China and Inner Asia
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HOW FINANCE IS SHAPING THE ECONOMIES OF CHINA, JAPAN, AND KOREA. Edited by Yung Chul Park and Hugh Patrick with Larry Meissner. New York: Columbia Business School Publishing (an imprint of Columbia University Press), 2013. xii, 364 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16526-6.
This book consists of four chapters written by scholars from China, South Korea (Korea hereafter) and the US on the recent developments of financial and other institutional changes and their implications in China, Japan and Korea. The book also contains an editors’ introduction. The three contributing chapters discuss the economies of China, Japan and Korea respectively and the last chapter discusses the role of banks in these countries. The five chapters of the book are as follows: chapter 1, “An introductory overview,” by Hugh Patrick; chapter 2, “Financial reform in China: progress and challenges,” by Yiping Huang, Xun Wang, Bijun Wang, and Nian Lin; chapter 3, “Ongoing financial deregulation, structural change, and performance, 1990–2010,” by Edward J. Lincoln; chapter 4, “Financial development and liberalization in Korea: 1980–2011,” by Yung Chul Park; and chapter 5, “Banking, capital flows, and financial cycles: Common threads in the 2007–2009 crisis,” by Young-Hwa Scok and Hyun Song Shin.
While China, Japan, and Korea are all part of Asia, their economies are at different stages of development. Furthermore, these countries have distinct histories, institutions, political systems, and societal characteristics. This gives an interesting setting in which to study how differently these countries have reacted to international economic shocks of a financial nature, such as the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998, and the United States-generated global financial crisis of 2007–2009, called the “Lehman shock of September 2008.” Another financial shock that only Japan experienced is its financial bubble of the late 1980s which burst in December 1990. The Asian financial crisis prompted serious financial reforms in Korea, while Japan’s financial bubble forced Japan to introduce many reform measures in its financial and corporate governance systems. The Lehman shock adversely affected the economies of these three countries as well as many others in the world.
Specific country chapters discuss how each of the three countries responded to these and other economic shocks using their financial policies. In chapter 2, Yiping Huang et al. emphasize the Chinese government’s insistence on retaining substantial financial repression instead of implementing full liberalization in dealing with the shocks during China’s reform period. In particular, low (depressed) interest and exchange rates are used by the Chinese government, essentially, as subsidies to investors and exporters. These repressive policies have also allowed the government to use the financial sector as a means for supporting economic policy (120). The authors show that the impact of such financial repression policies on economic growth was positive until the 1990s but became negative in the 2000s. The authors suggest the government undertake some level of liberalization in their financial policies to mitigate the negative effects of the current repressive policies.
Chapter 3 by Lincoln discusses Japan’s financial deregulation activities during the 1990–2010 period. Given Japan’s significant financial reforms (called the Big Bang reform) and their stated objectives in the 1990s after the bubble burst, expectations then were that the Japanese economy would move away from their bank-centred system to adopt a more market-oriented financial system and that Tokyo would become an active international financial centre. Neither has happened fully. While financially strong firms are able to issue bonds and other market-oriented debt instruments, weak firms continue to depend on bank finance. Japanese banks, many of which were nationalized in the 1990s, went through many mergers and acquisitions. Large banks were consolidated into three bank-holding companies, with significantly more monopoly power than before.
At the same time return on assets and return on equity remain considerably lower than in the United States. Corporate governance practices in Japan are not necessarily set up to facilitate corporations to maximize their profit either. For these and other reasons international firms may gradually shift activities away from Tokyo (Japan). Lincoln explains Japan’s somewhat inward-looking financial sector using Japanese financial firms’ poor English-language ability, high expat living costs in Tokyo, risk aversion, and group decision-making dynamics. This chapter also discusses the comparative advantages of a bank-centred system versus a market-based system which relies, for example, more on bonds and equity. It concludes that Japan will continue relying on the current bank-centred system for the near future.
Chapter 4, by Park, provides details of the four waves of financial reforms, 1980–2007, and their implications in Korea. Termed as one of the most repressive financial systems, many aspects of Korea’s financial system were strictly controlled by the government (e.g., regulations on banks, non-bank financial institutions, interest rates, foreign exchange rates). The most serious external shock was the 1997 Asian crisis, which in the end forced Korea with no foreign reserve left to accept the liberalization measures required by the International Monetary Fund in return for their rescue funding.
The IMF-originated liberalization measures, combined with further liberalization measures introduced by the Korean government in 2007 as well as the 2009 Capital Market Consolidation Act, prompted Korea’s financial system to become one of the more liberalized, open regimes in the emerging world (231). Korea’s experiences of these financial-system reform measures are summarized in chapter 4 as follows: benefits including economic efficiency gains arising from the financial liberalization are hard to find, so far. Park attributes this to the fact that there is a limit to which a small emerging economy can open its financial sector. Once opened, the financial market can become a playground for international investors, international banks and non-banks. One possible reason for this might be that Korea was not properly equipped to accept foreign investors at the time of financial liberalization. But now Korea cannot go back to the pre-liberalization model.
The main theme of chapter 5 by Seok and Shin is the role of financial intermediaries (particularly banks) in the 2007 Lehman crisis in China, Japan, Korea, the EU, and also the US. They conclude that, during the 2007 Lehman crisis, the mechanics of the boom-bust cycle played out even more potently in the capital markets of the advanced countries than in the emerging countries. How about the benefits of financial globalization and the belief that capital inflows from overseas supplement domestic savings in financing investment, lowering the cost of capital, and boosting growth? The evidence seems mixed at best. Capital inflows may fuel permissive domestic liquidity conditions that fuel housing booms and consumption. Asset bubbles may be attributed to the excessive growth of assets funded with short-term debt, with a substantial part being denominated in a foreign currency.
The editors’ preface states that the purpose of this book is to make definitive contributions to the financial histories of China, Japan, and Korea available to a wide audience. The editors have succeeded in their task.
Masao Nakamura, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
COMPARING INSTITUTION-BUILDING IN EAST ASIA: Power Politics, Governance, and Critical Junctures. Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific Series. By Hidetaka Yoshimatsu. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. xi, 231 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$100.00. cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-37054-9.
This is a well-designed, well-organized and well-written scholarly work, which provides a systematic and comprehensive analysis of regional institution-building in East Asia, an interesting and important topic in the study of East Asian regionalism. The book clearly makes a useful contribution to the study on regionalism in East Asia.
In pursuing this important topic of regionalism in East Asia, the author thoughtfully proposes a comprehensive analytical framework, which combines some important factors at all of Kenneth Waltz’s three levels of analysis, including power politics, nation-states’ pursuit of national interests, policymakers’ preferences, the role of non-state actors, and historical juncture. A major theme of the work is that while regional relations among nation-states are in the first place defined by power politics and a nation-state’s pursuit of national interests, specific policies are largely influenced by various domestic factors, including political institutions, interests groups, and others.
From the power politics perspective, the author argues that regional cooperation and institution-building in specific policy areas in East Asia is primarily dominated, influenced, and determined by two regional powers, China and Japan. While the regional institutions were mostly initiated by Japan as the old regional power in East Asia, they are now increasingly relying on China for their further development as a result of the rise of Chinese power and influence and the decline of Japanese power and influence.
Within the neorealist parameters of power politics at the systemic level, the author then focuses on how regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia in specific policy areas are influenced by policymakers’ preferences, non-state actors and historical juncture. According to the author, in the East Asian domestic political context, policymakers’ perceptions and preferences have significant influence on a nation-state’s foreign policy in general and policy toward regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia in particular. This is because policymakers of East Asian states, due to the history of statism and cultural tradition in East Asia, have long been able to independently pursue policies that would best promote national interests without being subjected to the influence of various domestic social interest groups. Of non-state actors, the author focuses on research institutes as crucial actors influencing regional institution-building in East Asia, as policymakers have to rely heavily on their research, knowledge, and expertise for decision making in specific policy areas. The critical juncture is a pivotal turning point in history, as reflected in a crisis or a critical event, which the author argues would significantly influence the path of regional institution-building in East Asia (for example, the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98). The author then applies this synthetic framework to the explanation of regional institution-building in East Asia in five important policy areas, i.e., trade, finance, food security, energy, and environment.
This synthetic approach seems to work quite well in explaining regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia and helping readers acquire a better understanding of East Asian regional institution-building in the five policy areas in question.
While the strengths of this scholarly work are most evident, there are several issues for which the author fails to provide a clear explanation. The first such issue is whether some of the regional cooperative projects and institutions that involve countries that are beyond East Asia (for example, the East Asian Summit) can still be called “East Asian regional institution.” This issue is particularly important because, as the author is aware, Japan is trying to bring more non-East Asian powers into various regional institution-building initiatives, while China insists that regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia should be confined to East Asian states only.
A second issue that needs some clearer clarification is the role of ASEAN in regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia. As the author aptly notes, ASEAN has been playing a leading role in many of the regional initiatives and institutions (for example, ARF, ASEM, ASEAN+3, ASEAN+1, etc.). But the author provides no explanation of why ASEAN can play such a leading role that is not in proportion to its true power. The conventional wisdom is that regional cooperation and institution-building has to be led by a major regional power or powers, as is true with the European Union. Such a leading role for ASEAN in regional institution-building in East Asia is also in conflict with the major theme of the work, which, based on the neorealist power politics perspective, argues that regional cooperation and institution-building in East Asia is dominated, influenced and determined by two regional powers, China and Japan. Obviously, there must be some important factors that allow ASEAN to play such a “leading” role, which is supposed to be taken by regional powers. These important factors are clearly related to geopolitics in East Asia, which is particularly reflected in the rivalry between two regional powers, China and Japan. This reveals a third issue of the work, that is, weak discussion of geopolitical competition between two regional powers, China and Japan, as a crucial factor behind the process of regional institution-building in East Asia.
On the whole, this is an informative and insightful work, which makes an important contribution to the literature on regionalism in East Asia in general and regional institution-building in East Asia in particular.
Kevin G. Cai, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
BRIDGING TROUBLED WATERS: China, Japan, and Maritime Order in the East China Sea. By James Manicom. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014. xii, 266 pp. (Figures, tables, maps.) US$54.95, cloth, ISBN 978-1-62616-102-3; US$32.95, paper, ISBN 978-1-62616-035-4; US$32.95, ebook, ISBN 978-1-62616-036-1.
The Sino-Japanese relationship has become increasingly tense in recent years, and some even worry that war is looming. Disputes over historical memory, disputed territory, and maritime space are sometimes interpreted as mere flashpoints in an ongoing power shift, but they are also crucial in their own right. Bridging Troubled Waters by James Manicom contributes a fresh perspective on the latter two bones of contention. In a nutshell, the book establishes its raison d´être by asking why and how Sino-Japanese cooperation has been achieved, and how can it be achieved in the future, despite lingering tensions. Manicom rightly argues that the East China Sea dispute should be considered a “least likely” case study in bilateral cooperation, and that it might “shed light on similar disputes” (5).
To address his research problem, Manicom stipulates that the value of disputed space has an impact on cooperative efforts between rival states. He constructs a 2×2 “Maritime Value Matrix” (MVM), where one axis represents the alleged dichotomy between “tangible” and “intangible” values, while the other one embodies a distinction between mutually salient issues and those that are salient only to one actor. Manicom hypothesizes that cooperation will be most reciprocal, enforceable, and lasting over tangible issues that concern both parties, while cooperation over issues that are important to just one party—tangible and intangible—will be weaker and more short-lived. However, he hypothesizes that intangible issues will be pursued reciprocally and tangible ones coercively.
These hypotheses are then confirmed in four cases: the islands conflict per se (since the 1970s), fishery cooperation (1997–2000), marine research activities (2000–2001), and resource development (2005–2008). Manicom finds that cooperation is easier and more durable over tangible matters that both parties have an interest in—fisheries is the case in point. In contrast, as soon as tangible issues are more important to just one party—for example maritime research—cooperation becomes more coercive, informal and short-lived. And when issues are intangible but concerns are shared, as with the territorial dispute, cooperation is reciprocal and informal, but also fragile. Resource development, finally, is a mixed case. Since only China would be able to use the resources effectively the issue has been more crucial to China in material terms. For Japan, in contrast, the issue becomes enmeshed in the allegedly more symbolic islands dispute.
The book not only contributes by demonstrating that Japan and China have been able to cooperate regarding the disputed islands and adjacent maritime space. Based on this understanding it also presents a roadmap for how to break up vicious circles and how to forge more virtuous ones. Manicom asserts that “cooperation will endure” (5), at least “[a]s long as states continue to reciprocate” (26). More concretely, he suggests that Japan could agree to abrogate the consensus on resource exploration from June 2008 “in exchange for an agreement on sharing jurisdiction in the contested area of the East China Sea” (188).
