordering at times on wanton behaviour and lawlessness, the Ilchinhoe in some areas acted like a mini state within a state, flexing its political muscle through both legal and extra-legal means, collecting taxes according to its own pragmatic definitions of right and wrong, and channeling funds for its own aims, including modern educational schools. In all this, its activists from below commanded as much power as its national leaders. In this respect, it seemed to be Korea’s first modern mass organization. Moon does not go to the extent of calling the Ilchinhoe a democratic organization, for its ideology was not articulated beyond some rhetorical flourishes in that direction, but she justifiably calls its campaign a “populist” movement.
Awakening to the overwhelming power of Japan in the wake of its victory over Russia and then seeing its relentless political juggernaut in Korea, the Ilchinhoe leaders ultimately took the path of least resistance to Tokyo. Persuaded by Japanese professions of friendly goals for Korea, they naively opted for calls seeking Japan’s annexation of Korea. They had made so many enemies among the traditional conservatives as well as among modern nationalists that they almost seemed to have left no other choice for themselves. The new Japanese rulers of Korea decided, on the other hand, that having softened up the Korean monarchy for their own machinations, the Ilchinhoe had exhausted its usefulness to them. After all, any organization aimed at reforming Korea from below could easily challenge the highly centralized structures and methods of Japan’s own designs for Korea. The Japanese rulers could not countenance such a fraught possibility. Thus soon after their goal of annexing Korea was accomplished, they ordered the disbandment of the Ilchinhoe. With various blandishments added, its leaders were neutralized by the Japanese, though many of its followers were not. Neither were masses of other Koreans who now had to decide how to face the prospect of their national identity becoming nothing but a hand-maiden of Japan. Pan-Asianism seemed only a cover for Japanese empire-building.
Upon reading this book’s section about the Ilchinhoe’s dealings with Japan, one is left with an impression not so much of any nefariousness on the part of its leaders as of their folly. And though in its domestic reformist activity, this body clearly had its villains and rogues, one could just as easily put together a rich portrait gallery of crooks and thugs on the other side as well. Overall, this book revalidates my own research years ago, when I wrote a short, preliminary article on this body (in Occasional Papers on Korea, The University of Washington, Seattle, 1974). Author Moon makes a gracious reference to it in her extensive, richly documented book.
Finally, other than some repetitive parts causing a bit of tedium that better editing could have easily reduced, Moon has written a very nuanced work that is sure to be the subject of many animated discussions in Korean history circles.
Vipan Chandra, Wheaton College, Norton, USA
TYRANNY OF THE WEAK: North Korea and the World, 1950–1992. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Charles K. Armstrong. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013. viii, 307 pp. (Figures, B&W photos.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5082-2.
Despite the recent emergence of interests in North Korea, historical monographs about its foreign relations have been lacking. Armstrong’s book admirably helps to fill this gap. Drawing on archival materials from former communist countries in Eastern Europe, China and the Soviet Union, he reconstructs North Korea’s foreign relations in the global context.
In chapter 1, Armstrong first shows the context of the North Korean attack on South Korea in June 1950, drawing on Soviet and Chinese documents. Then, he offers an original account of the occupation policies of South and North Korea, along with brutalities committed by both sides, as zones of occupations changed during the war. Kim Il Sung developed suspicions about the Soviet Union and China by the end of the war, and wished to pursue a policy of self-reliance (50). However, for the post-war reconstruction, North Korea had to rely heavily on Soviet assistance. Chapter 2 offers vivid accounts about the reconstruction of Pyongyang and Hamhŭng city, which was rebuilt with assistance from East Germany.
In chapter 3, Armstrong shows the process through which Kim Il-sung consolidated his leadership in the 1950s by purging the Soviet-Korean and Yanan groups (99). While blocking the destabilizing effects of de-Stalinization, Kim’s regime began promoting its nationalistic Juche ideology, and began distancing itself from China as well. With the emergence of the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s, Kim skilfully maintained a diplomatic balance between them. Armstrong confirms that the signing of two similar alliance treaties with Beijing and Moscow in July 1961 were the outcome of Kim’s masterful manipulation through phased secret negotiations, rather than an outcome of trilateral cooperation in the communist bloc (125). The author shows that this method of carefully steering “a course between the Soviet Union and China, refusing to take sides” continued until the end of the Cold War. Through such skilful diplomacy, Pyongyang gained economic assistance and pledges of military aid from both sides.
During the 1960s North Korea made progress in securing support from newly independent countries in Asia and Africa as a seemingly successful example of postcolonial nation-building, as shown in chapter 4 (143). During the Vietnam War, North Korea covertly provided a small number of pilots and medicine to North Vietnam while South Korea openly sent combat troops to support the US war efforts. From the late 1960s, Pyongyang embarked on a series of provocative actions in its policy toward South Korea and the United States. In particular, detaining a US intelligence vessel and its crew during the Pueblo Incident was regarded as too provocative by Moscow. But with the start of détente diplomacy between China and the United States, North Korea reached a short-lived agreement with South Korea in July 1972, which pledged to refrain from mutual criticism and to pursue unification through dialogue and without foreign interference.
During the 1970s, North Korea exerted its efforts to reach out to the United States, Japan and western European countries. But chapter 5 shows that such efforts could not achieve much success, with the decline of detente mood within the Korean peninsula and in Asia more widely since the mid-1970s. Pyongyang’s provocations, exemplified by its brutal murder of two American officers in August 1976, further tainted the North Korean image. Its efforts to expand economic interactions with Japanese and European banks also ended with it defaulting on its foreign debt by the mid-1970s. Meanwhile, North Korea continued its efforts to gain support in the Third World. While expanding its diplomatic reach in Africa, Pyongyang also supported rightwing dictators Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Idi Amin of Uganda. North Korea also gave support to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Republic after the Iranian revolution in 1979 (185). Despite such a diplomatic drive in the Third World, Juche was never an attractive model for the Third World, though it remained more useful for domestic propaganda and diplomatic rivalry with South Korea (205).
In chapter 6, Armstrong shows how Kim Jung Il came to consolidate his position as the successor of his father through an elaborate personality cult beginning in the early 1980s. Based on the synthesis of scholarly literature, the author also explains how the transformation of North Korean official ideology, emphasizing Confucian virtues of filial piety and “revolutionary lineage,” justified such a feudal power transfer. But, in the international arena, the non-alignment movement lost momentum while the military balance with South Korea turned against Pyongyang in the second half of the 1980s. The author explains that the marked rise of North Korean terrorist attacks on South Korea was driven by its weakness and fear of a declining correlation of forces (236). Chapter 7 shows how North Korea, faced with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc at the end of the Cold War, chose to pursue fervently nationalistic Korean-style socialism.
In the epilogue, the author succinctly shows how North Korea has struggled to secure its regime survival though “military-first politics,” while failing to emulate the Chinese model of economic opening. He also offers a sharp critique of the approach towards North Korea of George W. Bush’s administration. In his assessment, the Bush administration’s unnecessarily hawkish policy and “Rhetorical Conflation,” defining North Korea as a part of the Axis of Evil, further emboldened North Korea’s resolve to pursue nuclear weapons capability.
Tyranny of the Weak is a welcome addition to the literature on North Korea and the broader history of international relations. It is well couched on small state theory, which underscores the ability of weak states to secure autonomy and influence through a skilful use of diplomacy. While often assuming a sympathetic view of North Korea’s unique situation, the author does not turn a blind eye to the brutality of the North Korean regime.
Armstrong successfully shows North Korea’s interaction with the world based on a masterly use of new historical sources as well as secondary sources in many languages. Nevertheless, when discussing the twists and turns of North Korean diplomacy, the author could have consulted the South Korean foreign ministry archives and American archives further. Still, Armstrong admirably achieves success in showing the evolution of North Korea’s foreign relations in a truly global context, much in line with the mainstream approach in historical scholarship today.
Seung-young Kim, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
INDIA TODAY: Economy, Politics and Society. By Stuart Corbridge, John Harriss and Craig Jeffrey. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley [distributor], 2013. xv, 384 pp. (Figures, tables.) C$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7456-6112-4.
India Today is a vigorously informative volume that conscientiously examines some of the big debates of contemporary India in the context of wide-ranging empirical and theoretical perspectives. The co-authored text will be extremely relevant for academics, students, policy makers and development practitioners working in India and beyond, as well as those curious to understand more about the extent and nature of economic, political and social transformations taking place in post-liberal India.
Stuart Corbridge, John Harriss and Craig Jeffrey have well-established research commitments in India and bring their intimate knowledge to bear on a series of timely questions which represent the titles of stand alone, yet intersecting chapters: When and why did India take off? How have the poor fared (and others too)? Why hasn’t economic growth delivered more for Indian workers? Is the Indian state delivering on promises of “inclusive growth” and social justice? How did a weak state promote audacious reforms? Has India’s democracy been a success? Is government in India becoming more responsive? Does India have a civil society? Has the rise of Hindu nationalism halted? Why has Maoism become such a force in India? Does India have a civil society? Does caste still matter in India? How much have things changed for Indian women? Can India benefit from its demographic dividend? The answers to these subjects are examined through a broad and rigorous review of the literature to illuminate contrasting arguments across different sites and scales of analysis, within India and beyond. This capacity to navigate a range of disciplinary approaches and regional material reflects the interdisciplinary and situated expertise of the authors and contributes to one of the book’s greatest achievements.
Concerning the trajectory of India’s economic “take off,” Corbridge, Harriss and Jeffrey are careful to nuance the more popularized narrative of India’s “neoliberal turn” in 1991 with the IMF reforms. Instead, they place this moment within the context of India’s much earlier liberalizing tendencies and institution building to show how these practices provided the fertile foundations for India’s longstanding economic growth to accelerate. Readers acquainted with Harriss and Corbridge’s earlier work, Reinventing India, may find this relatively familiar territory. Yet, this book importantly expands the lens on India’s economic successes to chapters that critically assess the unevenness of economic growth and its manifestations, notably around employment and poverty alleviation. In the context of the Government of India’s public commitment to “inclusive growth,” attention is turned to the efficacy of “pro-poor” policies (Right to Education, Right to Food and Right to Work) that were largely implemented under the Congress-led coalition. These have been mainly celebrated in the global development community, not least India’s Right to Work Act, however Corbridge et al.’s optimism is somewhat tempered by their grounded insights into the politics of the Indian middle classes. They argue that in everyday life, the aspirations of India’s middle classes conflict with, and often compromise, the aims of “pro-poor” policies and efforts to address uneven development.
The second section turns the attention to politics to unpack India’s politics-business nexus and reveal how this has fundamentally informed the shape of India’s post-liberal landscape, comprising economic reforms by stealth and a notably pro-business rather than a pro-market agenda. The notion of India’s democratic success and extent is unraveled through a methodical discussion that contrasts the scope of its formal and substantive processes since Independence. This generally positive story is further nuanced through an examination of the limits of governance and the lived realities of progressive democratization in contemporary India, where questions hang over whether the “right” people benefit from political power across different scales. The ways in which power has found expression through overt and more banal forms of everyday violence represents the backdrop for thinking about the fortune of Hindu Nationalism and of Maoism. Despite the Hindu right Bharatiya Janata Party being currently out of power in the national government, the tract of Hindutva sentiment and its pernicious anti-Muslim rhetoric remains intact. Meanwhile, situated within a broader discussion around “insurgency,” it is argued that Maoism has gained traction in India’s rural resource-rich states due to a complex, situated relationship between political mobilization, state maladministration, accumulated grievance and liberalization. Yet, whilst the reasons behind the rise of Maoism in India may be contested, the overriding conclusion is that, in the end, the poorest will always lose out.
Although of course implicated in the first two sections of the book, the question of society in India today receives its own platform in the third and final section, where the circumstances of civil society, caste, women and India’s demographic dividend come under scrutiny. These form strong stand-alone chapters, but lack the kind of crosscutting arguments which cohere parts 1 and 2. More explicit linkages between the character of India’s civil society and the critiques leveled around middle-class politics and poverty alleviation may have been productive. However, the robust and logical analysis of the continued yet shifting centrality of caste underpins a particularly valuable chapter, not only for students and relative newcomers to India, but also those seeking clarity on what can be a perplexing aspect of Indian society. The mixed optimism on the situation for women in India serves to remind the reader of India’s uneven regional development, particularly in recent decades. Though the crucial social-economic indicators may be up, their scope is partial and mainly limited to urban areas and more progressive regions. The book moves towards its conclusion with a view to the future, and an examination of the potential for India to capitalize on its pending demographic dividend. Set in contrast to China, India’s future looks much bleaker, its failure to facilitate mass education and health services, infrastructure and good governance means it will likely squander this window for positive transformation.
It is a truism of reviews on such far-reaching volumes to point out areas not included, so perhaps it would be more interesting to speculate on the headline questions of a revised edition in twenty years time, when it is very likely that the vital and increasingly pressured nexus between water, food and the environment will be much harder to overlook in understanding the dynamics of India’s economy, politics and society. In sum, however, India Today impressively marks a particular moment in post-liberal India. The authors have succeeded in representing tremendous breadth and depth of perspectives and although offering their specific steer through the material they decline to close down the debates but instead enable the reader to interpret India’s complexities: its contradictions and juxtapositions and its achievements and flaws.
Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom
In his foreword to this useful and compact guide to public opinion surveys, Yogendra Yadav—the popular and media-savvy face of India’s public opinion polls—claims that “opinion polls are well-known and little understood in the Indian public life” (ix, emphasis added). As a user of Indian opinion surveys over the past three decades, I share his hope that this useful survey manual might go some way to combat what he calls “methodological illiteracy about opinion polls” (ix). However, “politicians, media persons and academics,” the three crucial segments of India’s opinion makers, are unlikely to flock to this text. This has to do with the style of the book—more a primer than an evocative introduction—and its inadequate engagement with the fabric of Indian society. Despite their erudition, Kumar and Rai have not quite succeeded in locating opinion polls within the multiple methods of social and economic research currently in vogue.