While this book makes significant theoretical, empirical and even policy contributions, I think some matters might be further discussed. First, the MVM distinguishes between tangible and intangible issues, but Manicom later concludes that the two are “nearly impossible to separate, in a political sense” (185). I agree with the afterthought, because even seemingly pure material matters acquire their meaning through symbols, ideas and discourses. Fisheries and fish, for instance, surely mean different things to a country where fish is an important part of the food culture, such as Japan, and a country where meat or vegetables are more prevalent. Likewise, the territorial dispute is classified here as an intangible issue, although, ironically, territory is often treated as the single-most material aspect of nation-states. Manicom argues that the conflation between symbolic and material aspects of contested space “militates against cooperation” in these particular cases (167), but such conflation is arguably inevitable.
Second, symbolic matters recur as a separate variable in the notion that leaders can reason and operate outside of the nationalist discourses and practices, which repeatedly aggravate the Sino-Japanese relationship over contested maritime space. Indeed, although Manicom provides a largely constructivist understanding of identity and refers to the “‘social construction’ of the world oceans” (7), his analysis is framed in the language of rational choice theory, where only costs and benefits seem to motivate the important actors: the strategizing leaders. This is not only inconsistent with social construction, but also quite unrealistic.
Third, Manicom’s belief in the possibility of Sino-Japanese cooperation is firm, but the picture that emerges from his own analysis is actually quite contradictory. He writes both that “the recent phase of tensions in the East China Sea seems to belie the cooperative track record presented in this book” (185), and that “[t]he cooperative track record between China and Japan in the East China Sea belies the expectation that the two countries are teetering on the brink of war over their disputed maritime space” (200). Yet one cannot have it both ways. Although the book demonstrates that cooperation is possible, it also shows that it is often fragile and short-lived. Indeed, this seems to be the gist of two of the hypotheses. Moreover, with the alleged importance of “coercive cooperation,” one needs to consider that coercion for the sake of cooperation is just as likely to have pacific outcomes as war for the sake of peace. Hence, with increasing confrontations at sea, and with mutually more exclusionary and antagonistic identity discourses in both countries, the prospects for cooperation actually seem quite dim.
These small objections notwithstanding, Manicom’s timely book contributes greatly to the understanding of one of the most pressing issues in Sino-Japanese relations, and is a must-read for serious students of East Asian international politics and maritime security alike.
Linus Hagström, Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Stockholm, Sweden
ARCHITECTURALIZED ASIA: Mapping a Continent through History. Spatial Habitus. Edited by Vimalin Rujivacharakul, H. Hazel Hahn, Ken Tadashi Oshima, Peter Christensen. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014, c2013. xv, 301 pp., [24 pp.] col. plates (Figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3952-9.
Architecturalized Asia is an ambitious volume of visionary scholarship that both demonstrates architectural history’s important place in the study of Asia and makes it accessible as a method of analysis to those of us outside the discipline. “Architecturalized,” which Yuming He handily describes as to be “designed, codified, and structured” (67), is a productive motif that underscores the making of “Asia” through thought and practice, and that seeks to interrogate that process of construction. It also refers to the object of study: “Asia” is to be examined through its “architecture”—here writ large to encompass not only individual buildings, but also the built environment and its representations in cartography. Underscoring the particular power that physical structures and their representations possess, the essays in this volume use them as lenses to investigate how Asia has taken shape over time.
This collection is motivated by a desire to emancipate the study of architecture in Asia from its domination by “a dialectical relationship between Europe and Asia” (8). While each of the essays gives due credit to the important role that Europe and European regimes of knowledge have played in the emergence and study of Asian architecture, they also identify a need to give an account of Asian architecture that neither reduces it to that relationship, nor always returns to it in the final analytical instance. The essays successfully offer different ways out of this bind, whether by demonstrating how, as Caroline Herbelin does, architects both local and foreign actively broke away from Orientalist conceptualizations of Asia to pursue architectural styles more appropriate to local conditions, or when Ken Tadashi Oshima shows that imaginations of Asia outside of Asia offered refreshing new ways to think about the region that departed from Orientalism’s desire to exoticize and subjugate. The emancipatory impulse is also at work in more elemental ways, as in David Efurd’s contribution, which offers a correction to misunderstandings that have resulted from reading South Asian Buddhist architecture through the lens of European religious architecture.
The attempt to interrogate the dominance of the nation-state and national styles as frames for examining Asian architecture is another theme that runs through the volume, and is especially marked in its first section on the medieval and early modern period. Vimalin Rujivacharakul’s examination of how architecture became linked to geographical and geopolitical space within the field of world architecture (Rujivacharakul identifies the emergence of “architectural narration” as a key moment in this process) sets the tone for the volume as a whole. By emphasizing a dynamic exchange of ideas, influences, and practices that transcended national borders, many of the essays not only illustrate the limitations of national frames for understanding the emergence of “Asian architecture” historically, they also—as in Imran bin Tajudeen’s essay on the inability of extant categories of Asian architecture to adequately account for Javanese architectural forms—highlight how national frames are in some cases unable even to produce accurate knowledge. At the same time, these interrogations of national frameworks stands in interesting tension with essays in the last section of the volume that examine architecture’s contribution to regional identity formation, which suggests that despite their limits as ways of ordering knowledge, architectural styles as representations of group identity are still politically powerful and useful.
The volume’s emphasis on the dynamic transmission of ideas across cultural, geographical, and temporal (as Seng Kuan demonstrates in his essay on the continuities between Japanese plans for their prewar colony in Manchuria and postwar Tokyo Bay) space prompts rethinking about the relationship between knowledge regimes, especially if the transmission takes place within asymmetrical power relations. Many of the essays illustrate the permeability between dualities like colonizer/colonized, West/non-West, or Asia/non-Asia and ask us to consider the multiple directionalities through which power and knowledge flowed. In so doing, an important question emerges: what happens to the political valences that accompanied these ideas in their “original” form—the Orientalist dimensions of imaginations of Asia formed during the age of high imperialism; the centralized power of the Soviet state implicit in Soviet-style functionalism; the colonial dimensions of Japan’s urban planning in Manchuria—when they are transmitted across space and time? Do these political significances, so crucial to their emergence, continue to inhere in the ideas or are they neutralized or transformed in some way through their transmission?
Among this volume’s successes is its offer of a refreshingly inclusive idea of “Asia” in time (from the medieval period to the present) and space (encompassing East, Southeast and South Asia, but also the Pacific Rim, Central Asia and Iran). This not only decentres the region away from its conventional geographical centres and raises the question of where Asia “is,” it also opens up the possibility of imagining other configurations of and within Asia itself. Peter Christensen’s tracing of Eurasia’s short-lived career as a “hitherto unimagined cultural contiguity” (105) illustrates this expansive geographical imagination especially powerfully. The fact that a region was—even if only for a moment—conceptualized in such a way that transcended national boundaries and national agendas is an intriguing prospect for our own, highly fragmented present in which political issues between individual countries threaten to exacerbate the fragmentation of Asia even further.
Tze M. Loo, University of Richmond, Richmond, USA
SLANTING I, IMAGINING WE: Asian Canadian Literary Production in the 1980s and 1990s. TransCanada Series. By Larissa Lai. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2014. xii, 260 pp. C$42.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-77112-041-8.
Larissa Lai is a still-all-too-rare being: an Asian Canadian artist, activist and academic. The author of two novels and several poetry collections, a committed long-time activist, particularly for anti-racist, feminist, and queer causes, and an academic whose first critical book, Slanting I, Imagining We, has recently been published, Lai occupies a fairly unique position from which to assess Asian Canadian literary production of the 1980s and 1990s. As she states in the introduction, “the purpose of this book is to interrogate the ways in which the term ‘Asian Canadian’ has been imagined, produced and put to work between approximately 1985 and 2000, and to consider its implications and possibilities in the new millennium” (24). With the success of the Japanese Canadian Redress Movement and the passage of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, along with the emergence of writers and artists of colour and Indigenous writers and artists during this period, there was an optimism about belonging to the Canadian nation, sustained debate about the possibilities and terms of such belonging at events like The Appropriate Voice conference of 1992 and the Writing Thru Race conference of 1994, and a growing pessimism with the triumphant rise of the neoliberal state. Lai, who lived through, participated in, and helped to shape much of this cultural history, is especially well placed to write about and assess it. She joins a fairly exclusive group that includes the likes of Roy Miki, Fred Wah and Richard Fung.
In the course of examining the meanings, parameters, usefulness and history of “Asian Canadian,” Lai provides one of the richest, most nuanced discussions of this umbrella term to date, entering into close conversation with Roy Miki’s recent In Flux: Transnational Shifts in Asian Canadian Writing (NeWest Press, 2011). Her depth of knowledge and detailed consideration of multiple sides of various issues, ranging from the role of autobiography as a liberatory genre through the value of special journal issues and “ethnic” anthologies to the politics of avant garde poetry, make for compelling arguments. In a move reminiscent of Kandice Chuh’s claim that the term “Asian American” must be approached as a subjectless discourse, a “conceptual tool [that] points to the need to manufacture ‘Asian American’ situationally” (Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique, Duke UP, 2003, 10), Lai states boldly that “the designation ‘Asian Canadian’ is a porous one. It is genealogically produced [in the Foucauldian sense] and deeply relational. The power of the term comes not from a particular essence as such, but from the coalitional work it does” (5). Emphasizing the relational and coalitional dimensions of “Asian Canadian” allows Lai to track the changing valances of this emergent “identity,” and its complex imbrication with other “identities,” especially Indigeneity, queerness, and feminism. Her treatment of Asian Canadian in relation to Indigeneity is especially innovative and illuminating. Her candour in revealing her doubts and uncertainties, her revisions to earlier commitments, is refreshing and still quite rare in academic scholarship.
Lai raises the very important question—one that has plagued academic activists for quite some time—of whether texts that reside under terms like “Asian Canadian” can “retain their liberatory possibility” when they leave the racialized communities in which they were formed and enter the academy, where they may “become a new type of ethnography” (59). She worries that these texts become legitimized because their writers are considered native informants who are mobilized as proof of the arrival of the multicultural nation. This route leads to commodification via institutionalization. Throughout this discussion, however, Lai tends to treat racialized/minoritized communities as if they are always in alignment or agreement with the artists and activists who emerge from them and often speak on their behalf. A binary emerges between supportive racialized/minoritized communities and incorporating institutions (especially universities, but also government agencies) that act on behalf of state multiculturalism. Despite sharing Lai’s concerns, I consider this division to be less clear: as Viet Nguyen observes in Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford UP, 2002), racialized communities can harbour significant reactionary views that are often opposed to those of their artists, while universities have often championed the work of racialized writers and activists, bringing it to wider audiences, as problematic as that incorporation may be.
One of the great strengths of the study is to draw out texts that do not focus primarily on traumatic pasts which induce perpetually melancholic presents, but rather gesture to possible, different futures that can assist in reinterpreting the past and the present. Lai explores different ways of carving out a positive future, questioning the obsessive focus on trauma as well as interrogating the issue of poststructuralist approaches to language as they affect identity politics, and insisting that “There is imaginative possibility here—if we can read the past for that which is hopeful, then we can produce the present in terms that allow for those productivities that Roy Miki has called ‘asiancy’ or ‘ethics’” (211). Writing in “the contemporary context of global capital and unjust war” (210) that mark the ascendancy of neoliberalism, Lai still manages to find idealist hope in the feminist, anti-racist, queer work of such writers as Hiromi Goto, jam ismail, Rita Wong and Dionne Brand. Her readings of individual texts by these writers are always informative and often brilliant.
For all her stress on critiquing nationalist belonging and valorizing relationality as a way of understanding “Asian Canadian,” Lai surprisingly limits herself primarily to a nationalist paradigm and to globalization as nationalism’s other. She doesn’t consider in a truly sustained way how “Asian Canadian” relates to “Asian American” (reciprocal? imperializing?) or to “Asian North American” or to continental American (as in “the Americas”). Nor does she give full consideration to a diasporic or transpacific paradigm, even though diasporas are themselves always already imbricated with the national in complicated ways. This is even more surprising given that Lai the novelist has consciously taken diasporic and continental positions in her fiction, to great effect. She certainly attempts to revisit and revise concepts of the nation, but she is reluctant to imagine outside or beyond it here, perhaps because neoliberal global capitalism sets such a horrific example of what is possible “beyond.” In the end, Lai refrains from offering a plan of action on which to pin the hope she has carefully nourished so that, despite her admirable ability to straddle the positions of academic, activist and artist, the book as a whole stops short of sustaining this balancing act, rather cleaving more to the academic than the other perspectives. Despite this, Slanting I, Imagining We is a compelling and challenging study, certainly among the best to date on Asian Canadian literature.
Donald C. Goellnicht, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
China and Inner Asia
The take-off of the Chinese economy beginning at the end of the twentieth century surprised many experts within China and without. It also represents the most serious challenge to the geo-economic order in the Pacific region and beyond since the mid-nineteenth century. Unprecedented in world history in terms of scope and speed, China’s economic transformation from an impoverished country to the world’s second largest economy in a short period of time also challenges the existing theoretical paradigms. As Hong Yinxing points out in the introduction to his The China Path to Economic Transition and Development, old theories about economic development and transition can no longer sufficiently explain the recent changes in China’s economy. Nor could these theories provide guidance for its future growth.