That the survey of political and social attitudes has made great strides in the Indian media over the past decades is easily seen from the omnipresent forecasts of voting intentions in the run-up to any election, and there is always one round the corner, somewhere, in India. The landmark post-poll survey of the Indian electorate following the 1996 parliamentary elections set off the new trend of supplementing political news with snapshots of opinions and attitudes. Since then polls have gained in sophistication, frequency and variety. There is scarcely a newspaper—English medium or published in one of India’s over twenty vernacular languages—or weekly and monthly magazine which does not cater to this growth industry. However, familiarity is not the same as knowledge, and surveys, imported from their original place of birth in the United States, have often become more of a fashion accessory in the media competition for readership than an aid to deepening the knowledge of the political and social process.
The main strength of the book lies in its meticulous, workman-like delineation of the survey method, an introduction to multistage stratified random sampling which is able to generate a sample rich enough to sustain detailed inquiries into the voting behaviour and political and social attitudes of sub-groups within the vast and culturally diverse Indian electorate. Chapter 3, where the authors focus on Multiple Methods of Measuring Voting Choices and explain why forecasting election results based on exit polls works well in the USA and why it fails in India, is one of the key lessons of this book. This, Kumar and Rai argue, is because in India, opinion polls never developed into an academic endeavour for analyzing elections but are mainly undertaken by market research and polling organizations for predicting seat distribution. Their suggestion for scrupulous attention to the forming of the questionnaire and precautions to take in administering them, and illustrations of how this can be done, are among the other valuable features of this useful book.
Despite these useful features of this book, there are some shortcomings that might detract from its appeal. Opinion surveys are par excellence methods of analyzing individual attitudes. And the voting preference of the individual is the mainstay of electoral democracy. Western students of Indian politics might be sceptical about the feasibility of the extension of these two basic assumptions to Indian society where organic and hierarchic social identities are the most prevalent social networks and where elections, in consequence, often acquire a different character from their Western equivalents. Many Indian readers of opinion surveys also share this scepticism about the veracity of polls. How free is a dalit (castes that were once untouchable and often remain so in practice though the practice of untouchability is a criminal offence) woman to vote, and how free is she to share her opinion and attitude with a stranger in a survey format? The fact of the matter is that such people vote copiously and strategically, but what makes this possible does not form part of the account of Kumar and Rai. The underlying processes that affect polling should have been highlighted more fully, particularly because this has been the focus of considerable research. The authors would have done well to delve into the scholarly attention devoted to these issues by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, to which they belong and which has done the pioneering work in this field. For an answer to the sociology of voting behaviour, such as, for example, whether voting decisions are influenced by “political rather than primordial group considerations,” one can turn to D.L. Sheth’s “Political Development of the Electorate” (15) and a series of other excellent essays in D.L. Sheth, ed., Citizens and Parties: Aspects of Competitive Politics in India (Delhi: Allied Publishers, 1975).
Survey research is not the only method of studying voting behaviour empirically. The authors could have dwelt on why ecological correlations, which analyze voting behaviour in terms of areas rather than individuals as units of analysis, has not caught on in India despite the availability of good census data and the matching of constituency units with their socio-economic composition. Similarly, the authors would have done well to refer to the use of multiple methods which makes it possible for survey researchers to look at their findings from other angles such as discourse analysis, aggregate data and path dependency that open the door to the currently popular evolutionary institutionalism, as supplementary methods that help survey researchers get more out of their material.
On the whole, the authors should be complimented for providing a useful link between the consumers of survey data and the producers of this vital tool of social and political research. They have paved the way for the deepening of the application of survey research to electoral analysis in the social and political context of non-Western societies.
Subrata K. Mitra, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
THE PITY OF PARTITION: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide. Lawrence Stone Lectures. By Ayesha Jalal. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. xv, 265 pp. (B&W photos.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-15362-9.
This is a highly readable book on the life and writings of the most outstanding Urdu short-story writer Saadat Hasan Manto (1912-1955), by the historian Ayesha Jalal, a close relative of Manto’s; her father was his nephew.
Jalal expands her ambit from archival material, which hitherto has been her only source of writing on the Partition, to include oral history as she moves away from high politics to the stark ground reality of unprecedented violence that claimed more than a million lives and forced 14-18 million people to cross the India-Pakistan border at the time of Partition in mid-1947.
However, she expresses doubts about oral history as a reliable source for scholarly research. She remarks: “Privileging memories shaped by violent ruptures cannot but provide a distorting prism for looking into the history of the entire gamut of social and political relations” (13). It is an involved construction because there is nothing to suggest that memory should be privileged. Methodological innovation which does not privilege one source material over the other and attempts a multi-layered analysis combining high politics, the conduct of officialdom in the field, and the experiences of the people, three levels in the structure and process of the partition, is certainly an option.
Conventional historians, including Jalal, put their pens down once government reports on the partition prepared by the British ceased to be available (not written at all or those that remain classified up to this day) after the 14th of August, when power was transferred to Indian and Pakistani administrations in the partitioned Punjab. However, political scientists can link these levels in a theoretical framework to attempt a holistic and comprehensive study of that great upheaval. In my book, The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012), I have demonstrated the usefulness and relevance of such methodology. Reviewers have, without exception, found the employment of oral history collected from hundreds of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs a very useful methodological innovation.
Consequently, when Jalal attempts a biography-cum-literary evaluation of Manto, she combines newspaper editorials and news items, articles on Manto, letters he wrote and received, some official documents and reports, with oral history collected through discussions and interviews with his family, relatives, friends and contemporaries. The result is an amazingly informative, even-handed, and lifelike portrait of the great writer.
Manto’s elders were from Kashmir. They were shawl merchants who settled in the Punjab. His father was a magistrate. Saadat Hasan was born to his second wife, whom his relatives never accepted. The genius grew up lonely, discriminated against, and angry. He was an unsuccessful student who found himself in the company of leftists wanting to overthrow British colonialism and imbibed that message. Long years of struggle in Lahore, Bombay and Delhi to make a living from writing fiction and film stories and scripts followed. He was victimized for allegedly writing obscene stories and dragged into courts. Married to a woman also of Kashmiri extraction, Safia, he found in her his bedrock, though he had wanted to marry a cousin whom some rich suitor claimed successfully. Together they had four children, three daughters and a son. The son was the apple of his eye but he died when still an infant. Manto could never overcome that blow.
Manto became a rebel; an anti-imperialist to the end of his life; jealously independent and irreverent, hounded by right-wing forces and ostracized by orthodox communists. He could make fun of religion. He had many close Hindu friends, including the famous actors such as Ashok Kumar and Shyam; yet wrote the Arabic numerals 786 (symbolizing the Quranic formula “I begin in the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”) on the top of each story he wrote. A critic of religious fanaticism, he was simultaneously a realist convinced that religion shapes human behaviour and cannot be wished away. Jalal tries to explicate these contradictions and does it very well.
The selection of the short stories is extremely fair. The breadth of Manto’s writings covering sexuality, violence, corruption, politics, culture, individualism, class and society is amply presented. Equally, his skills, ranging from portraying tragedy and horror to sarcasm and humour and pique absurdity, are aptly demonstrated. Jalal devotes a whole chapter to the fictional letters he wrote to Uncle Sam with regard to how Pakistan would be used and exploited. He could foretell that the Americans would be promoting fanaticism and extremism in Pakistan. History has proven him right. Yet Manto left India and came to Pakistan, where under the influence of literary critic and ideologue Hassan Askari, he began to assume some typical Pakistani nationalist standpoints vis-à-vis India.
Jalal mentions that Manto used to celebrate March 23rd, the date of the 1940 Lahore resolution passed by the Muslim League demanding Pakistan. This is doubtful, because not until 1956 was that date declared the national day of Pakistan. By that time Manto was dead, succumbing to mounting debts, excessive drinking and an intellectually suffocating milieu that emerged in Pakistan as the demand for making Pakistan a proper Islamic state picked up momentum.
It is widely mentioned that Manto wrote to Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (a Kashmiri Brahmin like Manto but a Hindu) urging him to vacate Muslim Kashmir just as he (a Muslim) had left India and migrated to Pakistan. If such a letter was written then Manto succumbed to the logic of the two-nation theory on which Pakistan is based. It would have been interesting to know if such a letter was written at all. Jalal has not taken it up in her discussion, which is rather peculiar.
Ishtiaq Ahmed, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Precious little attention has been paid in research and in policy to the lives of women after marriage. This admirable book goes some considerable way towards exploring the reality of women who have been in marriage but find themselves separated, deserted or divorced.
The book draws on a survey of 405 such women to explore their daily lives and the difficulties they face after the end of their marriages. Singh’s core concerns are living standards and income as well as access to the court systems through which women seek to claim their legal rights.
An introductory chapter maps the legal landscape, as well as women’s success in navigating this, with particular attention to the allocation of assets at the end of a marriage and the ability to claim maintenance. Singh attends to the problem of the failure of Indian law to recognize a woman’s contribution to the economic survival of a marital unit, insomuch as this is neither quantified nor recognized at the time of divorce and is, consequently, not factored into the allocation of assets.
A very helpful overview chapter then summarizes the main findings of the study and is followed by a section describing the sample of women surveyed. Four subsequent chapters explore the following: earning capacity and work status, family status and lifestyle, spousal and child support and the dowry system and finally social status, mobility and skills and decision making. Findings from different cities are reviewed next, with a final chapter that presents conclusions and recommendations. A wealth of data, in tables and graphs, is presented throughout the book, supplemented with summaries of accounts of women respondents.
The argument is set out at the very start, well fleshed out by data and concluded in policy recommendations at the end of the book. In the foreword, former judge Sridevan notes that “the law‘s gender neutrality is a fiction” (xix); this theme runs through the book. Another thread is that with women’s work in the household not being given a monetary value, it fails to be recognized as a contribution, either to the household or to the career or work progression of the husband.
A key finding is that upon death or separation, Indian women by and large find themselves without assets. Singh, a lawyer, makes a central and key argument that equality for women cannot be realized without a right to the equal division of property belonging to both spouses. Drawing on Canadian and European examples, Singh promotes the concept of Community of Property in marriage, so that all assets of the marital home are pooled and then divided. She argues for economic rights as the key to women’s equality.
At the time of dissolution of marriage or of widowhood, the law generally serves a woman leaving the institution less favourably than a man, with pitiful amounts of maintenance being awarded and often after lengthy court procedures and delays.
Women surveyed had made contact with women’s organizations, state women commissions, police and/or courts; one could argue that there is an inbuilt bias in the sample towards women who know of state structures and how best to access institutional support. The broader picture, therefore, is likely to be much more challenging, for many women lack the ability, knowledge and networks that enable them to access these supports.
Some of Singh’s key findings are as follows: that maintenance, though provided for by law, is extremely difficult to access; that the majority of women turn to their natal families if they are left alone at the end of a marriage (including if they have children), where tension and a lack of welcome is often apparent; and that those who are able to take paid work outside the home earn too little for independent survival. Of the women surveyed, 83 percent cited violence as a cause for separation, including women across all communities and religions.
There is a particular problematic that stems from the marital home, where many couples live with the husband’s family. The marital home is not a place where the wife can easily remain post-separation or divorce. Women also struggled to retain moveable assets, such as land, cars and jewellery, after the separation, or to claim money or goods given in dowry. Where maintenance claims were settled by the courts, most cases took between one and five years to reach a conclusion. Support for children was granted in under 50 percent of cases.
Singh’s policy and practice review concludes that family courts have been tried but they are too few; women-only staff teams at police stations were established in the hope that women would access these more than other stations and would be successful in registering cases, including reports of violence. Yet Singh concludes that the hoped-for improvements have not been realised. Women need access to immovable assets—especially property—but also moveable assets such as household items and savings. Many women therefore become assetless on the dissolution of marriage, though arguably they were already so before then.
Singh rightly calls for more and more effective efforts by the state to ensure social welfare and poverty alleviation in general. There are currently provisions for widows but very little for deserted or divorced women. Yet, as this book shows, their challenges and experiences have much in common.
A focus on what happens after marriage continues to highlight the need to explore both the nature of adult womanhood as being legitimately framed only by marriage, as well as women’s poor profile in the labour force (especially in well-paid work) as it reflects both of these areas of concern. We would do well to join the dots.
While many of the arguments and conclusions are not new—accessing courts in India is difficult, the laws do not provide well for separated women, and natal families are the main alternative for women on the demise of marriage—the data provided here are really valuable. They give critical flesh to arguments about the difficulties women face in such circumstances.
The data, in graphical form and explained in the text, are plentiful and are very useful in helping to understand the reality of women who find themselves outside the institution in which acceptable adult womanhood is socially bound.
The layout and nature of the text is at times unfriendly: small print and text that summarizes some of the tables can make for hard work. More attention to prose and commentary would have been helpful. Finally, given that it was published in 2013, the book would have been strengthened by use of 2011 census data, even if it had delayed publication by a few months.
Purna Sen, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom
The book under review is the result of painstaking field and archival research and reflects the author’s extraordinary versatility as a scholar. Drawing on work done in the field of censorship by both Indian and Western scholars and on interviews with people who have long-standing associations with Indian cinema and related fields, Mazzarella undertakes an analysis of Indian film censorship across colonial and postcolonial periods. Exploring continuities and discontinuities across these periods, the author claims “not to assume the insincerity of the censors’ discourse,” but rather takes it “seriously” (21), thereby moving it beyond “an entirely cynical discourse” (20). In the process, Mazzarella grapples with issues that have a direct bearing on our political culture and the processes of legitimation. The insights that we gain from the analysis done by Mazzarella can be applied to deepen our understanding of various issues that beset our political process and have baffled the analysts of Indian democracy, both native and foreign.