Hong divides his book into two parts. In part 1 (the first six chapters) of the book, he provides the theoretical basis for understanding the “China model” of economic reform and opening. In chapter 1, he notes that China’s pattern of economic development is different from the models prescribed by Western theories of economic transition. In other words, what characterizes China’s transition is its focus on marketization, rather than privatization. He also notes that in conducting its market reform, China sets itself apart from countries like the former Soviet Union, whose goal was to transform itself into a capitalist economy. By comparison, China’s goal is more gradual and more focused on social stability. In chapter 2, he points out that this pattern of development remains socialist in essence and is uniquely Chinese. Hong argues that China’s economic success in the past three decades convincingly shows that the “China model” is a successful one. In chapter 3, he analyzes the deliberate efforts that China made to revamp its economy gradually. Those efforts include non-state elements in the economy and reforming the ownership structure of state-owned enterprises. In the next chapter, Hong discusses the steps that China took in establishing a new market-economy order. He demonstrates the complexities of the creation of this new order by noting that it cannot take place simultaneously with the destruction of the old planned economy system. In chapter 5 he looks into non-economic sectors such as public transportation, education, and public health, confronting issues like social security, unemployment, and social justice that became more prominent as the economy grew. In the last chapter of the first part of the book, the author reminds us that the two driving forces of the Chinese economy, namely FDI (foreign direct investment) and labour, can no longer give China the competitive advantage that it needs to sustain and continue its economic growth.
In the second part (the last eight chapters) of the book, Hong explores the “China path” to economic development. China’s rapid economic growth, he notes in chapter 7, is seldom seen in the world. It became the second-largest economy in the world in 2010, the largest country in terms of foreign currency reserves, and the second-largest import country. Now China needs to find a “new driving force” and reorient its economic development. This is because old factors that supported China’s economic take-off are losing steam. For instance, labour is becoming increasingly expensive and scarce. China can no longer rely on investments and exports to sustain its economic development; rather, it must expand domestic consumption and technological and scientific innovation. In other words, China must shift from extensive economic growth to intensive growth, which is the subject of chapter 8. The latter, as Hong notes in chapter 9, will lead to a “new economy,” which is based on knowledge, information, the Internet, and digitization. In chapter 10, he explores how China can develop innovation as a way to sustain its economic development. Chapter 11 examines another challenge that the Chinese economy faces: how to obliterate the urban-rural divide, which has become worse in recent decades. The solution, he argues in chapter 12, is the modernization of agriculture, which requires, among other things, the introduction of science and technology to agricultural production. Chapter 13 explores how to use expanded consumption to stimulate economic growth. The last chapter of the book returns to a topic he touched upon earlier: why China’s economic pattern is uniquely Chinese. To answer this question, the author looks at the economic ideas and policies of the Chinese Communist Party.
This is an extremely thoughtful and well-researched book, which demonstrates the author’s profound familiarity not only with the modern theories of economic development and transition but also with China’s recent economic growth. The book is coherently organized around two fundamental and inter-related questions: whether China’s rapid economic take-off in recent decades represents a pattern that is uniquely Chinese and whether China could sustain its growth in the future. He tackles these questions by looking at different aspects of the rapidly expanding Chinese economy and the subsequent socioeconomic issues that accompany China’s economic expansion. His convincing argument that China’s development challenges existing theories of economic development and transition embodies a theoretical innovation. Through his extensive data and nuanced analysis, Hong provides valuable insights into the past, present, and future of the Chinese economy, which will benefit economists, policy makers, and researchers and students of the Chinese economy. These insights are now made accessible to English readers as well thanks to the faithful and effective translation by Professor Xiao-huang Yin.
Yong Chen, University of California, Irvine, USA
FOLLOWING THE LEADER: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book in Asian Studies. By David M. Lampton. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. xiii, 293 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$31.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-28121-9.
Following the Leader probes the dreams and nightmares of the PRC’s leadership after Mao, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping. Lampton, who appreciates the fragility of the PRC’s success and the enormous challenges lying ahead, attempts to “humanize” China’s extraordinary course of development since Deng Xiaoping’s return to power in 1977. His selective history of PRC challenges reveals the frustrations China’s leaders feel, the sheer scale of the challenges they face and, most illuminatingly, “the nightmares disturbing their sleep.” Lampton’s book emerges at a pivotal point in China’s modern history—we still do not know if China’s rapid-paced development is the basis for a more stable and responsive PRC government or if it signals the appearance of a more unmanageable, pluralized polity and society.
Lampton’s book is based on 558 interviews and group meetings with Chinese leaders between 1971–2013, on “innumerable” documents, and is illustrated with case studies. His inside-out or inductive approach helps us understand and anticipate the behaviour of the PRC. The book moves from macro to micro, first narrating the evolution of the Chinese communist revolution, proceeding to a “wide-angle” view, then to an analysis of leaders’ nightmares from an up-close perspective, and finally to forecasting the implications of China’s supersonic development.
Following the Leader is beautifully written and dotted with poetic passages unexpected in a book of political analysis. Describing the dilemma hyper growth has brought to the PRC since Deng Xiaoping’s rise, Lampton illuminates the following nightmare:
Like an automobile driving at high speed on a moonless night in the desert, China is undergoing a rate of domestic change so rapid that the country’s forward momentum cannot be stopped or the direction adequately adjusted in the existing zone of illumination—the PRC is driving too fast for the headlights to reveal what dangers lurk ahead . . . and at any moment China might hit a stationary object that was diffuse and unrecognized in the obscurity of the night. (222)
There are many more PRC nightmares for us to contemplate. In fact, China’s nightmares are so numerous Lampton finds the most appropriate simile for PRC governance to be the “whack a mole” arcade game in which one uses a mallet to try to bash multiple pop-up moles back into their holes. China’s nightmare is that one mallet is not and never will be enough to protect its people from harmful consequences such as severe environmental pollution or water problems that could explode into significant instability. It is clear that China’s economic power is key to China’s future and to its national power. Such economic power, however, can also lead to the greatest nightmare of all: that a government unable to protect its people from such deleterious conditions will soon need protection itself.
Unlike American leaders whose nightmares mainly focus on individuals or small groups, the nightmares of Chinese leaders concern huge social groups, some numbering over 800 million people. Lampton reminds us that at the end of 2011, for the first time in China’s history the rural population fell below half of the total population. China is now an urban nation. A PRC official states the nightmare this situation has produced by asking American officials how they would like to have 800 million farmers when the country only needs 200 million? China also needs upwards of 300 million jobs, equal to the entire population of the United States, to solve its periodically erupting unemployment problem. Worker discontent as a result of terrible factory working and pay conditions is frequently expressed in “mass incidents” as well as worker suicides and other violence.
Lampton considers PRC alternative futures that inspire some of the most traumatic nightmares for Chinese leaders. Perhaps the most frightening involves the fate of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). For several years now there has been a “simmering” argument in the Communist Party about whether the PLA should become a “national army” or remain an instrument of a single political party. Some party thinkers have proposed dividing the Communist Party in two by forming one conservative Communist party and one more liberal Communist party. China would thus become a “democratic” multi-party state with the PLA beholden to the PRC government but not to either party. Such a move would avert a 1989 Tiananmen situation in which a domestic conflict or succession struggle leading to a split within the party could result in a PLA alignment with one side or, even worse, both. Some ask the haunting question: might a PLA beholden to the government and not to one particular party choose to take the government into its own hands?
What is in store for China’s long-range international future seems to be much more the stuff of nightmares for United States’ leaders than for China’s. China’s future destiny has never been more closely connected with that of the international community. Unfortunately for Washington, Lampton stresses, China perceives the United States to be the greatest threat to its security future. The United States struggles to develop a shared vision of international security with the PRC and others. Beijing is clearly uncomfortable with a US-led security order founded on bilateral and multilateral alliances that do not include China. This has led to a struggle for the soul of Chinese foreign policy, between the realities of interdependence and impulses of assertive nationalism. China’s still powerful fear of being bullied, its victim mentality, continues to foster its aversion to being drawn into international obligations. While China’s leaders and people feel empowered to be full and equal participants in regional and world affairs, China still, as a rule, strives for balance while maintaining few or no permanent enemies or friends. What is ominous for those who have spent most their lives engaged with the PRC is not a nightmare but a stark, present reality: for several years now, every time China gets into trouble with its neighbours, the United States is always on the other side.
Justin Jon (Ben-Adam) Rudelson, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA
ENGAGING CHINA: Myth, Aspiration, and Strategy in Canadian Policy from Trudeau to Harper. UTP Insights. By Paul M. Evans. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. xix, 122 pp. US$19.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-4426-1448-2.
Paul Evans has long been a distinguished student of the Canada-China relationship, and his new Engaging China is probably the most important book published about it since Reluctant Adversaries: Canada and the People’s Republic of China, 1949–1970 (University of Toronto Press, 1991), a conference volume he and B. Michael Frolic edited. This brief book is based entirely on English-language materials, but in relating the Canadian side of the relationship Evans makes fairly extensive use of original archival sources.
Most historians will probably come away from this book somewhat disappointed that Evans does not cover in any detail Trudeau’s trip to China in the late 1940s, his subsequent second trip to China in 1960 along with Jacques Hébert during the height of the Great Leap Forward famine (he would later visit China once again in 1973, this time as PM), Trudeau’s lifelong fixation on China, Diefenbaker’s decision to sell wheat to China, and especially Canada’s innovative and influential “takes note” formula regarding the territorial disposition of Taiwan in establishing diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1970.
“Aspirations and tactics from the past offer lessons and cautionary tales,” he writes on page 84, but he does not really elaborate on these lessons and tales very much other than to make the sound observation that “the Canadian approach historically has been built on the idea that China is not a long-term threat” (84). This is somewhat disappointing, especially since Evans clearly believes that knowing the past in order to understand the present better is a sound reason for studying history. But Evans is primarily a political scientist, and it would be unfair to criticize his book for being something it is not and does not pretend to be: a full-orbed monograph on the history of Canada-China relations, one drawn from both Canadian and Chinese sources. Indeed, according to Evans, “What we still need are a full-gauged history of Canadian policy making and a systematic account of the Chinese side of the equation” (xix). He draws attention to the ongoing preparation of the long-awaited full treatment of Canada-China relations by B. Michael Frolic (Bernie Frolic).
Engaging China is a brief survey of Canadian China policy since 1970 and, more importantly, a broad policy recommendation or prescription for the terms of the future relationship. The meat of the book is chapter 5, “Engagement Recalibrated,” in which Evans argues that correcting Canada’s somewhat deficient and evolving China policies can be achieved through understanding and acting on four main points: 1) since 1978 and Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, China has changed immensely and continues to do so, and that this is good news for “engagers,” or people who believe that long-term engagement of the West with China will lead to positive change there; 2) the current dispensation of a multicentric world order has changed China’s international behaviour and will continue to do so, and fears of competing visions of world order (Westphalian vs. Sinocentric) are overstated; 3) while Australia, South Korea, and the United States have formulated long-term strategic visions for their overall engagement with China, Canada has so far largely failed to think in long-term geopolitical and strategic terms and needs to transcend narrowly “transactional and mercantilist” concerns; and 4) national leaders should take the lead in formulating a coherent long-term vision for China policy.
Evans argues that Canadian trade and investment with China can, if “carefully implemented” (87), eventually improve China’s human, social, and economic rights, although possibly in ways not readily foreseen today. He suggests that Canadian leaders can gently prod China to abide by the provisions of its own constitution, which explicitly guarantees freedoms of press, speech, and assembly, among other things. He has faith in the long-term transformative power of “the traditional Canadian formula of direct criticism and expressions of concern at the highest political level, quiet diplomacy in cases involving individuals, and an incessant effort at two-way dialogue, academic exchange, and capacity building” (88), and he wants as many levels and varieties of exchange and contact with China as possible.
He clearly admires Australia’s comprehensive geostrategic blueprint for future engagement with China and observes that “Australia, Canada’s most natural Asia Pacific comparator, is wrestling with the dilemma of having China as its largest trading partner and the United States as its principal security partner” (96). Although Canada’s largest trading and security partners are one and the same country, his argument that Canada ought to have some sort of coherent vision of China policy is sound, as is his contention that Canada should not focus on trade while largely leaving defence matters to the US and its Pacific allies.
Evans is not content to see Canada-China relations develop on an ad hoc basis, as if Canada were travelling through thick fog and could see what lies ahead only as it is closely approached. Evans insists that the fog can and should be penetrated and a way through it found. This important book, which no student of Canada-China relations should neglect and which belongs in all serious academic libraries, ultimately highlights the inadequacy of the ossified Laurentian and Continentalist duality in Canada’s foreign relations. While Canada’s major foreign relationship will very likely always be with the United States, Canada is now more of a Pacific state than an Atlantic one, even though much of Canada has yet to awaken fully to this adamantine fact. Evans’ book is a clarion call for the awakening, one that will hopefully help make unnecessary a future firebell in the night.
David Curtis Wright, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
EXHIBITING THE PAST: Historical Memory and the Politics of Museums in Postsocialist China. By Kirk A. Denton. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. viii, 350 pp. (Figures.) US$59.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3687-0.
In Exhibiting the Past, Kirk Denton, a scholar of Chinese Studies, covers a broad swath of issues relating to how people, events, and sites are remembered and commemorated in contemporary China. Denton emphasizes the role of the Chinese state, most notably during the post-Mao era, in the creation and maintenance of these remembrances and commemorations. Chapters are devoted to history, literary, ethnographic and military museums as well as monuments, memorials, and red tourism. Themes relating to “exhibitionary culture,” in Denton’s words, and the development of post-Mao narrative histories are clearly articulated. The writing is smooth, and the research effort that went into this book is impressive. There are extensive discussions of the secondary literature, especially as it pertains to remembrance and nationalism in contemporary China.
Denton points to a set of complex cleavages that are managed, in most cases with apparent success, by those who have official responsibility for remembrance in China. The conflicts and accommodations between national and local narratives and between forces of commercial entertainment and high-minded commemorative history-making are central to his analysis. Denton argues that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) exerts a profound influence over China’s “memoryscape … and to dismiss this state presence as nothing but propaganda is to fail to understand the complexity of the state/people relationship” (4).
Relying on his own research and the research of others, Denton carefully describes exhibits and memorials while skillfully connecting these descriptions to his main themes. The book contains discussions of China’s premier history museums, official remembrance sites devoted to Lu Xun and the Nanjing massacre, and memorials to Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi and Peng Dehuai. In chapter 2, Denton traces the history of post-Mao exhibits at the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in Beijing, later combined with the Museum of Chinese History to form the National Museum of China, which opened in 2011. In a 1996 exhibit at the then Museum of the Chinese Revolution, Denton finds a new emphasis on China as a nation, although the historical inevitability of CCP success and the socialist path that China followed continued to be prominently displayed. Here, as in so many cases, Denton describes changes in tone or emphasis vis-à-vis earlier exhibits, but the narrative of Party dominance, inevitability, and success remains front and centre.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, the creation of the National Museum of China, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, involved a complete transformation of the original building and revised exhibits. In the new museum, which Chinese officials hoped would rival storied institutions like the British Museum and the Louvre, exhibits trace Chinese history “from imperial glory to decline in the face of Western imperialism” leading ultimately to present renewal. Denton points to a decidedly more fluid and less disruptive treatment of Chinese history in which “present revival” is “built on ideals from the classical past” (71–72). We should not be surprised, as Denton was not, to find traumas such as the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Famine ignored or glossed over. This neglect is fully consistent with past museum representations.
Red tourism, which has been avidly promoted in China, is a mix of commerce, rural development, history lesson, and patriotic education. Local and national historical narratives often meld at these sites and impose, as Denton notes, “a revolutionary memory on the landscape of China” (215). In his discussion of red tourism and the Hunan memorials to Liu Shaoqi and Peng Dehuai, Denton calls attention to what he describes as the “Confucianization” of Liu and Peng, who were both purged by Mao. Both the Liu and Peng sites were extensively developed in the post-Mao era, and reflect, in Denton’s view, the “neo-traditionalism that has crept into party discourse” (234). The theme of a persistently developing neo-traditionalism, linking Confucian and socialist morality, is a recurrent theme throughout Exhibiting the Past.
On occasion Denton gives us insights into how Chinese visitors view what they are seeing. While travelling with a group of fellow tourists to Liu’s and Peng’s memorials, Denton refers to the irony that the older visitors expressed in the glorification of the once disgraced officials (230). This is a very good book, but readers might wish to see more discussion of audience: who visits and what messages do visitors take away from the memorials and museum exhibits that are at the heart of this book. Studies of museum audiences are notoriously difficult, but one suspects that Denton has more information on his fellow visitors than he has shared in this book. But this is a minor point; scholars of China, museums, and nationalism, will be happy to have this book. Denton offers a richly researched and thoughtful analysis of how officially sanctioned history-making and commemoration have fared in post-Mao China.
Rubie S. Watson, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
Michael Schoenhals’ newest work offers a rich and elegant examination of the surveillance and control apparatus of the People’s Republic of China in the two decades after revolution. Through the compilation of operational training manuals, archival accounts and never-before-seen “garbage materials”—grassroots, gray-market archival materials bought and sold by private peddlers—Schoenhals reconstructs the quotidian texture and day-to-day realities of China’s early surveillance operations. As the functional equivalent of the Soviet KGB, the Central Ministry of Public Security (CMPS) of the Central People’s Government was formally ratified on October 19, 1949, vested with exclusive authority to recruit and deploy agents for domestic operational purposes. How were they identified, trained, deployed and dismissed? How did the scope and influence of this organization change over time? What was the extent of its power and influence in the mid-1950s, at a time when China’s national railroad network alone saw more than ten thousand public security agents serving in a variety of capacities? What ensued in the wake of the Sino-Soviet split, when CCP authorities established their own surveillance textbooks and operational protocols based upon “Chinese characteristics?” What was the system’s fate at the outset of the Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong emphasized what Schoenhals somewhat euphemistically describes as the “widespread outsourcing of investigation, interrogation, and similar tasks to organizations of the revolutionary masses” (71–72). Schoenhals addresses these and many other questions, helping his readers gain a much fuller account of Chinese politics and society in the critical first two decades of the People’s Republic.
Schoenhals’ account is peppered throughout with concise, evocative case studies—too abundant to synthesize here—that humanize and enrich the story. One exemplary line of inquiry in the study pertains to the selection and recruitment of operatives at a time of great sociopolitical flux in the immediate post-revolutionary period. The CMPS was committed from its inception to developing what Schoenhals describes as “specialized and entirely covert operational resources” (52), with recruitment of operatives divided between three pools of candidates: the bad guys, the good guys, and those whose political and socioeconomic statuses were still very much in question at the time. The first group, also referred to as the “black masses,” encompassed those socioeconomic classes deemed hostile to the cause of socialism, and in particular, former Guomindang enemy combatants and surveillance operatives. Like many state-builders before and after it, the CCP was determined to leverage rather than eliminate those enemies who could render intelligence services deemed essential for the state’s protection. One prime recruitment area was within the country’s prison system, wherein detained individuals might be offered probationary status provided they were willing to collaborate. Mass mobilization campaigns constituted another prime recruiting ground, as in the October 1950 Suppression of Counterrevolutionaries campaign wherein service to the new regime was sometimes provided as an “exit strategy” to those who had been corralled. Former enemy combatants with known ties to enemy intelligence services were so valuable to the Communist regime, indeed, that they were at times specifically identified as “off limits” during political mass movements, and “de facto enjoyed protection in the course of every political campaign since 1949” (91).
The second group, or the red masses, encompassed members of the Party itself, as well as the Communist Youth League. Ideologically versed and politically committed to the cause, these individuals were in many ways the ideal candidates. In practical ways, however, they often proved less useful than their “black element” counterparts, standing out conspicuously within precisely those questionable contexts and communities they were charged with infiltrating.
The third group, or “gray masses,” was one of the most promising recruitment grounds for the state. Protestant “elements,” for example, could be utilized to infiltrate the Christian communities, themselves already under suspicion and close watch by the nascent regime. Similarly, those with longstanding connections to China’s foreign and embassy communities could be drawn upon to keep close watch on expatriates and foreign diplomats. There was an acute concern with finding operatives from non-Han Chinese backgrounds, as well, particularly in the southwest where Guomindang cells continued to operate between and along the Sino-Burmese border.
The development of surveillance operations involved not only organizational and logistical challenges, but also political and ideological debates. Was the employment of a covert force compatible with the Party’s self-fashioned identity as a revolutionary force of the people—particularly the use of the “black classes” and questionable elements? Was there a place for this form of covert organization within New China? The answer was a resounding yes, and what is more, the CCP proved unwilling to entrust its security solely with this formal surveillance infrastructure. By as early as 1953, the Party had developed its own parallel operation: the “specialized ideological policing unit,” or the Political Department of the CMPS. Among the most surveilled were CMPS agents themselves.
Spying for the People builds upon, and will undoubtedly contribute greatly to, Schoenhals’ deservedly towering reputation as a penetrating and precise analyst of the People’s Republic.
Thomas S. Mullaney, Stanford University, Stanford, USA
As an historian who has published extensively on Buddhist print culture in late imperial and modern China, Jan Kiely offers an interesting and archive-informed perspective on various Republican Chinese prison wardens’ attempts to rehabilitate or ganhua 感化 their inmates with Buddhist or Confucian moral suasion. At the local level, morally rehabilitated or converted inmates would thereby be less likely to reoffend as recidivists, and at the national level Republican China would prove to the treaty-port foreign powers that they should abolish extraterritoriality in light of China’s modernized and rehabilitative criminal justice system. Part of what made the moral suasion of prisoners such a “compelling ideal” to elites in both China and Japan was that this Western-style emphasis upon rehabilitation instead of old-fashioned corporal punishment apparently contributed to the formal abolition of foreign powers’ extraterritorial privileges in Japan by 1899 and in China by 1943.
However, the reader might well raise some questions about how compelling these ideas about prisoner rehabilitation have truly been—and to whom they may or may not have been compelling. Ganhua is a notoriously slippery term that Kiely variously translates as “reform,” “convert,” or “reformation” (40–41). Although the official government accounts that dominate many archival sources may portray rehabilitative “reformation” as effective for prison inmates, would most ex-inmates have necessarily agreed that ganhua was truly compelling to them if asked about it in private after their release from prison surveillance and control? Moreover, by translating ganhua’s supposed Maoist substitute of gaizao 改造 identically as “reform” instead of with a more precise rendering such as “remold” or “remake,” Kiely elides the more thoroughly transformational connotations of Maoist gaizao as opposed to Republican-era ganhua (276). Within this sort of terminological blur, ganhua, gaizao and gaige 改革 all come to be confusingly lumped together under the identical English label of “reform” in spite of significant distinctions between rehabilitative “conversion” (ganhua), heavy-handed “remolding” (gaizao), and institutional “reform” (gaige), respectively.
One of the most convincing lines of argument in the book can be found in Kiely’s characterization of official pressure on prisoners in many 1930s Guomindang “Self-Examination Institutes” to confess their behavioural and ideological failings as “coercive voluntarism” (201). This imperative of obligatory self-criticism would be ratcheted up higher than ever during the Mao era to require a great many PRC prison inmates to write lengthy life stories accentuating their numerous misdeeds and supposed crimes—and culminating with vows to throw themselves on the mercy of the infallible Communist Party and remold themselves into “New Socialist Persons.” Within civilian life outside of prison, single-party Leninist authoritarian regimes have helped retain their firm control over the public narrative through analogous devices described by political scientists as “administered mass organizations”: nationwide “mass” outfits like the PRC Women’s Federation that appear to represent popular voluntarism while actually being kept firmly in line by a Party committee at their administrative centre.
The book’s scholarly apparatus contains a brief three-page glossary of selected Chinese terms, but sadly no glossary entries for any authors or other key Chinese personages mentioned in the text or endnotes. Furthermore, The Compelling Ideal lacks a proper bibliography or works-cited list of the sort one expects from a scholarly monograph. Instead, Kiely has appended a list of cumbersome source-based abbreviations such as “SXXSGFNSS” (319), in which key information about these sources such as page numbers for journal articles has often been omitted. In order to check a source citation, the reader must constantly flip back and forth between the text, the endnotes section, and the aforementioned list of source-based acronyms, thereby making the book far less accessible to non-specialist readers than the topic warrants. Moreover, Kiely’s presentation of the theory and practice of Maoist thought remolding and remolding through labour is less persuasive and informative than that of some major monographs on the subject that his book ignores, such as Jean-Luc Domenach’s L’archipelago oublié (Paris, 1992) and Hu Ping’s Ren de xunhua, duobi, yu fanpan (Hong Kong, 1999; translated into English in 2012 as The Thought Remolding Campaign of the Chinese Communist Party-state). I would thus recommend The Compelling Ideal with reservations—and only to specialists in either the history of politics or penology in modern China.
Philip F. Williams, Montana State University, Bozeman, USA
Chinese medicine may not be what you think it is. Americans may be forgiven for thinking acupuncture the most important part of China’s medical culture, yet in 1820 a popular slogan in China stated that acupuncture was “absolutely inappropriate to all gentlemen.” How then did needling become the representative practice for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)? What happened, Bridie Andrews reveals, is that Chinese medicine became modern even as the conspicuous word “traditional” was added to its name.