Nevertheless, the language of Censorium is jargonistic and the arguments are intricate. An Orientalist with little grounding in Western philosophical thinking may not find it easy reading. Being a foreigner, Mazzarella is easily able to look at the discourse of censorship from a distance and with a degree of critical detachment that is required for its proper understanding; however, the same strength could become a limiting factor in the sense of not being able to enjoy a degree of familiarity with social and cultural practices that comes naturally to a native.
Adopting a dialectical approach, the author explores censorship discourse from within. Thus, “the ideological tenacity of censorship discourse in the face of—or better, because of—its many inner contradictions” is one of author’s central preoccupations in the book (2). Further, Mazzarella pursues censorship discourse from a wider perspective in this ethnographic project: “My way into censorship is at the same time my way out to a much broader set of questions. In brief, I argue that thinking through film censorship discloses basic problems in the grounding of political and cultural authority in mass-mediated societies” (2). Indeed, the contradictions of censorship discourse and the basic problems in the grounding of political and cultural authority in Indian society are recurrent themes throughout the book. Justifying his focus on cinema when other media are also frequently targeted by censors, both official and self-appointed, Mazzarella convincingly argues that “the cinema is the one medium that in India is thought to reach everybody” and that “cinema spectatorship is a way of belonging to a mass public without having to be literate” (10).
At a more general level, the author attempts to theorize what he refers to as “the problem of public affect management” vis-à-vis modern mass media through an exploration of the specific features of cinema regulation during periods of heightened anxiety and moral panic in colonial and postcolonial India; for Mazzarella, these periods are: the 1920s and the 1930s and the 1990s and the 2000s. Interestingly, pointing to discontinuity, the author notes that the period from the 1930s to the early 1960s was marked by “a genuinely vibrant popular nationalism” that “managed to bring aesthetic discernment and cultural order into relatively smooth alignment” (87). Thus, “during this period film censorship operated within what looked like a functioning performative dispensation” (87).
In chapter 1, the author dwells upon the open edge of mass publicity and performative dispensation:twoconcepts that are vital to understanding his arguments. The open edge of mass publicity is considered as “a structural challenge that is inherent to mass-mediated societies” (29). Elsewhere, he defines this structural challenge: “the element of anonymity that characterizes any public communication in the age of mass publics” (37). For Mazzarella, any claim to authoritative cultural order is a claim to a performative dispensation. Thus, performative dispensation is understood in terms of contests among competing cultural groups, both through official institutionalized structures as well as informal channels, to lay claim to authoritative cultural order by combining patron/police functions, albeit often unsuccessfully. Allegorical representation of these contests as attempts at wielding Indra’s banner staff aptly describes ongoing tussles in our society over cultural propriety/impropriety and is a telling commentary on our civilizational specificity.
Throughout the book there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the author is constructing a general theory of performative dispensation and power. Let us, for example, consider this: “Be that as it may, I think we need to consider both the heyday of Nehruvian nationalism and the contested dispensations of the cultural emergency as historically situated responses to the challenge of producing sovereignty in mass-mediated democracy—a challenge that is, of course, by no means restricted to India” (151). However, nowhere does the author mention which “other” society he has in mind. More generally, the reader is left groping in the dark as to which, according to the author, are mass-mediated societies and which are not.
Mazzarella insightfully employs ideas deriving from psychoanalysis to account for contradictions and ambivalence in the stand of elites in a diverse society like ours, which is widely understood to be perpetually caught between tradition and modernity. Finally, in the last chapter, the author dwells on obscenity, which is understood as a tendency of image-objects and not something that inheres in them. Obscenity, thus, is spotted in “the amorally generative potential that lies at the open edge of mass publicity” (191).
The main contribution of the book lies in the author’s willingness to take censorship discourse beyond the cynical, and also in providing us with insights that can be applied to discourses on many issues that beset our political process, beyond cynicism. Arguments are coherent and the book is well organized. The proof reading is good except for a few typos.
Ganeshdatta Poddar, Foundation for Liberal and Management Education, Pune, India
Historical institutional (HI) analysis has become a prominent methodological tool for estimating the impact of institutional variation on outcomes. Areas of study from finance to business to political science have applied HI to investigations, and Conjunctures and Continuities in Southeast Asian Politics places itself firmly within this literature by providing several strong cases for examining Southeast Asian politics through the HI lens.
The book is divided into two sections which include, first, the establishment of an HI framework and second, its application via seven case studies. Conjunctures and Continuities primarily focuses on identifying conjunctures that have occurred within Southeast Asian state politics. A benefit of using conjunctures, also referred to as “formative episodes” or “historical junctures” (1), according to N. Ganesan, is that they allow engagement with both inputs and outcomes, or lack of outcomes (i.e., continuities) of events as opposed to bookending critical historical turning points. The clear methodological foundation outlined in the introduction is applied throughout the book as each chapter follows a similar template: a case is made for the choice of conjuncture, antecedent conditions and key players are identified, and possibilities of path dependence and implications are assessed. The conjunctures chosen by the authors include periods centred around the following events: 1986 “People Power” movement in the Philippines, the road to doi moi in Vietnam, 1988 Uprising in Myanmar, 1992-1993 UN-sponsored national election in Cambodia, 1998 collapse of Soeharto’s regime in Indonesia, 2006 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra in Thailand, and the 2008 national election in Malaysia.
There are several notable contributions offered by this book. First, while HI analysis is an often divergent field with little methodological consistency, Ganesan’s outstanding explanation of why and how the methodology is being applied puts readers, even those who may be unfamiliar with HI, at ease. Additionally, by firmly establishing a methodology in the beginning, Conjunctures and Continuities avoids the lack of cohesion often present within edited volumes. For the most part, the resulting continuity of structure through the HI framework leads to insights that are easily engaged with from one chapter to the next.
A second strength of the book is that while the cases do not reveal much in the way of new information, they do provide unique analyses. For example, Rommel Curaming and Lisandro Claudio’s chapter on the Philippines convincingly informs readers that the subsequent effects of the “People Power” movement are not limited to structural changes as previous literature has focused on, but are also reflected in “discursive resonances, that de-centre analysis from central state institutions” as well as in “long-term changes in political culture” (42). In another example, Tin Maung Maung Than tests the belief that the events of the 1988 uprising in Myanmar should be seen as historically significant, finding instead that its legacies remain “contested, contentious, and problematic” (90) and it is not yet clear if they will have a lasting impact.
A third strength resides in how the authors challenge existing literatures’ tendency to focus only on change when studying significant historical events. In perhaps one of the most enlightening contributions of the book, Ehito Kimura points out that while most literature focuses on explaining and identifying change, social scientists may have as much to learn from discovering why continuities persist in the face of seemingly transformative periods (143). The book reveals through its numerous case examples that considerable insight can be gained from observing instances of continuity, especially in cases where change is expected.
While Conjunctures and Continuities provides several notable contributions, there are some shortcomings. First, while the accomplished goal of the book is to identify some of the historical junctures present in Southeast Asian politics, the book’s theoretical implications would have been strengthened if the authors had applied additional continuity such as pre-determining the institutions to be examined or specifying a type of conjuncture. As it stands the theoretical implications have a hard time traveling outside of each case and this is evidenced in the brevity of the conclusion, which finds only a few ways to assess the chapters as a whole.
A second shortcoming is that the methodological task of each chapter requires that the authors sacrifice depth over breadth, which limits the extent to which the claims travel and allows significant room for debate on the claims that are made. The use of conjunctures as the point of interest in each chapter requires the authors to not only provide enough evidence to support their choice of event, but to also account for the causal pathways that lead to and away from these events and determine what institutions matter and how. The consequence of juggling so many variables is that the chapters provide only cursory understanding rather than in-depth investigations with substantive supporting evidence. For example, Ramses Amer writes that the “main aim of this chapter is to analy[z]e and assess the impact of historical conjunctures on modern Cambodian society” (103). While Amer’s chapter eloquently presents a case for four conjunctures, starting with the overthrow of Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, the task of assessing causal pathways in over 40 years of history is simply too large to perform in a single chapter with analytical rigour.
Despite these few limitations, however, Conjunctures and Continuities in Southeast Asian Politics stands as a solid contribution to HI literature and offers informative and original insights to the cases. Moreover, the book represents a thought-provoking investment that encourages discussion and opens a doorway for further work.
Kedra A. Hildebrand, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
A HERITAGE OF RUINS: The Ancient Sites of Southeast Asia and Their Conservation. By William Chapman. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xviii, 340 pp., [16 pp.] of plates (Figures.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3631-3.
Southeast Asian governments have become increasingly eager to have sites, cities, landscapes and other cultural attainments inscribed on the World Heritage List. It would be salutary if this attention was due to awakening concern on the part of politicians to preserve their heritage for psychological and aesthetic reasons; however, one may be forgiven for suspecting that political and financial considerations have also become involved. It is now appreciated that inscription on the list is a great way to increase tourism, and thereby revenue.
William Chapman has compiled a very valuable synthesis of the history of human involvement with remains of ancient architecture in Southeast Asia. As a summary of a vast and complicated subject, with relevance to a number of fields, from the abstract such as archaeology and history to the applied such as tourism studies, this work is significant. A brief introduction which deals with general concepts such as “heritage” and the evolution of related controversies regarding what should be done with ruins is followed by the heart of the volume: five chapters, each of which deals with one or more countries, exploring case studies. There are two concluding parts: a final chapter on “The future of Southeast Asia’s ancient sites,” and a thirteen-page section entitled “Conclusions.”
The author’s objective is to provide a comprehensive overview of the important architectural sites of premodern Southeast Asia with respect to their current physical condition, the measures taken to preserve them from further deterioration, to repair damage to their materials, and to restore them to something resembling their appearance at some point in the past. None of these objectives is easy to define in practice nor is implementation of policies to maintain and protect them uncomplicated. Political, philosophical, technical and economic considerations usually require choices to be made among alternatives, none of which is optimal from every point of view. Choices among alternatives involve trade-offs, and are influenced by a number of factors, including those of self-interest on the part of entrepreneurs and politicians, and desires by segments of populations to recreate something which may in fact never have existed and is based on illusory notions about the past.
This work explores the socio-political factors which influence the means and policies chosen to deal with Southeast Asia’s ruins on the part of the national authorities who hold jurisdiction over them. Many people approaching Southeast Asia for the first time are surprised to discover that the region contains a high density of historic structures, some of which have been granted world heritage status by UNESCO, others which are of national or international importance from the points of view of tourism, education, research and contemporary religious belief. It is difficult to do justice to the complexities of the local cross-currents of conflicting interests among stakeholders found among the ten (or eleven, if one counts Timor Leste) nations of Southeast Asia. It is difficult for example to assess the extent to which corruption and other negative factors have played roles in the policies of conservation of heritage buildings in Southeast Asia.
It is easier and less controversial to point out the technical and economic factors which have resulted in the current status of heritage building conservation in Southeast Asia, and this is in general the approach which has been followed in this book. No such overview has been attempted in the past, and this book will be useful both for students in various social sciences and humanities, and for scholars and policy makers, including those in international funding agencies.
The subject is indeed vast, and the author has in general coped very well with the challenge of achieving both breadth and depth of discussion. The author’s copious footnotes and 38-page bibliography provide citations to quite a comprehensive swath of the literature, from books to internet sites.
The problem of educating local tourists to treat the monuments with respect is ongoing. In most cases tourists, even local ones, have only the vaguest notion of the history of the site or the meanings of the art symbols. The vision of two million Indonesian Muslims per year visiting the Buddhist monument of Borobudur is one of the interesting cases where the perceptions of local visitors regarding the relevance of their own ancestors’ achievements to their contemporary existence (and identity) can be explored in more depth (and an Indonesian doctoral student at the National University of Singapore is in 2014 about to complete his dissertation on precisely this subject). The volume under review here provides numerous other cases which could be investigated from a similar perspective.
Heritage conservation theory and practice are rapidly evolving throughout the world. New voices, new political developments, are producing continuous change. As the author notes (229), the impact of new tourists from China and India on heritage sites, their preservation and interpretation, has yet to be felt, but will definitely change the equation. Since 2011, basic changes in Myanmar’s government and economy have engendered many new threats and opportunities for heritage preservation, development and interpretation.
This book is a comprehensive snapshot of a swiftly flowing stream, and some of the variables described here will be superceded within a few years. Nevertheless, as a guide to the current state of the art in Southeast Asia, this ambitious book is likely to remain a basic source for years to come. It distils basic information and policy considerations of great interest to decision makers in government and private industry, scholars and students from a wide range of disciplines.
John N. Miksic, National University of Singapore, Singapore
POLITICS OF ETHNIC CLASSIFICATION IN VIETNAM. Kyoto Area Studies on Asia, v. 23. By Ito Masako; translated by Minako Sato. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press; Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2013. xxii, 229 pp. (Tables, figures, maps, photos.) US$94.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-920-90172-1.
Masako Ito, associate professor of modern Vietnamese history at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies at Kyoto University, traces in excellent detail the consequences of the adoption in the 1960s of a policy to determine the ethnic composition of Vietnam. When the country was reunified in 1979, the government announced that “Vietnam was a multiethnic state” with 54 ethnic groups (1).
Vietnam’s ethnic policy was rooted in Marxist-Leninist theory and modelled on the application of that theory in the Soviet Union and China. Vietnamese ethnologists, most trained in the USSR, were charged with carrying out research to determine who belonged to which dân tộc and, more particularly to which “minority ethnic group” (dân tộc thiểu số), on the basis of language, shared culture, economic status and self-identity. This research led to the recognition of 53 ethnic minorities and the dominant Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese).
As Ito shows, once the list was established, it was reified and became impossible to change. A major reason for this was that new policies aimed at promoting the development of minority ethnic groups instituted subsequent to the ethnic classification of the population resulted in vesting these groups and local districts with significant minority populations with specified benefits (51ff). Ethnic leaders and many local officials thus had no desire to see any changes in the system of ethnic classification.
Many local groups whose ethnic identities were not officially recognized were displeased with their assigned ethnic status and some began to press to expand the list. Their concerns led the government to reopen its inquiry into the ethnic diversity of the country. In 2002 the government asked the Institutes of Ethnology and Linguistics in the National Academy of Social Sciences “to undertake a state-funded project named the Investigation to Determine Ethnic Group Composition in Vietnam” (67). For the next several years this project was undertaken by ethnologists and linguists from these institutes.
A major contribution of Ito’s study is her own research during this same period among some of the problematic groups, that is groups whose leaders had become “vocal” in seeking official recognition of their distinctive identities. In 2004 Ito conducted field research in several provinces in the northeastern corner of Vietnam, where the major ethnic group is identified officially as Sán Chay. This group, numbering about 150,000, is made up of two subgroups, the Cao Lan and Sán Chỉ, which, as Professor Ito found, really are very different, speaking languages belonging to different language families and not sharing a common culture. Despite this, the request to recognize them as separate groups was shelved and “the groundwork is being laid for [the] quiet end” of the request (86).
Professor Ito found a similar reaction to a petition by the approximately 40,000 Nguồn people in Quảng Bình province near the Lao border. At the time of the initial ethnic classification, there was a difference of opinion as to whether these people belonged to the Mưởng ethnic group, or to the Kinh, or were a distinct group (86). In the end, it was decided that they were a subgroup of the Kinh, and thus were not a distinct ethnic minority. “As ‘ethnic self-consciousness’ is counted the most important criterion for ethnic group determination, the Nguồn quite rightly ask why their claim is not accepted.” But their request has also been shelved because “from the state’s point of view the Nguồn’s demand is an issue laden with dangerous factors which could lead to the ‘breakdown’ of the nation” (105).
This perspective also has precluded other groups—such as the Pa Dí, Thu Lao, and Xá Phó, small groups living near the Chinese border in the far northern part of Vietnam among whom Professor Ito also did fieldwork—from gaining acceptance of their petitions for recognition as separate ethnic groups. On the other hand, the Ơ-Đu, a very small group—numbering only several hundred people—living in the mountainous area of Nghệ An province, have retained their distinctive ethnic status first granted them after the first ethnic classification program. Indeed, as Professor Ito demonstrates well, the Ơ-Đu were created by this program.
In the end, despite the conclusions of the new officially mandated inquiry, no group has succeeded in persuading the government to institute any changes in the original ethnic classification scheme. This is because “it remains essential for the preservation of the vested rights of various administrative cadres and a majority of academic cadres to continue to assert that Vietnam is a ‘multiethnic community of 54 ethnic groups’” (187).
Professor Ito has succeeded admirably in juxtaposing her study of official documents, interviews with officials and academics, and the results of her own excellent first-hand field work to demonstrate why ethnic classification in Vietnam has been far more a political than a scientific project. Her book deserves to be read not only by those interested in Vietnam but also by others interested in the politics of ethnicity more generally.
Charles Keyes, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE PHILIPPINES: Theoretical, Methodological and Policy Debates. Rethinking Southeast Asia, 11. By Gerard Clarke. London; New York: Routledge, 2012. xxiv, 257 pp., (Maps, tables.) US$135.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-57272-9.
Should a Philippine edition of this book ever get published, it will surely be one extensively consulted by activists, policy makers, politicians, and ordinary readers—and with any hope, it may contribute to meaningful change. As of this writing, one news story currently grabbing the headlines of national dailies involves a couple who allegedly skimmed millions from politicians and the Philippines Armed Forces by funneling development funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs). The husband and wife team used the monies to fund a lavish lifestyle of world travel, high-end real estate, and blowout parties in Hollywood. This evolving story validates one of Gerard Clarke’s key arguments: that civil society organizations (CSOs), of which NGOs and POs are the most representative, remain no longer the exclusive tool of those defending the interests of the underclasses. On the contrary, CSOs also have become a means through which the powerful corrupt, promote and protect themselves.
Clarke begins his narrative with a thorough overview of civil society theories from Plato to John Keane, the arguments behind these reflections, and a global “statistical contour” of CSOs. He points out that such organizations generally pursue two—sometimes complementary, sometimes contradictory—goals: advancing “democracy” and reformatting aspects of a society’s political economy to benefit the poor. These goals are in turn affected by forces of political economy and resultant social structures, either reinforced or undermined by a government’s laws and policies.
Clark then turns to the specific case of the Philippines, tracing a history of CSOs from the Spanish colonial era before exploring the social character of various forms of CSOs. The most fascinating chapter in this section examines the statistical contours of Philippine civil society. Here Clarke reveals the considerable diversity of CSO groups past and present, examining the nature of their work, locating them in classes or social sectors, and describing their relations with state and society. His statistical map demonstrates how it is that the Philippines has remained a weak and crippled civil society, despite the proliferation of hundreds of NGOs and POs. Civil society has become less a domain of progressive politics, the author argues, but rather a realm where different organizations, including political and ideological rivals can be found. This disturbing portrait of NGOs and POs coopted by state leaders and oligarchic families working with them to pursue patrimonial ends rings depressingly true. Moreover, when the state feels threatened by left-leaning CSOs, it unleashes military and para-military forces to destroy or weaken them.
Thus, despite the American transplant of Tocquevillian democracy, attempts in the 1950s by NGOs and political leaders to reform governance after a communist-led peasant uprising almost toppled the state, and two popular uprisings that overthrew a tyrant (Ferdinand Marcos) and corrupt politician (Joseph Estrada), the formation of effective civil society in the Philippines is still decades away.
This book is the first comprehensive study of Filipino social forces and the various organizations they spawned across time. It is likewise the first to situate the Philippine experience within theoretical and policy debates on civil society. But it is not without failings. For example, Clarke’s broad history of Philippine civil society overlooks certain critical issues: no explanation is given as to why some colonial CSOs persisted in the post-colonial period while others disappeared. Discussion of American involvement in the formation of reformist, anti-communist CSOs during the 1950s—which could have lead to a helpful evaluation of the role of other external actors—is also underdeveloped.
Violence is as much a habit of militant CSOs as it is with the state. Yet while Clarke is certainly aware of the internal blood-letting that nearly destroyed the communist party in the 1980s, he does not examine how the party’s CSOs condoned or turned a blind eye to its subsequent assassinations of “renegades.” The author’s statistical contours tell us a great deal but leave one critical question unanswered: how much have Filipinos’ lives improved since CSOs have began their work? Finally, as Clarke knows, Philippine politics is largely local in character. The arguments of this book would benefit enormously from extended case studies of CSOs in the provinces and the towns where political clans and warlords dominate, one that could have been done easily given the trove of studies of local politics available (some of which he even cited).
Nonetheless, these minor objections should not discourage readers from appreciating the value of Civil Society in the Philippines. The book deserves to be read carefully, especially by Filipinos troubled by the political direction their country is taking. It is a shame that its exorbitant price will most likely keep it out of their reach.
Patricio N. Abinales, University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, Honolulu, USA
SECURING PARADISE: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines. Next Wave. By Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez. Durham: Duke University Press. 2013. x, 284 pp. (Figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5370-6.
This work explores connections among many things, but especially between the United States military and tourism in Hawai’i and the Philippines. While most of the author’s overarching arguments are sound, I am not convinced she has made them as well as she might have. That is, I wonder if Professor Gonzalez’s approach is likely to convince readers who are not already sympathetic to the points she espouses. And I think it important that it should—there is much of value here.
I found myself responding viscerally at the outset, when I encountered her portrayal of an archetypal GI as “an American soldier and a sunbathing tourist” (4). It evoked a lingering memory from my early childhood, not long after the end of World War Two, when my father told me a story from his days serving in the highlands of Burma. Idly leafing through an armed forces publication, he came upon a spread about recreational opportunities in Hawai’i. The centrepiece was a sailor sunbathing on the beach at Waikiki: it was his brother, a navy electrician at Pearl Harbor. Any querulousness I might have had about this book’s linkage of the military and tourism utterly vanished in that flash of recollection.
But a few pages further along I was stopped by a second image, the notion that “the United States viewed Hawai’i and the Philippines as feminized territories needing discipline and protection” (13). I have no trouble understanding analyses that lead to such sweeping conclusions, and appreciate the perspectives they provide us. But there is rhetorical overkill here, and it exemplifies what I experience as the underlying problem with this book: it substitutes all-encompassing polemics and critiques for
nuanced, searching analysis. Like all peoples, Americans possess widely contrasting views and pursue competing goals. And like most views and goals, these are contradictory and inconsistent. Any generalization about how Americans conceptualize Hawai’i that overlooks erupting volcanoes with rivulets of molten lava streaming down their sides or white, foaming spray flying off the pounding surf is missing something. And many American males, probably most, compete with one another, striving to dominate their rivals, as much as they seek to control females. I repeat: I understand and appreciate the theoretical approach Gonzalez employs here, but she needs to dig more deeply.
There are parts of Securing Paradise that ring brightly. When Gonzalez leads us through a visit to the historical park at the Corregidor fortress in the Philippines, for instance, she replaces rhetoric with acute observation and description in ways that are vastly more satisfying. She captures the multiplicity of ways in which the park’s designers seek to shape historical understanding. Drawing lines that link World War Two and the Vietnam War, she recounts the opening ceremonies at the Pacific War Memorial there in 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam conflict, allowing the reader space to reflect on Ferdinand Marcos’s dedicatory speech honouring those who “fought to make peace, if not possible, an enduring condition of human life,” and she resists the temptation to cudgel us with remarks about the irony resonating in this scene (101).
But on the whole, war and the military and all that they entail call for a look at something more than just that which lies on the surface. I respect what she’s trying to get at when she says “The soldiers are young for most part, just boys far away from home” (103), and it reminds me of how I came to the Pacific (including Hawai’i and the Philippines) to fight the war in Vietnam when I was still a teenager. I was sent on to Australia to help commemorate the battle of the Coral Sea, from the previous war, and fell in love with the Pacific islands I encountered along the way. But there’s more to it than that. I was in spirit, if not chronology, a weary old man by that time, so disillusioned with what I had been ordered to do that I then devoted most of my career to resisting American colonialism in the Pacific islands. It is precisely because my love of the Pacific was begotten by the war that I so deeply appreciate the attention she draws to these linkages. But the conclusions she insists upon quite ignore all the other possible ways in which these emotions can play themselves out.
Again and again, Gonzalez draws attention to telling ironies, including the popularity of Pearl Harbor as a tourist destination, the use of helicopters to view Kauai, and the repurposing of a jungle training camp at what used to be the Philippines Subic Bay naval base as a recreational attraction. She has an extraordinary eye for these sorts of juxtapositions. As long as she is reporting she holds my attention, but repeatedly she resorts to posturing in place of analyzing, and then I begin to drift. If she wants to have an impact outside the cultural studies community, and I think she ought to, she would do well to hold her own abilities, as well as those of the readers, in higher regard. She doesn’t need to hammer her points home so bluntly—in fact, doing so seems to detract from her message. And she could perhaps benefit from considering a notion that Isaiah Berlin often cited: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” In connecting the dots, Gonzalez might strive for a little more nuance, subtlety and complexity: the lines she draws seem just a little too straight, at least to this reader.
Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA
A FEW POORLY ORGANIZED MEN: Interreligious Violence in Poso, Indonesia. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land en Volkenkunde, v. 285; Power and place in Southeast Asia. v. 3. By Dave McRae. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013. x, 214 pp. (Tables, maps, graph.) US$103.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-24483-2.
A Few Poorly Organized Men provides a rich, nuanced account of one of the most protracted violent conflicts accompanying Indonesia’s democratization in the aftermath of President Suharto’s May 1998 step-down following more than forty years of authoritarian rule. Central to this careful, detailed study of the unfolding dynamics of violence that racked Poso district in Central Sulawesi province from 1998 to 2007 is the analysis of a division of labour that was repeatedly refigured throughout the violence but in which, consistently, a small group of “loosely organized” core leaders and combatants played a dominant part in shaping the conflict in interaction with other social actors and the inevitable contingencies of warfare and daily life in Indonesia’s uncertain post-Suharto years.
Throughout McRae pays close attention to how the lived experience of conflict inflects and rearranges the priorities of social actors. In this way the book departs from several other studies of communal conflict in post-Suharto Indonesia that assume a priori the instrumentalist motivations of elite political actors in fostering violence. In contrast to a narrow focus on the onset of violence, the book analyzes changes in the forms and intensity of violent conflict over time through close scrutiny of its organization and shifting modalities. Each chapter addresses a distinct form of violence, engaging the relevant theoretical literature, as the book unfolds chronologically across four overlapping phases of violence identified by the author.
In a clear and helpful introduction McRae begins to lay out his argument regarding the crucial role of a division of labour in the dynamics of conflict and the importance of attending to violence’s distinct manifestations through a discussion of some of the main literature on communal conflict in Indonesia but also, for instance, South Asia. Chapter 2 introduces the enabling context in Poso for the onset of violence, and especially its protracted duration. Relevant is the pervasive climate of uncertainty forming part of Indonesia’s profound political transition, but also the anxieties of Christians concerning their place in Poso, the relative demographic parity of the district’s Muslim and Christian communities, and the longstanding history of competition between them which meant that violence subsequently more easily developed along religious lines. Chapter 3 describes the first phase of violence in which from the start a small group of men played a crucial part as organizers of riots by mobilizing large crowds and circulating rumours of violence perpetrated by the religious other. Violence during this initial phase of “politics by other means” (17) engaged rival local political patronage networks, was staged for political effect and, generally, did not see people targeted due to their religious identity alone.