In this long-awaited synthetic study examining the transformation of Chinese medical culture from a pluralistic and private affair in the mid-nineteenth century to a standardized and state-sponsored dual system by the mid-twentieth, Andrews offers the best account to date of how “Western” medicine (xiyi) and “Chinese” medicine (zhongyi) encountered each other and both became modern. The genius of this study is that it keeps its eye fully on both forms of medicine, rather than one or the other. In nine lean chapters, Andrews examines the transformation of the medical field in China that ranged from herbalists, shamans, bone-setters, midwives, priests and a few medical missionaries, to one in which two forms of medicine competed. There was an increasingly power-hungry xiyi that sought to dominate the medical field, and an increasingly rationalized Chinese medicine that (re-)incorporated acupuncture from Japan. Like other recent works on Chinese medicine, Andrews skewers the nationalist narrative of a TCM that was always, already complete. Likewise, xiyi was also in constant transformation. But this is no Whig history—neither form of medicine progressed according to an inevitable logic of progress—and so the end result is messy: a Chinese health-care field that promoted one form of medicine over another because it was sometimes popular, sometimes effective, and always subject to the politics of nationalism.
Following the introduction, Andrews establishes a baseline for a conversation about medicine and modernity in China. So we discover the complex field of health care in nineteenth-century China when on the street a foreign observer might witness Daoist medical peddlers, exorcists, and kung-fu masters, but an astute Chinese writer would observe that many health issues were handled within the household through religious practices and herbal medical prescriptions, but one could also consult itinerant “river-and-lake” doctors, street healers, tiger-skin merchants, or various female practitioners. There were also official and semi-official physicians, a category that might include military doctors, opium office doctors, and school and Red Cross doctors. But all of the above, for Qiu Jisheng in 1915 Shaoxing, were a separate category from Chinese-style doctors (zhongyi). The knowledge and practice of these specialists in wound treatment, eye and throat diseases, smallpox variolation, childbirth and pediatrics, and internal and external medicine was in a discrete class. For the poor, home and religious remedies were usually the only forms of medicine that were affordable, while the wealthy might get second and third opinions from established specialists.
We also see the birth of missionary medicine in China as hundreds of British and Americans physicians attempted to practice medicine as an aid to conversion. But rather than emphasize how different their medicine was, Andrews demonstrates how missionaries tried to reduce the “perception of alterity” by using Chinese drugs, making their clinics and hospitals accommodating to Chinese sensibilities, and taking the pulse at both wrists, as was common practice (55–61). In a fourth chapter, Japan becomes the focus as we see this nation as key to transforming both major forms of medicine. Japan had absorbed anatomically-based Western medicine along with other reforms well before China, and became a model for many modernizers from China due to its geographical and cultural proximity. In Japan, kanpō (Andrews calls this “Sino-Japanese medicine”) was regulated and starved while the government encouraged a vigorously expanding system of domestic medical education promoting anatomically-based medicine. A Chinese physician named Yu Yan, trained in the Japanese system, returned to China and tried to demolish Chinese medical theory through public debate, and then abolish its practice through legislation. But both kanpō in Japan and its counterpart in China survived and experienced resurgence in the 1930s.
Subsequent chapters focus on public health as a key component of state building, examples of medical lives in the unofficial hybrid field of medicine that emerged in the twentieth century, new medical institutions that changed both forms of medicine, and the development of new theories and new practices even as nationalism emphasized the “traditional” aspect of medicine. To illustrate these themes, I focus on acupuncture.
Andrews reveals how acupuncture was transformed into the marquee practice of modern Chinese medicine from its degraded position in the late Qing. The key was the Japanese grafting of acupuncture onto a Western view of the anatomical body. Modern filiform needles replaced previously much larger acupuncture tools. Acupuncture points were reduced and relocated by subsequent Chinese scholars like Cheng Dan’an, who studied both forms of medicine, and argued, “[e]ach acupoint must be elucidated anatomically,” to avoid blood vessels and arteries. And so it is ironic, the author argues, that Westerners now see this Japanese-influenced, anatomically reformed acupuncture as the symbol of a more holistic and ancient form of health now called Traditional Chinese Medicine (197–205).
The author ends her roughly chronological narrative of a long century of modern medicine in China with the official establishment of TCM in the 1950s. Although the analysis is often at its best in the final chapter of conclusions, the narrative becomes thin during the crucial war and early PRC years (1937–1960) as Andrews relies on recent secondary literature. Other readers may find the episodic nature of the chapter on three medical lives to be instructing, if not completely satisfying as the best examples of the trends she describes elsewhere. Yet these can hardly be major critiques of what was designed to be a century-long narrative history arguing that, against received understandings, modern Chinese medicine includes both xiyi practiced in China, and standardized and anatomized Traditional Chinese Medicine.
David Luesink, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
CHINA’S BATTLE FOR KOREA: The 1951 Spring Offensive. Twentieth-Century Battles. By Xiaobing Li. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. xxxviii, 385 pp. (Charts, figures, maps.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-253-01157-2.
Xiaobing Li’s latest book examines the Chinese People’s Volunteer Force (CPVF) in the fifth and final campaign of the Korean War, asking why the Chinese lost this battle and what consequences followed. While there are a number of excellent books on China and the Korean War, most deal with the decision to enter the conflict or the overall conduct of the war. This work is unique in that it concentrates on the Chinese operational experience in what Li sees as the most important campaign of the war, revealing the 1951 “Spring Offensive” as a decisive battle that not only changed the course of the war, but also helped reshape the Chinese military in the years after the Korean War.
The first two chapters offer background on China’s entry to the war and the first four campaigns against United Nations Forces (UNF). In the remaining six chapters, Li analyzes the planning, conduct, and aftermath of the fifth campaign. A veteran of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the author of several works on the Korean War and the modern Chinese military, Xiaobing Li draws heavily on government documents, military papers, official histories and the memoirs and recollections of numerous participants. One of the strengths of this book is the way he blends discussion of larger strategic and tactical concerns with the experiences of combat commanders on the ground. His interviews with more than 200 Korean War veterans and close reading of the oral histories of many others yield valuable insights from individuals who commanded troops at multiple levels of the CPVF.
From late April to early June 1951, Chinese and North Korean People’s Army (NKPA) forces totaling more than 700,000 fought against 340,000 UNF soldiers in a battle that some predicted would determine the outcome of the war. Chinese leaders outlined three major goals for the campaign: to prevent the enemy from making an amphibious landing to the north behind Chinese lines, to destroy at least three American divisions and three Republic of Korea (ROK) divisions, and to regain the initiative for a decisive victory and avoid a prolonged conflict. After suffering costly defeats on both the eastern and western fronts, Chinese commanders ordered a withdrawal of all of CPVF forces to the north of the thirty-eighth parallel in what Li calls the “disastrous withdrawal to the north” (181). This final phase of the fifth campaign saw a UNF counter-attack which inflicted 45,000 to 60,000 casualties on the CPVF, the heaviest totals since the start of the war. In the wake of this defeat, Chinese leaders switched to a strategy of positional warfare, defending frontal positions until the armistice agreement in 1953. This featured smaller-scale attacks designed to chip away at UNF strength, which Mao described as “eating sticky candy bit by bit” (216). Rather than deal a decisive blow to the enemy and end the conflict, the CPVF’s fifth campaign ushered in a prolonged period of low-intensity conflict.
In analyzing the defeat, Li points to several factors that limited the effectiveness of the CPVF in the fifth campaign. First, chronic problems of supply made life difficult for Chinese soldiers throughout the campaign. Due to both weaknesses in the logistical system and the effectiveness of American bombing, the lack of adequate food, winter clothing, and ammunition prevented Chinese soldiers from achieving their objectives. Li points out that the logistical system actually improved during the fifth campaign, but it still left many units without necessary arms and materials. Second, the CPVF did not have enough experienced officers and enlisted men to conduct a successful campaign against the UNF. CPVF commander-in-chief Peng Dehuai and his generals rushed to prepare for the attack and pushed their troops into action before they were ready. Many of the soldiers had only recently arrived in Korea, lacked combat experience, and had only a few days to prepare. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Li argues that Chinese commanders proved “excessively inflexible” (110) when it came to tactics, clinging stubbornly to attempts to divide, encircle, and annihilate UNF units even as it became clear that while they might divide and encircle, the CPVF could not annihilate enemy units that had such superior firepower. Failure to change tactics contributed to the defeat in the fifth campaign.
As Li clearly demonstrates, the fifth offensive did more than convince Mao Zedong, Peng, and the Chinese leadership that they must abandon attempts to destroy the UNF forces and accept a negotiated settlement. It also helped transform the long-term strategy, tactics, and military culture of the PLA. The experience of the fifth campaign in particular demonstrated the limits of Chinese military power and influenced Chinese leaders to use their forces more cautiously and realistically. In the next few decades, they restricted them to border conflicts with limited objectives. It also forced them to address the glaring weaknesses in their logistical systems and lack of technology. Increased military budgets after the war allowed for improved training of officers and weapons purchases from the Soviet Union.
China’s Battle for Korea provides a detailed and thorough analysis of the CPVF’s fifth campaign, the reasons for its failure, and the consequences for the Korean War and the Chinese military. It joins Harold Tanner’s The Battle for Manchuria and the Fate of China: Siping 1946 (2013), as two recent additions on Chinese military history from the University of Indiana Press’s Twentieth-Century Battles series. This is an encouraging trend as works such as Xiaobing Li’s have much to tell us about the Chinese side of the Korean War.
Peter Worthing, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA
MY FIGHT FOR A NEW TAIWAN: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power. By Lu Hsiu-lien and Ashley Esarey; foreword by Jerome A. Cohen. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. xiii, 314 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Illustrations.) US$34.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-295-99364-5.
Lü Hsiu-lien is East Asia’s first female vice president as well as Taiwan’s grassroots feminist activist. My Fight for a New Taiwan: One Woman’s Journey from Prison to Power is her English-language autobiographical book. with Ashley Esarey’s introduction and epilogue as well as Jerome A. Cohen’s preface.
An American reporter with Taiwanese experience, Ashley Esarey begins with what Taiwan is and how Taiwan changed from the ancient Chinese feudalist era to the twenty-first century. His epilogue reports almost all the crises Lü Hsiu-lien and Chen Shui-bien faced after they were elected as vice president and president, as well as Lü Hsiu-lien’s life after her retirement. Jerome A. Cohen is not merely Lü Hsiu-lien’s Harvard University law school professor, but also one of the Americans who helped release her from prison. In his foreword, he highlights Lü Hsiu-lien’s exceptional experience moving from prison to Presidential Palace.
This book covers Lü Hsiu-lien’s childhood, teenage years, adulthood, college life, legal training, overseas graduate studies, early career, feminist and political social movements, prison life, political jobs, and retirement. In the first chapter, “Dreams Come True,” Lü Hsiu-lien accentuates the ironic contrasts between her experience as a defendant in the courtroom on March 18, 1980 and her status as Taiwan’s vice president on March 18, 2000. Chapters 2 to 10 are Lü Hsiu-lien’s chronological memory of her life stories. Chapter 2, “Taiwanese Daughter,” mentions Lü Hsiu-lien’s Taiwanese self-identity, family, and educational background, especially her college-level legal training. Chapter 3, “Lifting Half the Sky,” includes Lü Hsiu-lien’s American post-graduate studies of comparative law at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, her cancer, and her Taiwanese women’s movement to promote gender egalitarianism. Chapter 4, “A Moth Flying toward Flame,” delineates Lü Hsiu-lien’s Harvard experience, her friendship with Jerome Cohen, and her return from Harvard University to Taiwanese political movements. The US government’s discontinuation of its official friendship with Taiwan indirectly resulted in the cancellation of the election, in which Lü Hsiu-lien was supposed to participate, and paved the way for her involvement in the Dangwai activists’ Formosa Incident. Chapter 5, “Human Rights Riot,” touches upon how and why Lü Hsiu-lien was arrested. Chapter 6, “Patriotism Imprisoned,” describes Lü Hsiu-lien’s prison experience. Chapter 7, “In Search of Destiny,” shows how Lü Hsiu-lien restarted her political movements after she was released from prison. Chapter 8, “Knocking at the Gate of the UN,” demonstrates Lü Hsiu-lien’s efforts to help Taiwan reenter the United Nations. Lee Tung-hui valued her hard work and invited her to serve as a presidential advisor after his presidential inauguration. Chapter 9, “Political Trash,” starts with Chungli’s trash issues when Lü Hsiu-lien was the Taoyuan County chief executive, and ends with her acceptance of Chen Shui-bien’s offer to run for vice president. Chapter 10, “The Glorious Revolution,” records Lü Hsiu-lien’s triumph in the presidential election as Taiwan’s first female vice president.
Throughout Chinese history, it seems to be a pattern that the male elite felt free to single out women, as if women’s gender issues were their easy scapegoat whenever their political or military failure created crises for the nation-state. For instance, Tang Dynasty women’s second or third marriages were acceptable and frequently seen in princesses’ life stories, but Chinese women’s chastity was singled out and highly emphasized in the Song Dynasty after the male ruling class faced foreign invaders.
Lü Hsiu-lien was one of Taiwan’s local feminist pioneers to overthrow this thousands-year-old pattern. Her women’s and political movements demonstrate that the male elite’s use of women as their easy scapegoat should be terminated. She proved that women like her can do as much as the male elite can to do to help their homeland tackle national crises when foreign countries threaten the nation-state.
Although some non-academic people in English-speaking or other non-Asian areas mistake Taiwan for Thailand, Taiwan’s self-identity is discussed in various English-language academic books, such as William Campbell’s Formosa under the Dutch, Tonio Andrade’s How Taiwan Became Chinese, Melissa Brown’s Is Taiwan Chinese?, Alan M. Watchman’s Taiwan: National Identity and Democratization, Denny Roy’s Taiwan: A Political History, Bruce Herschensohn’s Taiwan: The Threatened Democracy, John Franklin Copper’s Taiwan: Nation-State or Province?, and Murray A. Rubinstein’s Taiwan: A New History. However, English-language academic books focusing on Taiwanese gender issues could probably be counted on one’s fingers. The most influential reason lies with most English-speaking feminists or gender scholars; although they do not mistake Taiwanese gender issues for Thai gender issues, they frequently place Taiwanese gender issues under the huge umbrella of Communist Chinese or PRC women’s studies. In other words, most of them are China-centred and lack Taiwan-oriented feminist voices. This inadvertent “big China bias” hinders a more complete understanding of Taiwanese women’s past, present, and future. Shanshan Du, for instance, was so afraid of threats from the PRC government that she requested Murray A. Rubinstein’s chapter about Lü Hsiu-lien be replaced by a chapter about Li Ang and asked me to add my paragraphs about Xie Xuehong, a Taiwanese communist feminist, to it when she and I coedited Women and Gender in Modern Chinese Society: Beyond Han Patriarchy. Exceptions in Harvard University Library’s current online catalogues include Cal Clark, Janet Clark and Bih-er Chou’s Women in Taiwan Politics, Catherine Farris, Murray A. Rubinstein and Anru Lee’s Women in the New Taiwan, Chen Pei-ying’s Acting “Otherwise,” Doris Chang’s Women’s Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan, Lydia Kung’s Factory Women in Taiwan, Hans Tao-ming Huang’s Queer Politics and Sexual Modernity in Taiwan, and some of Ya-chen Chen’s books. However, most English-language academic books that touch upon Taiwanese gender issues do so because they unconsciously regard Taiwanese aspects as nothing but a byproduct when talking about the giant vista of Communist Chinese women’s, gender, and queer studies—not because Taiwanese gender issues are their only key points.
While most English-language academic books about Chinese-heritage women sound like an orchestra featuring the “big China,” Lü Hsiu-lien’s English-language autobiographical book adds one more valuable Taiwanese volume to English-language publications.
Ya-chen Chen, Columbia University, New York, USA
WIVES, HUSBANDS, AND LOVERS: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China. Edited by Deborah S. Davis and Sara L. Friedman. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xii, 326 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-9184-7.
This book opens the Pandora’s box of marriage issues in China, offering readers a view of the growing anomalies of familial, sexual, and marital mores and the complexities engendered by deviancies in the three Chinese societies of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the PRC. These “hidden” by-products, evolved throughout history and transformed by modernity, are disrupting and restructuring the conventional orders of marriage and family relationships in contemporary China. It is at this historical moment that they are captured by this book and presented as an important topic for discussion and debate: the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage in China (3).
The book incorporates multiple perspectives (legal, socio-demographic, gender, and culture) of scholars who approached the topic in both qualitative and quantitative ways. It is divided into three parts. Part 1 focuses on the PRC. Davis interprets the revised marriage laws/regulations in the PRC and the driving factors and social implications beyond legal amendments. She argues that the paradoxical role of the state as a “legal referee” that increasingly legitimizes marriage freedom (sexual intimacy and conjugal property) and as a Maoist-style “social engineer” that unwaveringly dictates marital fertility and reproduction constitutes a unique feature of marriage deinstitutionalization in China (54–55).
Farrer examines the changing sexual cultures in China, demonstrated by a growing disjuncture between premarital intimacy and marriage/childbearing. He complicates the notion of (modern) love by deconstructing the “feeling rules” in contexts of commitment, intimacy and passion whereby disloyalty, casual sex, and ambiguous relationships are justifiably entangled. It is worth thinking whether that represents a sexual revolution which allows the Chinese to cultivate new cultures of intimacy or a demonstration of a moral vacuum among contemporary youths in the PRC.
Yong and Wang explore the underlying forces of the (re)emergence of late marriages in Shanghai. They argue that marriage reinstitution is more of an evolutionary than revolutionary phenomenon because marriage practices, i.e., marital age and birth planning, feature an increasing degree of individual choices and reduced legislative enforcement (107). Their data analysis adds credit to the inference that China will likely follow a similar trajectory to that in its neighbouring countries in East Asia where the conventional marriage institution has been disrupted and remodelled by the younger generation.
Zhang and Sun capture an interesting phenomenon in Shanghai People’s Park, where parents negotiate a marriage suitor for their daughters. They attribute the highlighted anxieties of parents to three main factors: first, the growing economic pressure; second, demographic changes, such as the implementation of the One-Child Policy; and third, parents’ ideological connections to the socialist past. The discussion of shifting intimacy from the private to the public thus exposes essential issues of China in transition.
Part 2 centres on Hong Kong. Ting outlines the continuities and changes in Hong Kong people’s marital experiences from the 1960s to 2010. He analyzes the correlation between marriage quality and demographics, i.e., gender, age, and educational level. The data analysis, however, doesn’t closely support the conclusion, which emphasizes the “robust institution” of marriage in Hong Kong in spite of the occurrence of new forms of marital and sexual practice in the society (158). Yet this poses a new question: how do we determine if marriage remains a social institution or is deinstitutionalized in a society?
Ho studies Hong Kong males’ rhetoric on their sexual and marital experiences with local and PRC women. He finds conventional masculinities have been overthrown and redefined by modern Hong Kong men who offer multiple interpretations of being “good” and “responsible”: a self-justified definition which simultaneously reflects their insecurities, pride, desires for recognition, and aspirations for romance and sexual relationships outside of marriage. This echoes the broader sociocultural changes of postcolonial Hong Kong.
Erni examines Hong Kong’s first transgender marriage case, which highlights the prevailing social prejudice against people in the new gender categories and the legal resistance to challenging the marriage institution in the local society. His analysis of the cultural and legal discourses (e.g., the court’s statement) stimulates discussions of the meanings of gender/sex and marriage and the legal rights of people “on the edge.”
Part 3 focuses on Taiwan. Kuo analyzes the transformations of Taiwanese family law in response to the emergence of new types of marriage in recent decades. His discussion of Taiwan’s legal reform in response to the private life “reordering” not only demonstrates the increasing trend of deinstitutionalization of marriage in Taiwan but also alarms governments in other societies to initiate legal actions to manage similar challenges.
Yu and Liu’s survey on the determinants of housework division between husbands and wives shows that patriarchal marriage values persist in Taiwan. They argue that the co-existence of the changes and continuities is an incomplete breakdown of the traditional norms instead of a linear process of reinstitutionalization of marriage in Taiwan. This conclusion adds weight to (re)conceptualizing the “deinstitutionalization of marriage” in the Chinese context.
Shen argues that “split marriages” connected through a gendered division of labour can reinforce conjugal ties. This is because geographic separation enables both husbands and wives to cultivate new spaces of their own. Taiwanese (business)men enjoy the freedom of casual sexual liaisons in China whereas their wives gain autonomy and explore their social circles outside home. Her work taps into the counter-force of deinstitutionalization of marriage as it shows that unconventional marriage practices can strengthen the existing institution of marriage.
In analyzing the relationships between gender, population, and sovereignty in cross-Strait marriages, Friedman argues that the regulatory regime in Taiwan, based on a “dependency model” of immigration (290), enhances the unequal status of Chinese marital immigrants as evidenced by their legal and financial reliance on their Taiwanese spouses. She also finds that the state asserts and undergirds its sovereign power through the bureaucratic scrutiny of marriages, a practice that is inseparable from the political contestations across the Strait.
Overall, the chapters are neatly integrated under the theme of “deinstitutionalization of marriage” in China. The book injects new blood into scholarship on the topic of marriage and sexuality and offers alternative ways of thinking and questioning institutions—as symbolized by the cover of the book.
Wang Pan, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
RISE OF A JAPANESE CHINATOWN: Yokohama, 1894–1972. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 367; Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Eric C. Han. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; distributed by Harvard University Press, 2014. xvi, 250 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-49198-4.
Solid scholarship and fresh research findings make Eric C. Han’s book a significant contribution to Asian Studies, expanding our knowledge on Chinese immigration to Japan and the history of Yokohama Chinatown in the context of tension and warfare between China and Japan from 1894 to 1972. A first in English, this book provides historical evidence of the Yokohama Chinatown, now the most popular tourist destination in Japan for tasting imagined and exotic Chinese culture. This research also contributes to social sciences discourses on the theory of ethnicity and national identity, adding vivid testimony to the flexible, paradoxical and plural existence of a global Chinese diaspora. Drawing on rich Japanese literature, archival records and local newspaper articles since the 1880s, Han convincingly argues how the Yokohama Chinese enacted multiple roles of patriotic overseas Chinese (huaqiao), cooperative local sons or “Yokohama-ite” (hamakko), to eventually become a Japanese ethnic minority. This study provides useful demographic data of the Chinese in Japan over 80 years, while old photographic copies illuminate the physical transitions in Yokohama Chinatown residents’ daily lives.
Consisting of five major chapters, the “introduction” spells out research goals and methods; what global diaspora means; and the chapters’ main points, with each chapter covering a landmark historical period or key warfare between China and Japan.
Chapter 1, “The Sino-Japanese War and Ethnic Unity, 1894–95,” first accounts for the arrival of the Chinese in Yokohama, predominantly Cantonese compradors and merchants who accompanied Western traders in the 1880s. Assigned to the Chinese quarter of the Nankinmachi in this emerging port town of international trade, they were welcomed as prestigious foreign merchants. Following China’s first major defeat by the Japanese in the 1894–95 war, although anti-Chinese sentiment grew, it did not stop friendships and intermarriages between the Chinese and local Japanese, and thus commenced an emerging local identity for Chinese sojourners.
Chapter 2, “Expatriate Nationalists and the Politics of Mixed Residence, 1895–1911,” examines the in-fighting amongst Chinese centred on Chinese organizations such as guilds and schools, because of revolution and other political movements in China and overseas. Vivid anecdotes highlight the fight for control of Chinese institutions between cliques adhering to conflicting political ideologies as well as different hometown origins.
Chapter 3, “Cooperation, Conflict, and Modern Life in an International Port, 1912–32,” tells how the Chinese citizens of the new Republic of China (founded in 1912) achieved commercial success and cultural acceptance in Yokohama. Two interesting activities won the hearts of the Japanese. They popularized exotic Chinese cuisine (Cantonese shumai in particular) in luxurious Chinese restaurants; Chinese schools built modern “Chinese” baseball teams (they had a Chinese coach from Hawaii) that defeated all other local and regional Japanese school teams in this budding American sport in Japan. Also discussed is the direct intervention of China’s new government in Chinatown’s schools by exporting teachers and official Chinese textbooks in order to indoctrinate overseas Chinese children to become patriotic Chinese citizens. Then the Chinese faced harder times when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931.
Chapter 4, “Sino-Japanese War, Sino-Japanese Friendship, and the Yokohama-ite (native son) Identity, 1933–45,” portrays the Chinese enduring eight long years of hardship under police abuse, general distrust and coercion into openly supporting the cause of the Japanese invasion and occupation of their homeland. To survive in this enemy country, some Yokohama Chinese leaders compromised by openly demonstrating loyalty to the Japanese puppet region in Nanking, China. The long war period also saw the Yokohama Chinese cultural integration into the mainstream Japanese society, thereby adopting a stronger and paradoxical local Japanese identity. Along with other major cities in Japan at the conclusion of the Pacific War, air raids on Yokohama Chinatown turned it to ruins.
Chapter 5, “A Town Divided: The Cold War in Yokohama Chinatown, 1945–72,” describes the postwar period when the Chinese status in Japan was suddenly elevated to the citizens of the “victorious nation” of China. Many Chinese took advantage of their new status by engaging in black market trading, prospered and reconstructed a new Chinatown. Then the Cold War and Korean War periods also witnessed a positive transition of Yokohama Chinatown into a major tourist attraction when the majority of the residents received Japanese citizenship. However, the political split in China into ROC and PRC induced fierce fighting between rival supporters, when each faction sought control of Chinese schools and associations. Han tells of dramatic stories, for instance, of how at Chinatown schools’ board meetings, thugs were hired and Japanese police summoned to physically remove members of opposing political factions.