In light of the escalation of violence following the initial riots of April and May 2000, chapter 4 further develops the argument concerning the centrality of a crucial division of labour in the conflict, showing how a small group of Christian combatants not only were key instigators of violence during this second phase, but responsible for the majority of killings. In demonstrating how most people implicated in communal violence are not themselves drawn to kill others, that “neighbor did not kill neighbor” (70), this counts as one of the book’s most important contributions. Rather, in situations of violence such as that of Poso, McRae argues that a small group of combatants—who enjoy broad community support, can rely on the ad hoc mobilization of community members, and have the space in which to operate with impunity due to the absence of state intervention or other deterrents—can effectively carry out massive killings. As elsewhere, the author is attuned to the contribution of complex human motivations such as the experience of loss and feelings of retribution on the part of men who themselves or whose families suffered losses in the earlier riots.
Only in chapter 5 does McRae write in terms of “religious violence,” understanding it as emergent in the conflict’s unfolding dynamics rather than somehow given beforehand. The arrival on the scene of mujahidin or members of Indonesia’s jihadist networks during the conflict’s third phase abetted the emergence of a new form of violence in which the religious identities of participants came to define a long phase of two-sided violence. Besides aiding fellow Muslims, a crucial motivation for mujahidin was an explicitly religious agenda according to which local Muslim youth received both military-style training and religious instruction. A last phase
of diminishing violence corresponded to the establishment of Muslim military dominance and the belated if critical intervention of the Indonesian state in the form of the Malino peace agreement. The very fact of this agreement and the ensuing improved security meant that violence increasingly took place as occasional unilateral attacks carried out by mujahidin groups and their main backers, a de-escalation that went along with a “narrowing” of the forms of violence (157). Over time the conflict’s division of labour was such that only a small core of Muslim combatants remained responsible for sporadic violent attacks that continued until 2007.
The book’s final chapter addresses the significant negative role of the Indonesian state in Poso’s protracted violence. Important throughout was the state’s repeated deferral of intervention into the conflict and the demonstrated importance of such intervention when it did occasionally occur. Once again, a crucial factor here was human agency or the misrecognition on the part of state authorities of their own capacity to quell the violence. Not only did the central government’s will to intervene fluctuate but, following an especially subtle argument, such fluctuation depended on an assessment of relative crisis: once “an invisible psychological line was crossed,” (160) the state would turn to harsh intervention; inversely, when the sense of crisis passed the state withheld significant pressure.
In sum, A Few Poorly Organized Men is a thoughtful contribution to the study of communal violence generally and to that of Poso and Post-Suharto Indonesia specifically. If I have one minor complaint it is that the detail of description threatens at times to overwhelm the book’s otherwise significant contributions.
Patricia Spyer, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
DEMOCRACY AND ISLAM IN INDONESIA. Religion, Culture, and Public Life. Edited by Mirjam Künkler and Alfred Stepan. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xv, 252 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-16191-6.
Written by a group of specialists on Indonesian politics and Islam, the book examines the successful story of Indonesia’s journey toward a democratic state. More specifically, this edited volume (1) discusses the uneasy processes of political transition from an authoritarian rule to a consolidated democracy, (2) underscores key issues that provide a rationale for making democracy work, (3) analyzes factors that could jeopardize democracy (e.g., violations of state laws, religious intolerance and violence, etc.) and social groupings that could have the potential power to derail democratization or fragment the state such as the (anti-reform) military, violent Islamic groups, and regional separatists, and finally (4) offers insights that could possibly maintain—or even make a better attainment of—the qualities of “steady democracy” in the post-New Order Indonesia such as a well-functioning system of law enforcement and the political will and bravery of the government to protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion (21-23).
The bottom line of this fine volume, however, is to provide a theoretical framework for—and empirical data of—democratic transition and possible consolidation in a Muslim country. Editors of this volume argue that literature in political science on transition to, and consolidation of, democracy or varieties of possible democratizations in Muslim-majority countries remains less substantial if not impoverished; thereby, this volume is an academic endeavour to fill these gaps (3). Based on the careful examination and thorough analyses of Indonesian experiences in handling political shift and in achieving democracy, the editors propose some theoretical foundations that underline (1) the compatibility of Islam and democracy, (2) the positive role of religion in global politics and public spheres, (3) the contribution of civil society in the democratization process, and (4) the possible collaboration of religious and secular forces as well as Muslim and non-Muslim elements in transforming a military dictatorial rule to a civilian democratic government.
Having been described by some observers as a democratization wonder, Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, undoubtedly offers a great example to examine a political passage from dictatorship to democracy in a Muslim society. When Suharto collapsed in 1998, which marked Indonesia’s political transition, many observers of Indonesian politics predicted this country would soon become the next Balkans. What happened in Indonesia, surprisingly, was not a state disintegration but rather a solid democratic integration. Edward Aspinall in this volume (126-146) provides explanations of why and how Indonesia survived from separatism. The cornerstone of Indonesia’s success in implementing a state policy of decentralization, in quelling secession, and finally in boosting support for democracy, Aspinall argues, was the transfer of some political and financial authority from the central government to the sub-provincial of 495 county-like districts and municipalities across the nation. This policy—and strategy—aimed at preventing the rebirth of provincial pro-independence sentiments and political movements that historically, since the country declared its independence, has tested the integrity of the Indonesian unitary state.
Besides the peaceful decentralization, the book also analyzes other significant accomplishments of post-Suharto democratic Indonesia including, but not limited to, the transformation of the military and the demilitarization of governments (89-108), the rise of many independent political parties, the increasing participation of women in public affairs, the widespread presence of CSOs, the production of many “pro-people” laws, the increase of civilian regimes, the growth of free press, and the implementation of free elections. Muslims in the country are also more in favour of secular democracy than Islamic monarchy. Muslim parties of all kinds have lost support to fully national secular-based political parties (24-50).
The defeat of Islamic political parties does not mean that secular political actors have suppressed and isolated religious ones. Conversely, today’s Indonesia witnesses what Alfred Stepan calls “twin tolerations,” namely “toleration of democracy by religion and toleration of religion by democratic leaders” (7). The Indonesian case makes clear that the participation of religion in public, political domains does not necessarily defy or transgress secular, democratic practices, so that John Rawls’ warning to uproot religion from politics in order to establish a liberal democracy has lost empirical ground.
Despite highlighting some compelling arguments, data and analyses on contemporary Indonesian politics, the book has some weaknesses, including the portrayal of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, the country’s two largest Muslim institutions, which the editors describe as the backbone of Indonesian democracy, without examining anti-pluralist and anti-democracy factions within these organizations. In fact, during the New Order, it was only NU, especially during the late Abdurrahman Wahid, that became the strongest Islamic advocate for democracy. Unlike his uncle, Yusuf Hasyim, Wahid worked closely with secular and non-Muslim democrats to resist the New Order and struggle for democratic government, human rights, and the state’s pluralist ideology and Constitution. Muhammadiyah, conversely, instead of supporting non-state civil society groupings and criticizing the New Order, enjoyed patronage with the ruling government. As a result, this organization received advantages from the government such as funds to build its schools and other properties. Members of Muhammadiyah also enjoyed strategic positions in governments, educations, state companies, etc. The sharp, sometimes harsh, rivalry between NU and Muhammadiyah during the New Order was evident and prevalent. While NU, with Wahid as a main leader, referred its opposition to the New Order as a “cultural strategy,” Muhammadiyah, with Amin Rais as the primary figure, called its support for the government a “structural strategy.” Muhammadiyah transformed itself into a non-state vital force of democracy when this organization was led by Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif, the country’s leading human rights advocate and intellectual, at the end of the New Order.
Furthermore, the book also seems to romanticize the positive role of civil society in democratizing the state without examining the rise of “uncivil” civil society such as ethno-religious sectarian groupings that mushroomed in the post-Suharto Indonesia as an unintended political reformation of 1998 that also could ruin democracy. The book also tends to underestimate the role of the (retired) military in running government without mentioning their positive contributions for good governance. In fact, there were some high-quality popular military rulers who could successfully transform their territories into a stable region such as Governor Mardiyanto of Central Java and Governor Karel Albert Ralahalu of Maluku.
Despites these lacunae the book undoubtedly provides a plentiful essential resource for those interested in the study of post-authoritarian government, Muslim politics and, particularly, Indonesian Islam. This volume is a welcoming edition after the publication of Robert Hefner’s 2000 Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratizations in Indonesia.
Sumanto Al Qurtuby, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, USA
SITUATED TESTIMONIES: Dread and Enchantment in an Indonesian Literary Archive. By Laurie J. Sears. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xxv, 318 pp. (Map, illus.) US$57.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3683-2.
Can an entire nation be haunted by a trauma that originates from phantoms, ghosts from the past that are not materially real yet exist in the psychical realm? Can fantasies, spurred by a desire for a future that may fail to come true, become the source of a “national trauma”? Can dread of what is perceived to be lacking in the present join forces with melancholia of what may be lost about the past (because memory fails to remember it) in order to paralyze a nation and sabotage its progress toward the future? Above all, can one psychoanalyze a nation bearing such a complex neurosis? Situated Testimonies by Laurie J. Sears attempts to answer these questions. It reads almost like psychoanalytic accounts of the celebrated case of the Wolf Man, which continued to haunt Freud until his death, except that in the case of this book the patient that seeks to be cured, yet refuses to reveal its most guarded secret—the locus of his trauma—is not the Wolf Man but a nation called Indonesia. It is not exaggerating to say that the book itself is haunted by what it tries to do and is never completely sure of what it claims to have achieved.
Undaunted by the task of a close reading from a psychoanalytical perspective of several colonial and postcolonial novels by both Dutch Indies and Indonesian authors, Sears writes about traces of trauma that are repressed by history but express themselves through literary works. The authors of these works are, as Sears suggests, “eyewitnesses of their time” (2), but they are barred by mainstream and official discourses of history from talking about what they have seen. As a result, what initially happens as historical events turn into traumatic experience. Literary works become sites where the unspoken is re-enacted through narrative structures, even if such displacement does not offer any significant therapeutic effect and threatens to prolong the trauma instead. Drawing ideas and concepts from psychoanalysts such as Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, as well as Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, who have rescued Freud’s legacy from oblivion in today’s world by their daring reinterpretation of many of Freud’s controversial theories, Sears argues that colonial and postcolonial Indonesian novels serve as a kind of “mnemonic device” not just to remember the past but, further, to “keep the past alive” (13). In psychoanalysis, there is a fundamental difference between the two.
Sears uncovers the gaps hidden beneath the narrative textures of novels and novellas written by Maria Dermoût, Louis Couperus, Tirto Adhi Soerjo and Soewarsih Djojopoespito, and Armijn Pane from the Dutch colonial period in the Indies, and the fiction produced by Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Ayu Utami, who belong to postcolonial Indonesia. The primary tension that gives shape to these works is between the incomprehensible natural and supernatural world of the past on the one hand and colonial modernity which offers a future, yet a highly problematic one, on the other. The characters are trapped between these two incompatible worlds. They manage to take a critical stance toward oppressive colonial practices but, at the same time, either they lament the loss of past imperial glories, as do the characters in Dermoût’s and Couperus’ novels, or they are ambivalent toward modernity, as is apparent in the works of Tirto, Soewarsih, and Armijn. In contrast, the major characters in Pramoedya’s and Ayu’s works are those that “are damaged by the past” (191) and branded with stigmas of oppressive regimes. That is why, Sears argues, “they cannot heal themselves, and they cannot heal the nation” (192) regardless of how hard they struggle to distance themselves from the power that has corrupted their sense of being.
Where is the nation in this complex scheme of things, then? The characters of the works discussed in this book embody and personify the nation. They are metonymies of the nation—of a presence that has to be represented by another because it cannot present itself—that repeatedly show up in the works from different generations of authors. The nation, in Situated Testimonies, is metonymical not because it only occurs in the imagination of its members, but because it is traumatic. The nation is like a crypt that preserves the past in order to kill it and bury the past in order to keep it alive—a tomb for the living. As such, the nation always lacks something, and this sense of loss is passed down from one generation of authors to another. The nation is also a phantasm: hope and dream of the future that is dreaded because it carries phantoms of the past. As a theme, it haunts the book.
However, like an analyst who experiences a process of transference vis-à-vis her patient during therapy sessions, Sears concludes the book with ample optimism that there is hope, and that the nation has a future because, through writing stories, history can be changed. Sears believes this “afterwardness” of history opens up ways for literature to deal with traumatized memory and decipher the crypt that protects the source of the trauma so that the “enigmatic signifier” (the nation) may someday find its ultimate signified and cease being an enigma. This I find problematic, for healing—in the psychoanalytic sense—never simply means liberation from trauma. In most cases, it merely means accepting the fact that one can never completely be rid of neurosis, just like Freud’s Wolf man, who lived and died with his unspoken magic word, even though he was “hypothetically healed.” Still, this book deserves praise and warm welcome because of its new ways of reading Dutch Indies and Indonesian texts that have been or are in the process of being canonized. By taking trauma in these novels as a theme of her book, Sears has revived the Dutch Indies literary works and built a bridge that connects them with the more recent works, published long after the end of the colonial era.
Manneke Budiman, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia
THE PERANAKAN CHINESE HOME: Art and Culture in Daily Life. By Ronald G. Knapp; Photography by A. Chester Ong. North Clarendon, VT: Tuttle Publishing, 2013. 160 pp. (Colour illus.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8048-4142-9.
The Peranakan Chinese Home and Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia (the latter of which I reviewed in Pacific Affairs 86, no. 2, 2013) were published two years apart, but they could be seen as a coupling by their author Ronald Knapp, an authority in the field of vernacular architecture. They suggest that, for all their differences, they are to be seen as belonging to a common project which derived from Knapp’s longstanding interests on Chinese house forms and culture. The main difference, as Knapp points out in his acknowledgement, is in “approach and scope of the narrative. The Peranakan Chinese Home takes an explicitly comparative approach, rather than the episodic house-by-house approach of our earlier book, in order to focus on generalizations that help illuminate similarities and differences.” The result is an informative and valuable book about the homes of Peranakan Chinese in Southeast Asia. Supported again by the superb photography of Chester Ong, the book offers a well-narrated description and systematic room-by-room view of Peranakan homes. The book has a quality of an “exhibition,” as the texts and images powerfully constitute each other, panel by panel and room by room. Moving in and through the series of rooms, one feels one is entering a big extended family home of Peranakan Chinese, with each family exhibiting similarities and differences in their material cultures.
Like an exhibition space, the book is organized around architectural spaces that make up the “Chinese house.” The chapters include “facades,” “the reception hall,” “the courtyard,” the “ancestral hall,” “the living areas,” “the bedroom,” the “kitchen” and “signs and symbols.” The room selection reflects a decision already made as to what counts as the significant features of the Chinese house. There is here a risk of approaching Southeast Asia through the optic of houses in China which could compromise the specificity of Peranakan cultures. Knapp’s comparative perspective is productively framed by his deep and wide knowledge of Chinese cultures which gives the book particular strength, but it also raises the question of how much the Peranakan cultures have been shaped by cultures other than Chinese that crossed paths in Southeast Asia. With Chinese culture as a dominant framework, it is harder to see which items or elements of the Peranakan material cultures are borrowed from the locals. We see the Daoist Eight Immortals, the Three Star Gods (Fu Lu Shou), Guan Gong and Guan Yin, but we don’t see much discussion on Datuk Kong (the local guardian spirit).
Peranakan is a term for “native-born Chinese” of Southeast Asia, a term that suggests their hybridity and rootedness to local cultures despite their cosmopolitan outlook and global mental world. The term however is treated differently in different parts of the region. For instance, the notion of Peranakan, while acknowledged, is not widely used in Indonesia. The Suharto regime referred to ethnic Chinese as “Cina” and only later on as “Tionghoa.” The term “Peranakan” and its counterpart “Totok” (foreign-born, and thus pure Chinese) had no use to the regime, which sought to “other” the Chinese by reducing the diversity or the hybridity of ethnic Chinese by lumping them under a single category. How the cultural policy of Suharto might have shaped the home of Peranakan Indonesia remains unclear, and Knapp, like his earlier book, does not wish to cover the politics of the term.
The complex nature of “Peranakan” identity and identification and how it is represented in material cultures is what makes this book interesting. The rich images brought back memories of my childhood home. Compared to Knapp’s collection, our home (a 1960s row house) in a Chinese neighbourhood in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia, and its furniture would be too modern and cheap (should I say) for the collection identified by the book. Our little courtyard was multifunctional but it was mostly for washing clothes and dishes. It was a space filled with the ordinary household activities associated with the position of my mother and aunts in the household. It was a gendered space. I wonder how ordinary are the collection of spaces depicted in the Chinese Peranakan Home. The book indeed has a mission to classify, clarify and visualize the most exquisite of the Peranakan homes, as Knapp acknowledges that “while researching our 2010 book, Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia, we found ourselves puzzling as to how to differentiate residences built and occupied by Peranakan Chinese from contemporaneous homes. It is our hope that The Peranakan Chinese Home will help clarify this” (158). Time thus is as important as space. The book however is more successful in its representation of space. It is less able to capture the formation and transformation of the home in response to the socio-cultural changes of the long twentieth century.
The difficulty of taking time more seriously seems to be acknowledged rather unconsciously, through the first image in the book: The close-up photo of a jolly gramophone with a huge horn. The gramophone was one of the prime symbols of class formation, modernity and social change. It was favoured especially by the Peranakan elites for its capacity to acquire “culture” and bring both global and local music to the home. Tio Tek Hong, the most known distributor, became famous in Java for his dealership and his collection of records, but his own shop, still standing in Jakarta, is left to deteriorate. A lot can be said about this image of a gramophone, along with the “unnoticed” remote control on a table. They both represent time, but Knapp leaves them alone as no word is said about them. This photo is the least museum-like piece in the book. It serves as a silent commentary to what is not narrated in the book: class formation, ethnic tension, cultural policy and the socio-historical change of the home within which it is embedded.
Abidin Kusno, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
AUSTRALIA’S ASIA: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century. Edited by David Walker and Agnieszka Sobocinska. Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [exclusive distributor], 2012. 376 pp. A$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-742583-49-5.
The complexity of Australia’s engagement with Asia continues to exercise the minds of scholars and policy makers. This is not a phenomenon that is confined to the recent past. Even before the creation of Australia as a nation-state in 1901, insecurity about Asia among elites and grassroots opinion has been counter-balanced by perceptions of the region as representing limitless commercial opportunities. This binary outlook on Asia has underpinned and driven much of Australia’s attempts to engage with its region since the nineteenth century.
One of the recurrent debates in the Australian context is how, and the extent to which, Australia can be “truly engaged” in the region. A lot of the country’s engagement in Asia is transactional: a massive export trade to China and Japan being the most salient example. More intimate forms of Australian engagement in Asia—including investment, cultural interaction, and political relationships—have been the product of decades of hard work by committed individuals. In short, and somewhat ironically, Australia’s engagement in its own region has not come easy.
Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century captures the essence of the pendulum swings that have characterized Australian approaches to Asia over the past century and a half. As the editors note in their excellent opening chapter, “Australia’s enthusiasm for Asia is as old as its anxiety” (14). The theme framing this book is that, by looking at historical developments permeating Australia’s discourse about Asia, we can glean important insights into what is shaping contemporary discussion over regional engagement. While the Gillard Government’s 2012 White Paper entitled “Australia and the Asian Century” argued that “the power of geographical proximity” would translate into unprecedented future opportunities for Australia, this narrative was not new. To quote the editors: “Successive generations have been told that their future would be increasingly Asian” (4).
This book is composed of five discrete sections and includes thirteen chapters, plus an introduction by the editors and an epilogue. The book assembles a wide range of contributors from various disciplinary backgrounds—while historical studies is the dominant discipline, the authors bring to bear different theoretical perspectives, varying methodical approaches (e.g., some privilege biographical analysis, others state-to-state relations), and they all have a unique take on the depth of Australia’s engagement in Asia. In short, the chapter contributions are quite diverse, which is a real strength of the book.
This diversity is further reflected in the division of labour among contributors across the five sections. Section 1, “The big three,” analyses Australians’ attitudes towards China, India and Japan around the turn of the twentieth century; section 2, “Racial identities,” examines a number of personal experiences of those who experienced racism resulting from Australian attitudes towards Asians, and the role of ethnic identity in shaping experiences; section 3, “Love and hate in the region,” that is concerned with Australian experiences of being located in Asia (Australian military personnel in occupied postwar Japan and, more recently, Australian tourists in Bali); section 4, “Chinese puzzles,” which examines different aspects of Sino-Australian relations; and section 5, “Absent Asia,” which analyzes the history of Australian intellectual engagement with the region, including the continuing debate over how best to embed the study of Asia into Australian primary and secondary-school curricula.
The editors have done a first-class job in assembling high-quality chapters that make an important contribution to the existing literature on Australia and Asia. As the editors themselves observe, too much of the recent commentary on the importance of deepening Australian engagement with, and understanding of, Asia tends to overlook the rich debates that have taken place among Australians for the better part of 150 years or more. Put another way, there is a distinct lack of appreciation of history. Moreover, this book tells an important story about the role and impact of individuals—not just elites, but in many cases ordinary citizens—in building Australia’s relations with Asia. It is a valuable remedy to the ahistorical approach of so many of the debates within Australia over regional engagement and is a useful text
for those outside Australia interested in acquiring insights into what motivates the country’s approach to its region.
Andrew O’Neil, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia
Brij Lal remarks that this anthology of 21 recent essays on Fiji “is principally for readers in Fiji, offered in the hope that it might prompt them to commit their own experience and thoughts to paper for future generations” (307). While those of us beyond Fiji will equally benefit from Lal’s insightful commentary on the land of his birth, this quotation emphasizes that his writings have become an intensely personal “participant history” (39). He is as much a protagonist as the author of these histories, and the essays deftly weave between autobiographical narrative, social history and political analysis. Lal defines writing as an act of “giving concreteness and form to reality” (2); his stellar career has almost single-handedly written the Indo-Fijians into historical existence, and this new anthology amounts to a substantial part of that concretion, and much more besides.
Chapters 2 through 7 survey (with great clarity) Fiji’s troubled political history and ethnic tensions since independence in 1970. “Heartbreak Islands” summarizes the changes to Fiji’s political landscape over the last forty-five years, emphasizing how the foreign-educated, and paramount-chiefly titled statesmen of the mid-twentieth century (Lala Sukuna, Kamisese Mara and others) have been replaced by opportunistic leaders coming to power on a provincialist platform or through military promotion. Lal observes that Fiji is quietly reeling from four military coups in less than twenty years. Open racism is tolerated in parliament itself, and discriminatory property inheritance laws have driven more than 80,000 Indo-Fijians to emigrate since the racially motivated coup of 1987. Those 300,000 who remain are classified as vulagi (“visitors”) in their own country. Chapter 3 details Lal’s involvement with the drafting of the 1997 Fijian constitution, and its self-motivated rejection by indigenous Fijian politicians on the grounds that constitutional democracy is a “foreign flower” unsuitable for Fiji. Lal analyzes how the Indo-Fijians have been scapegoated by indigenous politicians representing them as a controlling force in the country, while Indo-Fijian land leases have been revoked on racial grounds and democratic representatives ousted by force. “While the Gun is Still Smoking” compares the constitutional status of indigenous and Indo-Fijian citizenship in relation to the state’s key legal documents, and concludes that the outgoing British administration shirked its commitment to the equal rights of the Indo-Fijian population during the transition to independence. Chapters 5 and 6 explore different aspects of modern party politics: the difficulties of power-sharing between the SDL’s Laisenia Qarase and the Labour Party’s Mahendra Choudhry; the underlying causes of Frank Bainimarama’s 2006 coup; the vibrancy of Fijian political campaigning portrayed through a pastiche of memories. The first third of the anthology concludes with “Ungiven Speech,” where Lal critically analyzes the international community’s reaction to Fiji’s recent political convulsions and democratic failures.
“The Road from Laucala Bay” and “Coombs 4240” initiate a lighter tone, and provide autobiographical insight on Lal’s academic career as a historian. In the former, he evokes the unique character of the University of the South Pacific, which he witnessed in its early life. In the latter, he considers the changing nature of academia over the span of his years at the ANU. Chapters 10 through 12 explore the postcolonial cultures which the indenture system has created around the world. Lal frames indenture as a principal motor of the Indian global diaspora, and shows that the post-indenture Indian cultures of Fiji, Uganda and Central America differ significantly from those cultures formed by recent Indian migration to Britain or North America. Although Lal recognizes the ex-patriot Indo-Fijians resettled in Australia and New Zealand to possess the same “twice-banished” (156) status as the formerly Ugandan, Trinidadian, Guyanese or Surinam Indians scattered to the four winds, he emphasizes the cultural specificity of these Indianisms, which are (he observes) more actual than superficially apparent to outsiders. In this vein, the cultural uniqueness of Indo-Fijian identity comes into sharper focus in chapter 13, where Lal reflects on his changing linguistic relationship to spoken English, Hindi and Fijian as a function of his biography. “Primary Texts” develops the same theme through a discussion of his Anglocentric school books, dissecting the ideological mechanisms of British late imperial education.
Chapter 15 marks another thematic shift, with four diverse chapters of biographical vignettes. Chapter 15 examines his cousin’s political career in Fiji over the last twenty years, while chapter 16 follows the fates of three Labasa schoolmates as their families build new lives in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Chapter 17 is autobiographical, and documents Lal’s shifting identity and confounded expectations as he finds himself a Labasa man in the Rewa delta, a Fijian in Chuuk and Bougainville, and a not-quite-fellow Indian in Trinidad, Guyana, London and South Africa. Chapter 18 presents four obituaries, two of minor characters in Fiji’s recent history, and two of his fellow commissioners on the Fiji Constitution Review Commission. These latter biographies lead neatly on to “Caught in the Web,” where Lal answers the internet critics who have (bizarrely) vilified him for causing the race-based political system he unsuccessfully called on the government to abandon. Chapter 20 transcribes an interview of Lal conducted in 2000 by the Rotuman scholar Vilsoni Hereniko, which ranges over many of the foregoing themes, and highlights how complex the politics of ethnicity have become in modern Fiji. Lal’s epilogue “Speaking to Power” describes his interrogation by the Fijian military in 2009, following his public criticism of the Australian High Commissioner’s expulsion. An Australian citizen, Lal was released after three hours of physical abuse, and given 24 hours to leave the country and never return. This is a moving, intelligent, even-handed and skilfully written anthology. An insightful history of modern Fijian politics and an admirable work of postcolonial social analysis, it should be indispensable reading for anyone concerned with Fiji, politics, race relations or the Indian diaspora.
Andy Mills, University of East Anglia, Norwich, United Kingdom
FOODWAYS AND EMPATHY: Relatedness in a Ramu River Society, Papua New Guinea. Person, Space and Memory in the Contemporary Pacific, v. 4. By Anita van Poser. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013. xiv, 274 pp. (Illus., figures, map.) US$95.00. ISBN 978-0-85745-919-0.