Han in his “conclusion” reminds us that Yokohama Chinatown is now dominated by Japanese nationals of Chinese ancestry who join the “Minorities in a Monoethnic State,” as his study shows a marked assimilation and identity change among Chinese in the “Micropolitics of Everyday Life.” He emphasizes, once again, the flexibility of ethnic and national identity as being a historical and social process, not fixed essential markers. By the end of the twentieth century Yokohama Chinatown had become a plural community: a Japanese town engaged in the business of commodified Chinese culture. After the 1980s, enormous numbers of new immigrants arrived from China, and they gradually took over old restaurants and souvenir shops. That, of course, is a subject for another book.
This book may serve as a timely reference for opinion leaders and specialists of East Asian international politics, given the current intensified conflicts between China and Japan, such as the almost daily skirmishes on the high seas surrounding the Diaoyutai (Chinese name) or Senkaku (Japanese name) Islands of Japan. Although Han’s book focuses on the “Rise of a Japanese Chinatown,” it actually provides condensed background information on a century of international rivalry between Japan and China. In sum, while interesting for general readers, this book is a must read for students of diaspora Chinese and East Asian Studies.
David Y.H. Wu, East-West Center, Honolulu, USA
THE “GREATEST PROBLEM”: Religion and State Formation in Meiji Japan. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 365. By Trent E. Maxey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2014. xiii, 330 pp. (Figures.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-49199-1.
Maxey’s book is a well-presented investigation into the “problem” of religion during the Meiji period. Following a number of other studies that examine the uncertainties surrounding the early Meiji state, Maxey’s research contributes to this theme by examining how religion was not simply a given category to be easily manipulated, even by the imperial institution. Rather it was shaped by a number of actors, both domestic and international, who sought to transform the definition and contents of the term religion largely to further the project of nation-building. Thus, the main focus of the book is to trace the shifting boundaries between the state and religion. To assist in this quest Maxey introduces his term “grammar of religion” in order to describe how the state carefully crafted policies regarding religion so as to not undermine its own position.
The first half of the book provides a history of state policies towards Christianity from the Edo period into Meiji and in some ways is what forms the original problem regarding religion in Japan. Balancing the potential for Christianity to produce local agitation and the imposition of Christianity by Western nations and their unequal treaties throughout the nineteenth century, the Japanese state had to quickly formulate a response to the question of religion despite it not being high on the agenda for many Restoration bureaucrats. The Iwakura Mission helped shape the state’s response to Christianity but, as Maxey argues, it also opened up the question of religion in regards to domestic practices. The second half of the book deals with the state’s response to religion as something that needs to be managed domestically. Treating religion “as an object of policy” (180) the Meiji state sought to neutralize the debate through secularizing public institutions and even cutting off their support of Shinto. Nonetheless, the problem of religion continued to haunt both the secular authorities as well as the project of modernity, as scholars like Gerald Figal and Marilyn Ivy have already observed.
Perhaps Maxey’s greatest contribution to the study of religion in the Meiji period is to show how the restoration of the imperial institution “produced as many problems as solutions” (243) regarding the question of political power in Japan. The discussion on how to differentiate between what was private or public religious belief is a good example of how the state produced a problem by not wanting to unravel the contradiction that constituted its own authority. The solution was found in Article 28 of the Imperial Constitution, which enshrined the ideals of freedom of religion but situated that freedom within the boundaries of upholding the imperial authority. The “grammar of religion” was thus simply a means to navigate the politics of building a nation-state without having to confront the material problems that modernization presented to the everyday life of the masses.
It was this materiality of ritual and everyday life and its connection to the overall nation-building project of the Meiji state that was lacking from Maxey’s analysis of the state and religion in Meiji Japan. While this might fall outside of the author’s intended project, at times the focus on policy and the rhetoric of national integration limits religion to belief (as public/private or its absence) without understanding the place of ritual in grounding religion within the everyday. For example, Yasukuni Shrine through the majority of the Meiji period would best be understood not through the lens of religion and state power but rather through ritual. The majority of people who visited the shrine grounds knew very little if anything regarding the state ideology of enshrining the war dead and yet their participation in festivals and the consumption of entertainment on the shrine grounds tied them to the modernizing aims of the state which, in many ways, Yasukuni symbolized. Without understanding the place of ritual (and its many manifestations) within the bounds of the secular state, religion will always be a category that produces problems and anxieties similar to that experienced by the political leaders of Meiji Japan.
Nonetheless, Maxey’s book offers the reader a wealth of primary sources, from state documents and journals to newspapers, which are carefully organized so as to produce a dialogue with each other. In particular the focus on state policy and debates on the issue of religion will be of use to students of the Meiji period.
Joshua Baxter, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
BREWED IN JAPAN: The Evolution of the Japanese Beer Industry. By Jeffrey W. Alexander. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014, c2013. xii, 303 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3953-6.
The history of beer in Japan dovetails perfectly with the history of Japan’s “modern” period, as the first cases were brewed just before the Meiji Restoration and as the history of the industry’s major players cuts through the Fifteen-Year War into the historical present. Beer as both a consumer product and an industrial enterprise thus intersects a wide range of historical moments: the installation of industrial capitalism, Japanese imperial expansion, the economic and social effects of total war, post-war economic recovery, and the rise and transformation(s) of a consumer culture in both the pre- and post-war social landscapes. Jeffrey Alexander’s industry history of beer in Japan surveys the entire width of this expanse while remaining focused on the development of beer as a manufactured product and a consumer good. Despite the breadth of this study, it is both rich and highly detailed. Drawing heavily on the self-generated company histories of several major brewers, Alexander explicates the microscopic details of the creation, expansion and transformation of Japan’s major beer companies.
His central narrative traces beer’s evolution from an expensive, “European” product to the radical shifts in the composition of both the product and industry during the Second World War, resulting in the subsequent, total domestication of it in the post-war years (2, 87, 109, 170). It is this history of domestication that forms the core of his argument. Early chapters deal with the difficulties encountered by brewers within the process of industrialization, and explore beer’s expansion as a consumer product domestically and within Japan’s colonial possessions. With Japan’s invasion of China, the initiation of the wartime economy also fundamentally altered the nature of Japanese beer itself. Until then, beer in Japan was generally brewed in a heavy German style and thus thought of as a European product. However, wartime restrictions on imports and ingredients brought about a lighter beer that would become the mainstay of the post-war years. Through advertising and the rise in beer consumption, it was radically recast as a “Japanese” product, completing the domestication of beer as it eclipsed sake as the staple of bars and homes alike.
Beyond this broader narrative of industry growth and development, Alexander’s work touches upon a number of important themes in Japanese modernity. For example, his first two chapters interweave the early history of the brewing industry with the development of industrial capitalism within Japan. The particularity of the brewing industry, which experienced a number of different setbacks and difficulties related to lack of experience and infrastructure, qualifies narratives that see Japan’s industrialization as “rapid” and smooth as the early brewers often times utilized non-industrial techniques in brewing or transportation, and were only able to reach a limited base of consumers due to geography and the price of the product (53–54, 104–106). Over the last thirty years, traditional narratives of the Meiji era as a smooth and efficient period of “industrialization” or “modernization” have been shown to be too reductive and moreover, ignorant of the unevenness and contingency involved in the shift to industrial capitalism and a nation-state. As a very recent example of this, Robert Stolz’s Bad Water (Duke, 2014) looks at the pollution surrounding the Ashio Copper mine during the late Meiji shift to industrial capitalism circa the 1890s and early 1900s. He shows how the logic of the state and the process of industrialization allowed for “national sacrifice zones,” whereby the population and natural environment of places like Ashio were destroyed for the greater common good seen in industrialization. Rather than a smooth development, the attempt to reterritorialize both land and worker to the needs of industry was difficult, violent and often a destructive process (Robert Stolz, Bad Water). While Alexander in some sense adds to the critique of Meiji industrialization, it may be more productive to think about the relation of the beer industry to the uneven and variable process of industrial development in terms starker than simply “qualifying” the narrative of smooth development.
It is precisely when Brewed in Japan touches upon issues like the above that one wishes that Alexander would push past the narrowness of an industrial history and dig deeper into some of these important themes. This was particularly the case with his discussion of imperialism. Some of Japan’s first brewers were deeply connected to the colonization of Hokkaidō where the government tried to engineer a “second little Japan” by converting local inhabitants into Japanese subjects. As Alexander shows, the brewing industry was part of both the industrial development and the institution of agriculture in Hokkaidō, which were essential to converting the local population into wage labourers and agricultural workers (32). Here would be a perfect opportunity to explore how an industry like beer was interconnected to this colonization process and how the particularities of the colonization process may or may not have been an important part of the history of the industry. His discussion of Japanese imperial expansion in the thirties and forties warrants a similar call for more analysis. While he historicizes the spread of breweries to Japan’s colonies, one is left wondering about the interconnection of the industry with colonial policy and exploitation (132–137). For example he discusses how the post-war industry suffered from the loss of Japanese employees due to conscription in the war, but the issue of colonial labour—did they employ local Korean and Manchuria factor workers and how did that process work?—is left under-addressed (163). That is not to say that Alexander should have forced a long discussion of imperialism or a colonial critique, but rather that his gesturing to the connection to imperialism leaves a number of questions and concerns unanswered.
Overall, as an industry history, Brewed in Japan is well done and bursting with excellent details and well-researched scholarship. For anyone interested in a history of beer in Japan this is an excellent and comprehensive account of it.
Kevin Richardson, University of California, Los Angeles, USA
This book discusses how sets of beliefs, which the author specifies as “arguments” or ‘‘discourses” (19) around the political priority of “unification, human rights, and democracy” have, according to the author, provided a focus for three “distinct activist movements” in South Korea. These distinct sets of beliefs, the author argues, “continue to influence debate around inter-Korean relations” (19) as the political activists of yesterday have become the politicians, diplomats, and officials of today. The aim of the book is to understand better inter-Korean relations through “examining the nature of South Korean domestic political debate” (5).
Chapter 1 reviews various theoretical perspectives to conclude that “an agency-driven conceptualization of discursive power” provides a helpful explanatory device that is best employed via “a wider, historical view of politics” (30). To this end, chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5, provide a historical summary of the relations between South Korean governments and political activists from the years of the Park Chung Hee military dictatorship (1961 to 1979) through to and including the period of democratization from the late 1980s, and the “decade of progressive rule” (195) of the late 1990s and early 2000s that concluded with the election in 2007 of the conservative president, Lee Myung Bak. The fairly short concluding chapter summarizes the contribution of the book as demonstrating that political activism is not spontaneous but has ‘deep-seated social, cultural, and political roots’ and that “the relationship between dominant (state) and dissident (political activist) discourses is multifaceted” (98).
Critical analysis, in the scholarly sense, of human rights movements is very sparse, given the fear of analysts of being portrayed as sympathetic to human rights abuses and the understandable reluctance of scholars to have their work misinterpreted by one side or another in politically charged debates. In South Korea, those fears are compounded by the continued existence of the National Security Law that is used to penalize those judged to be sympathetic to North Korea with sanctions that include imprisonment. This book, therefore, addresses a number of potentially productive debates. Chapter 5 provides interesting new empirical material in the short section on the “new right” and the “new left” of the human rights movement in South Korea, in terms of the division between them as to how much to involve United States regime change advocates in domestic human rights campaigns (168–195). The author also touches on the story of how some South Korean activists saw North Korea as a society to be emulated, how most were disillusioned but some remained faithful to what for most observers is at best an outdated society ruled over by a repressive government and at worst a vision of hell in which crimes of humanity are committed against the entire population on an everyday basis; this is another untold story that would bear further investigation.
Overall, however, the book is handicapped by insufficient specification of the research question such that the narrative is forced into an over-high level of generality. The consequent lack of a defined central thesis results in the absence of cohesive analytical structure that makes it hard to identify the key points that the author wants to make. In the absence of a clear analytical framework, the historical chapters end up with a lot of descriptive material that the book struggles to integrate into narrative cohesion. That is not to say that the book does not abound with ideas and possibilities but the trick here would have been to develop these ideas so as to provide the foundations for a disciplined framing of the historical material.
The book clearly started as a doctoral thesis and there is nothing intrinsically wrong in that. It does, however, suffer from the absence of a really good editing job that could have eradicated what read as quite descriptive summaries between chapters, repetition, odd locutions, and references to theoretical work that are not integrated or developed as part of the analytical frame for the book. More substantively, there is a “levels-of-analysis” issue that need to be resolved. The author is centrally concerned with the issue of “norm negotiation” and this is a potentially important way of thinking about who or what achieves hegemonic dominance in any society; the issue in this book is that there is an elision between the level of individual, non-state actor, society, government and state. In the context of a book that is intending to explain inter-Korean (state and society?) relations by evaluating the activities of individuals and non-state actors, we need, at minimum, to have these different levels analytically specified so that the questions of who is negotiating, how, why and what are the outcomes, in terms of the relationships between these different analytical levels, can be asked in the first place.
Nevertheless, at the heart of this book is a commendable approach to scholarship. It is committed to the idea of explaining important things—in this case what political activists do and how we understand what they do—and it also tries hard to avoid naïve empirical exposition as a substitute for careful analytical investigation.