In contemporary Melanesian ethnography, we read of cultural answers to the challenges posed by various guises of modernity. This trend is not exactly novel. Cargo cults, after all, were once a hot topic of research. Today, studies of nation making, commodity chains of coffee, Christianities, prisons, conservation and mining comprise an analytical landscape which makes it seem that the local is less and less defined by autonomous, indigenous value systems. Anita von Poser has written a new ethnography from a different angle: it concerns how pre-capitalist cultural value may be viewed as relatively uninfluenced by modernity. The centre of Foodways and Empathy is thus doggedly local, almost to an extent that might be seen as contrarian (or perhaps antiquarian): it is a study of a single locality within Bosmun, a large and well-known village on the Lower Ramu River, inland from the North Coast of Papua New Guinea.
von Poser made several research trips to Bosmun during the first decade of the current century, which began on behalf of her doctoral dissertation. Her book’s main goal is to explain the great effort Bosmun women and men give over to evaluating each other’s moral worth, and the pre-capitalist, local-level narratives, symbols and processes with which they do so. Foodways and Empathy is basically about what it means to be good in Bosmun. That is to say, it is about how people present themselves to and see others as ethical persons in a small-scale, kinship-based community.
The central trope in Bosmun culture for being good consists of two dispositions and one activity: the first is to want to be generous with food, specifically sago, and the second is to be empathetic to the appetites of close and collateral kin. The Bosmun associate the latter attitude with the eye, which should keep a close watch on others and infer their feeling-states nonverbally, feeling-states they locate in the stomach and its hunger for food. Reciprocally, Bosmun folk expect to be observed. Others will be watching out for one’s needs and wants; spectatorship and evaluation of the other being a point of local pride.
In four long, but ethnographically rich, chapters, von Poser reports on meanings, practices and contexts of food exchange in Bosmun culture, many of which have been described in nearby Lower Ramu/Lower Sepik/Schouten Island societies. von Poser discusses Bosmun cosmology and its main culture-heroes (Sendam) and heroines (Nzaria) who created parts of the landscape and introduced food-related values. She discusses food in relation to concepts of “face” as well as in the contexts of courtship, marriage, animism and ritual. But most significant are the constructions of sago, whose production should occur in a distinctly moral ethos, whose preparation should be done in a social and stress-free setting, and whose distribution should be associated with regard for the other. The Bosmun refrain from eating sago they themselves have planted. Plate-carrying women constantly cross the village space at mealtimes as households dispatch sago-based meals to neighbours with whom they share kinship (van Poser calls this “food shifting” and at one point compares the “food generous” women’s bearing to the carriage of beautiful models on a catwalk). Modernity briefly enters into her narrative to the extent that it is held in disgust as a site of greed, laziness and tinned fish.
There is much of importance in, and much to admire about, Foodways and Empathy. It fills an important empirical gap in Lower Ramu studies, for one. Its ethnography is detailed and von Poser’s analytical stance is frank and straightforward, for another. And, for a third, it dwells on an intriguing modality of the social in Melanesia about which one hears little.
Yet several problems stand out, the most important of which is the ethnographic absence of a pivotal, crucial figure. von Poser argues that food and spectatorship are the main forms of empathy in Bosmun culture and sheds light on their significance in the many settings mentioned above. Food is acutely and exquisitely social in Bosmun, as it is everywhere else, and therefore analysis of its constructions must ultimately refer to the manner and practice of the exemplary other, the original foodgiver, in human life. What culturally particular kind of nurture does she practice? Is it unconditional? Is it abundant? Is it at all inconsistent? How is it problematic? How is it managed among siblings and the father? However, nowhere in von Poser’s book do we find data and analysis about the practices of mothers, the absence of which is particularly anomalous, given the great extent to which her research was primarily done with women.
The second shortcoming I see with this book is with its comparative methodology, or rather its lack of a comparative methodology. von Poser must be credited with reading widely in the Melanesian literature and for marshalling it now and again in order to clarify Bosmun data. But there are puzzling moments. For example, she asserts that gender relations there are “uniquely” complementary by contrast to a highlands group that she cites. However, gender in the Sepik and the Schouten Islands, the very region of study, has been repeatedly described in precisely these terms. A last issue: this book deposits modernity into footnotes and confines it to a final few pages. von Poser has persuaded me that food exchange is highly moral in Bosmun society, but the implicit claim that it can be analyzed independently of capitalism in static terms that exclusively draw from myth, social structure and customary personhood, is a bit much.
Foodways and Empathy makes a helpful contribution to regional scholarship as well as to studies of food as a cultural construction and to psychological anthropologists interested in person perception from a cross-cultural viewpoint. von Poser’s book offers up a fascinating, keenly observed account of the ways in which Bosmun people view and assess one another’s hunger. I look forward to reading more from her about how they may manage to do so in the future.
David Lipset, University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities, USA
A FARAWAY, FAMILIAR PLACE: An Anthropologist Returns to Papua New Guinea. By Michael French Smith. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xi, 229 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$52.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3686.
In A Faraway, Familiar Place Michael French Smith writes of his return in 2008 and 2011 to Kragur village in Papua New Guinea, the scene of his two earlier books. He first lived and worked there in 1975-1976 as a graduate student in anthropology, as related in Hard Times on Kairiru Island. He recounted his brief return trips of 1981, 1995 and 1998 in Village on the Edge. The trilogy follows the timeline of a memoir. With self-deprecating good humor, Smith shares his struggles with homesickness in the field, employment in the corporate and bureaucratic world of Washington, DC, and the bodily insults of malaria, dengue and aging.
The anthropologist’s memoir is secondary to the narrative of events in village life, ethnographic detail and anthropological insights. During his 2008 visit, elections for the national parliament and the local government council were in progress. Because political arguments were in the air, they take a large place in this book, just as concerns about the meaning of economic development did in the earlier ones. Smith’s understanding of matters political, economic, social and cultural is always informed by his reading in anthropological theory, but scholarly references are never foregrounded. Because all of the fieldwork was done after Papua New Guinea attained independence in 1975, Smith never really grapples with the heritage of Australian colonialism, which is perhaps a weakness of the book.
Smith allows the concerns of villagers to shape his fieldwork, leading him to spend much of his time in 2008 working with groups of clan representatives on their clan histories. This came to be the straksa (“structure”) project, from which he produced digital genealogical charts that he took back to the village in 2011. Kragur interest in this project was stimulated by their expectation that they might have to deal with multinational mining firms seeking to exploit the gold that had been discovered on the island.
Smith’s work has never sought to picture the exotic side of Kragur life, always making it clear how fully the villagers’ identity is shaped by their adherence to Catholicism and their efforts to reconcile Christian ethics with the individualism demanded by modernity. The present book talks about the continued Pentecostal/charismatic influence within their practice of Catholicism. In 2008 a controversy arose over whether to invite an outside speaker who claimed to be able to root out sorcerers. This led to more open discussions of magic than Smith had previously encountered, as a man showed him his mother’s mandible, which he had kept for use in divination.
Smith’s jacket photo of villagers producing sago starch took me back five decades to my own first fieldwork in East Sepik Province. I remember women impatiently telling me, “scratch that on your banana leaf,” after I asked the same question more than once as we walked through the forest to the swamp where their sago palms grew. Though their language had not yet been written, it did not take these villagers long to learn that my memories were scribbled in my notebooks. In time, the knowledge I had acquired by connecting the genealogies of many people impressed even the elders, and I returned to my desk to find someone had practiced penciling circles and triangles on a scrap of paper I had left out. Literacy would not arrive for another generation in my distant part of the Sepik.
On Kairiru Island, just off the north coast at the provincial capital of Wewak, literacy and formal education had arrived much earlier, along with the Catholic mission fathers. The few Kragur villagers who have gone on to higher education have joined Papua New Guinea’s salaried urban elite. Still Kragur remains even now a “village on the edge,” with few prospects for economic development. A small businessman operates a tourist guesthouse in another village on the island, but unreliable transportation and communication with urban centres makes this as difficult as other prospects for development.
Unlike anthropologists who write for a handful of other academics or travel writers who pander to readers’ taste for savage life, Smith writes with the anticipation that the Papua New Guineans he knows will read his books, and he discovers that they do. The honest, clear and conversational style that Smith has honed makes reading him a pleasure for students and scholars alike. This book is a good read for anyone who wants to see what life is like in rural Melanesian villages that have little access to cash but hold adequate access to land and clean water to meet their needs.
Patricia K. Townsend, State University of New York, Buffalo, USA
STEEP SLOPES: Music and Change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. By Kirsty Gillespie. Canberra, ACT: ANU E Press, 2010. xvi, 254 pp. (Chiefly col. illus., col. maps, music.) A$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-9216-6642-1.
All musical traditions are influenced by the environments in which they are created and practiced. For the Duna people of Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province, their mountainous homeland of “steep slopes” has guided their music systems in a number of ways. Ethnomusicologist Kirsty Gillespie is perceptive in selecting that theme as the guiding motif of her musical ethnography. Steep Slopes is an apt picture of the decisions that many small communities face regarding the value and future vitality of their musical traditions. Continuity of traditions, let alone revitalization, in the face of attractive international options is a tough hike for any community. These early years of the twenty-first century have seen growing scholarly engagement and applied advocacy in the complexities of language and cultural endangerment. Gillespie’s book is a valuable entry into that discussion, touching on larger issues while looking at a particular language area of the Papua New Guinea highlands.
Steep Slopes comprises six chapters, framed by an introduction and conclusion. The introduction sets up Gillespie’s framework for research and study. She charts a path for her ethnography that will avoid the traditional-versus-modern dichotomy that has so often characterized discussion about endangerment and revitalization. Accepting as a given the ongoing hybridization and change inherent in all cultures, Gillespie chooses the terms “ancestral” and “introduced.” These are more useful handles for looking at Duna musical traditions, though still leaving open questions of how long it takes an introduced music to become so integrated locally that it can be regarded as ancestral. This is less an issue right now for the Duna, with their relatively recent history of contact with “the outside world,” but it becomes more difficult when looking at Papua New Guinean communities who have had much longer contact with the Christian church’s hymn-singing traditions.
Chapter 2 is a survey of details expected of any musical ethnography: general Duna conceptions of music; the role of the musician; the relationship of music and dance; a general survey of available instruments; and other related topics. I am particularly fascinated by the kẽiyaka, or praise names, that are one of the most distinctive elements in Duna song. In song texts which use repeated lines of text, the one changing element in each line will be a different kẽiyaka, with the whole song featuring a progression of these alternate praise names. Gillespie and colleague Lila San Roque develop this research further in their excellent chapter, “Music and Language in Duna Pikono,” in Sung Tales from the Papua New Guinea Highlands (Alan Rumsey and Don Niles, eds., Canberra, ANU E Press, 2011, 49-64).
In chapter 3, Gillespie looks at the influence of Christian missions, and the interactions between introduced Christian song, ancestral song and introduced popular song. Her brief overview of this history is more nuanced than in some other ethnographies, but I still felt it tended to oversimplify matters. I wasn’t convinced of the Duna people’s “seemingly forced adoption of Christianity” (82), for example, and at times throughout the chapter Gillespie almost implies a weak, ready-to-be-dominated position of the just-missionized Duna—a typical, though certainly unintentional, perspective when writing about first contact with Christian missions. However, Gillespie’s affirmation of the importance of language in any story of encounter is refreshingly accurate; I appreciated her attention to linguistic considerations, here and in other chapters. I was less convinced of the significance of connections between Christian song and Duna-composed songs in similar styles.
In chapter 4, Gillespie shares the story of the death of a young woman, which leads to thoughtful consideration of mourning songs in ancestral and introduced styles. Looking at laments in Duna culture allows Gillespie to reflect on the place of women in Duna society, family structure, and artistic methods of referring to a specific person in song. This leads into chapter 5, which focuses on land issues. In addition to agriculture, Gillespie also looks at the idea of traveling through geography in the song genre khene ipakana. Steep Slopes make a literal appearance in this chapter, as the rugged mountains are offered as a challenge to prospective lovers in courting songs.
Courtship is the primary subject of chapter 6. I was especially interested in Gillespie’s description of disco nights in the Duna villages. These dance parties are a tangible picture of the awkward, still-in-process changes in contemporary life as Duna young people, severed from traditional rites of passage, try to find their way from adolescence to adulthood.
In the final chapter before the conclusion, Gillespie considers matters of preservation and revitalization, wondering what is the future of Duna ancestral traditions. She looks especially at cultural shows, one of Papua New Guinea’s premiere settings for showcasing its artistic traditions. Based on interviews with Duna stakeholders and cultural show participants, she concludes that although the shows do provide a setting for continuity of traditions, they are not a viable context for serious preservation. The shows tend to be aimed at an undiscerning tourist audience, and the shows are not as regular as a preservation project would require.
Steep Slopes is a revised version of Gillespie’s 2007 PhD thesis, and like many other thesis ethnographies, its shortcoming is merely a too-broad scope of topics. Gillespie covers a lot of ground, but some of it receives too little attention and—though interesting information—does not contribute to the unifying theme of the book. Other of Gillespie’s publications, shorter and more focused—such as “Giving Women a Voice: Christian Songs and Female Expression at Kopiago, Papua New Guinea” (Perfect Beat 11(1):7-24, 2010)—affirm Gillespie’s strengths as a scholar. But that is a small criticism, and given the relative dearth of published research about Papua New Guinean communities and their musics, Steep Slopes is a welcome addition to the understanding of current issues in Melanesian expressive arts. Gillespie’s engagement with previous Duna scholarship, and her command of current issues in anthropology and ethnomusicology, are exemplary. Steep Slopes should be read by anyone interested in Melanesian and Pacific cultural studies, as well as advocates for cultural revitalization.
Neil R. Coulter, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea
MELANESIA: Art and Encounter. Edited by Lissant Bolton, Nicholas Thomas, Elizabeth Bonshek, Julie Adams and Ben Burt. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. 2013. xix, 362 pp. (colour illus., colour maps.) US$120.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3853-9.
Few visitors pressing into the galleries of the British Museum to view the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon Marbles and other treasures of the ancient world have any awareness that the museum is also home to one of the greatest ethnological collections in the world. The earliest objects were collected during the famed voyages of Captain James Cook in the Pacific. In subsequent years, the Pacific collections continued to grow as explorers, government agents, missionaries and researchers made contributions. Today, the Melanesian collection alone totals more than twenty thousand objects along with hundreds of drawings, photographs and pages of documentation. Significant as the collection may be, as Nicholas Thomas states in the introduction to Melanesia: Art and Encounter, it has been “consigned to something of a no-man’s land at a tremendous distance from the communities that produced it, yet disdained as a focus of seriously (sic) scholarly attention by anthropologists and art historians in the West” (xiv). This extraordinary volume is a welcome and highly creative response to this “scandal.”
Melanesia is the culmination of a five-year project which also resulted in the creation of a revised and expanded online catalogue of the objects. Following a widespread trend in museum studies, the project not only funded enhanced academic research by professional curators, anthropologists and art experts based in Western institutions, but forged partnerships with Melanesians from whose communities the objects originated. This entailed consultations in various parts of the region to gather responses to photographs of the objects as well as sponsored visits of Melanesian elders, scholars and students to the British Museum stores themselves. Sixteen of the book’s 57 chapters are written by or reproduce interviews with Melanesians, several of them expert artists in their own right. A dedication to respectful consultation and collaboration, however, sets the tone for the volume as a whole, not least in the core recognition that objects are, in Lissant Bolton’s words, “situated in relationships—relationships within Melanesian communities, between people and spirits, between the collectors and people from whom they obtained the objects, sometimes between non-Melanesian,” reflecting “a Melanesian preoccupation with the relationships objects can enable” (331).
The book is divided into six regional sections: southern Papua New Guinea; northern and highlands Papua New Guinea; West Papua; Solomon Islands; Vanuatu; and New Caledonia. Fiji, which is often included in the Melanesia region, is left out, ostensibly because of strong Polynesian cultural influences but one imagines also to keep the project at a manageable scope. Each section gets an editorial introduction providing an overview of the history of collecting in the region as well as outlines of the essays. While the overall geographical coverage is broad, the distribution of the essays naturally reflects that of the objects and the historical circumstances of their collection. Thus nearly two-thirds of the book focuses upon the former British and Australian colonies of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands with far less attention to Indonesian and French territories, including the former shared New Hebrides (Vanuatu). In addition, objects related to war and ritual are overrepresented, also reflecting patterns of collecting. To the credit of the editors, however, the collection includes several excellent essays on textiles and other forms of women’s art.
Melanesia is lavishly illustrated with beautiful reproductions of objects in the collection or inspired by it, archival prints and photographs of artists and ordinary people creating and performing their arts. The book is far from the ordinary coffee table catalogue of Pacific art, of which there have been many. There is no attempt at comprehensiveness—either in advancing a theory of Melanesian art or providing an overview of regional types and styles. Nor is the art simply allowed to “speak for itself.” The 57 essays from 52 contributors are very diverse in their topics and approaches. Those unfamiliar with the region and/or only interested in the art might well find the approach frustrating if not entirely incomprehensible. I think, however, that most people with even a small knowledge of Melanesia will find the essays a delight. Most are short and engagingly written. All draw upon original research and materials, lending insights into the objects and their relationships and, in several instances, carving out innovative approaches that could be profitably applied more broadly.
Given the number of essays and contributors, it is impossible to do more here than outline some of the key topics and themes addressed in the book. These include assessments of prehistoric objects; oral traditions connected to or inspired by carvings; background accounts of collectors and the situations under which collections were made; the motivations and uses of objects in missionary collections; archival sourcing of objects through old photographs and other records; ethnographic descriptions of contemporary performance and other uses of indigenous artistic forms; documentation of techniques used in the manufacture of objects, past and present; spiritual associations of objects such as masks and magical stones; the place of objects in indigenous conceptions of relational personhood; the deliberate creation of objects for the European market; the exchange networks along which artistic objects are created and passed on; attempts to resurrect abandoned art forms; and accounts of the experience of Melanesians visiting the collections.
The most poignant of the essays concern the shifting and conflicted attitudes of Melanesians concerning the objects stored at the British Museum, most long abandoned in their home communities. For most of the collaborators, encountering the objects evoked pride in their ancestral past and, for some, an inspiration to revive abandoned traditions. Yet for many Melanesians, masks, clubs and magic stones are reminders of a “time of darkness” their ancestors rejected. As I write this review, the speaker of the Papua New Guinean Parliament is orchestrating the destruction of the works of art adorning the Parliament building in a controversial attempt to purge “heathenism” from the nation. As modern-day Savonarolas emerge in the wake of the latest wave of Christian fundamentalism sweeping through the Pacific, the objects kept safe in the British Museum storerooms become ever more valuable for future generations. And ever more important to make visible, accessible and secure.
John Barker, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
MEMORY OF FORGOTTEN WAR. A film by Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem; directed and produced by Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem; edited by Deann Borshay Liem, Corey Ohama; original music by JJ & Chris; consulting editor, Vivien Hillgrove. Berkeley, CA: Mu Films; Channing & Popai Liem Education Foundation, 2013. 1 DVD (37 min.) Universities and Colleges, US$195.00; Nonprofit Community Groups/High Schools, US$95.00. In English and Korean with English and Korean subtitles. http://www.mufilms.org/films/memory-of-forgotten-war/.
The film Memory of Forgotten War is a passionate reminder of the need to illuminate the most important, and yet not well understood, event in the post-Liberation Korean Peninsula: the Korean War. The innovative choice of mixed genre provides persuasive human dimension to the drama of divided Korea through the prism of the narrative of divided families. Min Yong Lee, one of the interviewed witnesses in the film, explains the polarization among the Koreans (to close oneself off, as he put it) by the “black-and-white” culture. This either/or attitude of extremes has also marked the perceptions about the fratricidal conflict on the peninsula. The film tells the stories of the division and the war from the perspective of Koreans who found themselves in the southern half of the peninsula, separated from relatives in the north and finding it difficult to adapt to life, which eventually forced them to immigrate to the United States. The personal narrative is astutely intertwined with documentary materials (video, photos and maps) and scholarly commentary by Bruce Cumings and Ji-Yeon Yuh, thus providing a diverse and powerful depiction of the origins of the Korean War, its course and implications.
The film portrays the paths of divided families in a ruined country, starting from the first days after the liberation, the occupation of the two halves of the peninsula, and the drifting of the two sides toward a war. Cumings articulates his widely accepted argument of the origins of the war, tracing the divisions in Korean society back decades into colonialism. The historian particularly signals out the wartime mobilization of Koreans to work, serve in the army and as “comfort women” as one of the most destructive legacies of the Japanese rule. The northern part helped by the Soviets quickly launched a social revolution, including land reform. One of the interviewees, introduced as Mrs. Park, describes how her landlord’s family was dispossessed from their estate by the authorities and consequently moved to the south. The American occupying forces in the south formed a military government, propping up the Right and recruiting former colonial policemen and bureaucrats back into the administration, causing uproar among the population and continuous civil strife. According to recent conclusions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Korea, at least one hundred thousand Koreans (communists and their sympathizers or those opposed to Syngman Rhee government) were killed by the Southern regime in the summer of 1950, when the war broke out.
The North and the South were bent on unifying the country by force. One of the witnesses from Kasesong (part of the South before the Armistice Agreement) describes the numerous border clashes before the all-out conflict as “small wars” in which many of his classmates were killed. No doubt, the simmering civil conflict along class lines in postcolonial society and belligerent governments in Pyongyang and Seoul were responsible for the outbreak of the Korean War. We have to add the victory of Chinese communists and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the backing of the DPRK’s key communist allies for launching a unification war against the South, and the more disciplined and the better equipped Korean People’s Army (by June 1950) as significant factors contributing to the war.
The narrative pays attention to the devastating effects of the American air raids on cities and villages across Korea. Four million people were killed during the war, 70 percent of whom were civilians, according to an estimate cited in the film. Perhaps we will never know the exact number of lost people. There was a place for contrasting memories, explains another narrator: for example, Korean children being charmed by the GIs who were giving candy bars and other presents to them. The narrative covers the suffering of the people, the ordeal of the refugees, the daily struggle for food and a roof; cardboard houses were the cheapest ones, explains one witness, a fact of life at that time. The film describes the events leading to the signing of the Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953, and the onerous healing process after the war. Having relatives in the North was stigmatized in the South, even leading to labeling as a “criminal family.” Not surprisingly, most of those who had relatives in the North were discriminated against and tried to rebuild their lives by emigrating from South Korea. While this is an important and usually ignored aspect of the war legacies, the film does not address the other side of the equation: the hostility and repressions against Koreans in the North who had relatives in the South. Many of those separated family members in North Korea were not only discriminated against through ascribing social status, but were also accused of being “traitors” (for having relatives who moved south) and held in labour camps, which emerged as early as the second half of 1950s.
Separated families is one of the most lasting legacies of the Korean War and the narrators share the belief that reaching out to relatives in the North is the way for reconciliation between the two Koreas. Most of the interviewed Korean Americans visited North Korea in recent decades in an attempt to find their beloved relatives. One of them, Mr. Chun, even organized a number of group visits by fellow Korean Americans to the DPRK to meet relatives. Heartbreaking memories of family reunions and already lost ones during the time after the war enhance the main message: “dialogue, interact, learn,” as the interviewee Heebok Kim sums it up in the film. The participants in the film see the extension of the bridge to the North through family connections as their mission. It looks like a thin thread stretching over the seemingly unbridgeable divide between the two Koreas. States can break walls and contribute to reconciliation through policies, but unification starts from the hearts of people. The memories of the heart are the best hope for the unification of Korea. The film helps keep these memories alive and overcome the tendency to view the history of division in black and white terms. The authors deserve our utmost admiration for putting together this complex and moving mosaic of the divided Korean soul.
Avram Agov, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
A RIVER CHANGES COURSE. A film by Kalyanee Mam; Migrant Films, the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation presents; director, Kalyanee Mam. [Chicago, IL]: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Paris: CAT&
Docs [Distributor], 2013. 1 DVD (84 min.) US$300.00, Colleges and Universities; US150.00, K-12/Public Libraries; US$20.00, Home Use. In Khmu with subtitles in English and Khmu. http://www.ariverchangescourse.com/ http://www.catndocs.com/.
In A River Changes Course, filmmaker Kalyanee Mam follows the lives of three families in rural Cambodia and documents their transformation due to recent development in the country. In a remote jungle in northern Cambodia, a young mother Sav Samoun lives a traditional and simple life on the mountains, where her children can easily dig up potatoes for food. She laments the changes that are taking place around her home as a result of the encroachment of development and deforestation. Like her neighbours, she must also sell her land to logging companies. In a fishing hamlet on the Tonle Sap River of central Cambodia, a teenage boy Sari Math lives an idyllic life of fishing and devotion to Islamic tradition and secular study. As the fish catch dwindles, his father sends Sari to work at a Chinese-run cassava plantation in order to earn extra income for the family. From a village outside of Phnom Penh, a young woman Khieu Mok leaves home and seeks work in a city’s garment factory in order to help her family pay off debt. She quickly discovers that city life is not easy and innocently wishes that the factory moved to her village.
In addition to intimately documenting the changes that occurred in these three lives and their environment, Mam masterfully shows the cultural transformation that accompanied them. In the forest of northern Cambodia, for example, villagers no longer are afraid of wild animals and ghosts; instead, they now fear the people who are coming to their mountains and destroying their forests. Similarly, Sari has dreamt of being a fisherman for the rest of his life. Recent dam constructions on the upstream Mekong River, which disrupts the traditional water flow in and out of the Tonle Sap, are shattering that dream as he must leave his beloved fishing hamlet and become a migrant worker. Khieu, too, struggles to balance her filial duty to her family: being apart from her family and working in the factory versus looking after her aging parents at home and helping them with the harvest.
Mam carefully and successfully connects her audience with these three Cambodian families without preaching to the audience (or to her subjects) about the consequence of Cambodia’s recent development and cultural shift. This is best depicted in a scene of a pre-puberty country bumpkin in the fishing hamlet who sings: “If you marry a city man, you will be short of money. But if you choose me, you will have dollars to spend. Darling, you will have a Lexus and a villa. Wherever you go, you will be modern and stylish.” The audience can understand/lament the demands of money-culture in the city and can appreciate the innocence and the naiveté of the young boy because we can anticipate what will happen to him and his dream. This intimate connection with the audience is helped by the camera angle: often top-down when filming two young siblings at play on the mountain and bottom-up when filming Sari on the boat in the Tonle Sap.
Mam’s ability to tell such stories from an insider’s intimate perspective with an outsider’s neutral objectivity reflects her own personal and educational background and filmography. Mam was born in Battambang of western Cambodia. In 1979, she escaped from Cambodia to the United States through a refugee camp in Thailand. After graduating from Yale and earning a law degree from UCLA, she turned to filmmaking. She is a cinematographer for the Academy Award-winning documentary Inside Job.A River Changes Course is her directorial debut and has won numerous prestigious awards, including the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. She has also won the 2013 Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award, which honours a documentary artist whose work serves as a catalyst for education and change.
In my opinion, this documentary film should be used in all college classrooms that discuss Southeast Asia and/or internal migrant workers. Mam is planning to make a sequel of this documentary, as Sari has now become a transnational migrant worker in South Korea. It is rare that a filmmaker/scholar can follow the life of an individual from his early school years to the time he becomes a migrant worker and eventually a transnational migrant. Kalyanee Mam has something special with Sari and many who have seen this film will want to know what has become of him in Seoul.
Apichai W. Shipper, Georgetown University, Arlington, USA