Hazel Smith, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom
THE MAKING OF THE FIRST KOREAN PRESIDENT: Syngman Rhee’s Quest for Independence 1875–1948. By Young Ick Lew. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. xxv, 444 pp. (Figures.) US$68.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3168-4.
When South Korean President Syngman Rhee left office to begin a life of exile in 1960, it brought an abrupt close to his storied career as a political and public figure in modern Korea, one spanning the late Chosŏn, the colonial period, and the formation of an independent nation-state, albeit one marked by contestation and division. Little did he suspect, however, that his legacy would continue to be debated by historians and scholars well into the early twenty-first century, with a recent historiography just now beginning to explore the complex economic and social circumstances dating to his period of rule (1948–1960), especially given sufficient time to reflect and re-evaluate. Park Tae-gyun of Seoul National University, for example, has sought to outline the careful economic planning and bureaucratic work done by a small group of Korean social scientists and intellectuals from the late 1950s, and into the early 1960s. If Park’s intent is clearly not to exonerate Rhee, the effect of such a gesture suggests at least a more nuanced reading, especially in contrast to an earlier caricature in which the president simply waited on stage for Park Chung Hee to emerge with his ambitious visions for the future.
In keeping with this theme, Young Ick Lew’s timely study, The Making of the First Korean President (2014), offers a rich biographical portrait of the first ROK president in his multiple guises, beginning as a “Christian reformer,” and spanning the last quarter of the nineteenth century until the beginning of his presidency (1876–1948). Well-known as a senior figure and in particular, as a scholar of the Korean independence movement at the end of the nineteenth century, Lew offers here a deeply researched vision of Rhee as a flawed, complex individual capable of great achievement and ambition, as well as someone equally skilled at becoming mired in controversy, engaging with factions and intrigue. Drawing on a wide range of sources across several different languages, and holding access to Rhee’s personal documents, Lew presents his newest and perhaps most vital insights when he covers the period between Rhee’s departure from Korea in the early twentieth century and his re-emergence nearly four decades later, following liberation in 1945. While the broad contours of this career may be familiar to some readers—the time he spent in Hawaii, and his engagement with the Shanghai provisional government—the details provided here offer a potentially greater depth, and an argument actively promoting Rhee’s long-term motivation as a major figure behind the ideals of Korean independence, even characterizing him as a “freedom fighter” (281).
With his chosen periodization, Lew offers numerous links between the late Chosŏn and the early Republic of Korea, a choice that might remind some of the Cold War narrative conflict between the two Koreas, with both nations struggling to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of the external world. Still, Lew’s version of events takes place less at the scale of the nation-state than via an individual, and he seeks to explain that individual over the long-term, countering the facile dismissal typical of some of the previous English-language scholarship. Equally interesting, Lew acknowledges his engagement with Robert Oliver’s famous (and deeply problematic) biography, a hagiographic account composed with access only to the English-language portion of Rhee’s personal papers. In this sense, the task that Lew sets for himself is extremely difficult from the outset, calling for an account drawing upon Rhee’s composition abilities in several languages; and moreover, one that must be far more critical than its predecessors. To a great extent, Lew succeeds in his chosen task of defamiliarizing this prominent figure, and equally, seeks to engage Rhee’s personal conflicts and failed efforts at diplomacy, actions earning him criticism from any number of quarters.
If in the end Lew’s major task is to convince the reader of the value of re-engaging with Rhee as a serious figure worthy of attention, he succeeds, providing shades of gray sufficient to complicate the existing picture. His careful documentation of Rhee’s travels and diplomatic work in a variety of contexts adds to his own previous work on the president, and makes extensive use of the papers obtained in the late 1990s, and now housed at Yonsei Unversity. In brief, the book works well as a vehicle designed to showcase a specific set of emerging sources, and in this respect, meets the terms it has set for itself. At the same time, his contention that Rhee was the individual best suited for the presidency as of the mid-1940s is bound to cause some controversy (281–293), particularly among those sympathetic to exploring alternative or counterfactual possibilities. Still, much like the major biography of Kim Il-Sung offered by Dae Sook Suh in the mid-1990s, the present work takes up a deeply familiar subject, or at least apparently so, before presenting it in revised form, asking new questions of a contentious, complicated figure.
John P. DiMoia, National University of Singapore, Singapore
TREACHEROUS TRANSLATION: Culture, Nationalism, and Colonialism in Korea and Japan from the 1910s to the 1960s. Seoul-California Series in Korean Studies, 6. By Serk-Bae Suh. Berkeley: Global, Area and International Archive, University of California Press, 2013. xxx, 222 pp. US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-938169-06-9.
Scholars of literature who are conducting research in a transnational context often find themselves working with a vocabulary that declines toward essentialism. It is difficult to discuss a text without situating it within a (putatively self-evident) national literature, itself founded upon a circular logic in which the nation, often an imagined ethno-nation of implied common biological descent, both explains and is explained by the text. This is not surprising; during the modern period many of the authors and readers in question would have embraced such a paradigm. Similarly, many scholars who have taken on the interplay of texts that traverse these categories have merely reproduced them with little concern for their historicity or instability. By contrast, Serk-Bae Suh’s study on the role of translation in the colonial context avoids the reification of national categories without losing sight of the tremendous influence those categories exerted and continue to exert, as he examines asymmetrical power relations involved in specific instances of translation.
The first of these is the work of Hosoi Hajime (細井肇, 1886–1934), a writer, editor, and translator who considered it his life’s mission to “bring Japan and Korea together into genuine unity” (18) under Japanese imperial rule. Suh argues that Hosoi’s project, which advocated the unification of knowledge and empathy (in Hosoi’s terminology, “love” [愛]) was doomed from the beginning, as it never confronted the political conflict (stemming from the violence of colonization) which necessitated that unification (44–45).
Next is the 1938 Japanese translation (by Chang Hyŏkchu장혁주 [張赫宙], 1905–1997) of a traditional opera Ch’unhyangjŏn (춘향전 [春香傳], The Tale of Spring Fragrance), staged in both Japan and Korea. The translation met with resistance by intellectuals, such as Yi T’aejun (이태준 [李泰俊], 1904–1970?), who were concerned with both “misrepresentation of Korean culture and customs” and ultimately “the total assimilation of Korean culture into Japanese” (59). Suh, however, points out that rather than a form of resistance against Japanese imperialism, the cultural nationalist response of these critics, premised as it was on a symmetrical relationship between two putatively autonomous cultures, only “served to compensate for the political asymmetry between the colonized and the colonizer” (66).
In chapter 3, Suh takes up the career of Ch’oe Chaesŏ (최재서 [崔載瑞], 1908-1964), a scholar turned journalist who became an editor of the Japanese-language journal Kokumin bungaku (国民文学, 1941–1945), published in Korea. According to Suh, Ch’oe represented a different approach to culture in the colonial context: he wished to position “Korean literature and culture within the literature and culture of Japan” (84). As Suh describes, this schema was Ch’oe’s attempt to preserve the autonomy of culture without resisting the politics of his day; as a result his attempts were anything but autonomous, and in fact “colluded with the politics of colonial domination” (103).
Moving into the period following liberation, Suh discusses the historian Tōma Seita (藤間生大, 1913–) and the poet/translator Kim Soun (김º“운
[金素雲], 1907–81). In 1956, two years after a series of his translations of literary works into Japanese had been republished with commentary by Tōma, Kim published an article that attacked the historian’s “ostensibly sympathetic” (104) readings. Kim attacked Tōma for readings that he thought were plagued by “wild speculation and dogma” made worse by being “shrouded in good will” (104). Kim’s criticism focused on questioning why “colonial experience should be the ultimate hermeneutical horizon” (126); for Suh, however, the greater problem lay in equating Japanese under the U.S. Occupation with past forms of imperialism, which allowed them to “escape accountability for Japan’s own colonial expansion” (113).
Finally, Suh discusses the poet Kim Suyŏng (김수영[金洙暎], 1921–1968) as a representative of a generation of bilingual intellectuals in postcolonial Korea who were forced to negotiate the politics and pragmatics of their differential language abilities amid a “nationalist imperative […] to favor Korean as the sole national language” (145). As Suh points out, however, such a project “indicated aspirations to a unified Korea that was not only absent in the present but had also never existed in the past” (148). As such, these intellectuals posed a challenge to an ideology that “erases the alterity of language and reinforces monolingualism as the normative linguistic situation” (157).
Suh’s study is a concrete example of the difficulty in historicizing essentialized peoplehood constructs while preserving collective accountability in the face of a history of colonial violence. In focusing on “translation in the colonial context” (xiii), he scrupulously maintains the contingency and complexity of the subject positions of the individuals involved. The result, to this reader, was a historically specific critical theorization that could nonetheless contribute to understanding translation outside of this colonial context, where other forms of alterity and asymmetry would inevitably be operative. The only moment of hesitation I felt was near the end of the book, in his reflections on representation, when he concedes the existence of communities formed upon “epistemological substrata” comprised of shared conventions and norms (130). It soon becomes clear that Suh has conceded this only to then undermine it, first noting that no such community will lack its own internal alterity or be entirely homogeneous (131), and then clarifying that colonial alterity “need not involve any essentialist identification” (134). My fear, though, is that the initial concession implies the existence of a privileged form of alterity between ahistorical “peoples,” qualitatively different from that between other collectivities or between individuals, which could be read to justify a belief in essentialist notions of ethno-nations by a reader inclined to do so. Suh cannot, of course, be held accountable for all possible (mis-)interpretations of his text; I raise this point only to say that addressing this issue more directly would have made a strong study even stronger.
Edward Mack, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
LIVING ON YOUR OWN: Single Women, Rental Housing, and Post-Revolutionary Affect in Contemporary South Korea. By Jesook Song. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014. xi, 152 pp. (B&W photo.) US$70.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-5013-1.
When I read Jesook Song’s acknowledgement of the sixteen women whose experiences form the core of her study I knew that this would not be a happy story. Song describes the women as “so strong, genuine, and grounded, despite the ruptures they have experienced between their social consciousness and their individual happiness, between their ideal of autonomy and the realities of financial and moral pressures, and between their loss of social networks and their hope to create new kinds of social support” (ix). She presents the life circumstances of thirty-five South Korean women, all in their late twenties to late thirties at the time of her study, all living on their own, and all of whom describe themselves as “pihon yŏsŏng,” “unassociated with marriage,” in effect single by choice. Most had been student activists in their college days and carried a sense of social commitment into subsequent involvement with the women’s movement or poorly remunerated work for NGOs. They also experienced, with a great deal of ambivalence, a liberal market ideology of consumerism and self-improvement. Although all of the women were college educated, their own earned income relegates them to the category of “new poor.” With limited personal resources, they precariously inhabit a self-defining “room of one’s own” in a real estate market that is skewed against single women. Many are haunted by the prospect of an impoverished and lonely old age.
Well-educated and precariously employed young South Koreans are part of a national and global trend where neoliberal economics favour flexible irregular or part-time employment with only a minimum of social support. In South Korea women are more likely to fall into this pattern than men. Song attributes her subjects’ thirst for independent living to the popularization of liberal ideas, desires, and practices, including feminist consciousness-raising and expanded exposure to Western media in the 1990s. Many women describe solitary living as an escape from family pressure, in particular pressure to marry, and yet, Song notes, most of the women in her study could not sustain an independent lifestyle without the help of their families. Parents, some women claim, are actually relieved to have a fractious or embarrassingly unwed daughter leave home.
South Korean real estate arrangements, combined with irregular or poorly remunerated employment, are at the crux of the problem. Most rental space in South Korea requires an up- front lump sum cash payment, unmarried people under the age of 35 cannot apply for bank loans, and even when they reach the requisite age, single women are required to provide guarantors where unmarried men might not be so asked. Many single women are further hampered by their inability to show a consistent employment record, a consequence of gendered employment patterns in South Korea where women are more likely than men to be partially employed. Song sees the lump-sum deposit system as discriminatory against women and the poor but she recognizes that it is so engrained in South Korean practice that most of her interviewees attribute their own difficulties to personal or generational failure rather than systemic constraints.
Reading of their struggles, I found myself wondering what had attracted these women to their singular lives in the first instance and caused them to persist. Song sees her subjects as caught in a paradox. They have been influenced by a liberal ethos that encourages them to seek happiness in the pursuit of individual freedom, including social experimentation, salsa dancing, aerobics, and foreign travel. At the same time, they are limited by the economic constraints of flexible employment that works in tandem with their idealized flexible lifestyles. In brief, the women seem far from happy. Song describes them as caught between the weighty sense of duty that they carried in the 1980s and the new imperative to enjoy life that they embraced in the 1990s, initially as an escape from doctrinaire and ultimately patriarchal anti-state activism. Politically left and socially liberal, these women are anxious for a new politics which they can engage as individuals, the sort of mellow political expression found in the candlelight vigils and in the public mourning for former president Roh Moo-hyun. But the women find little traction in the contemporary moment; even those who work for NGOs devoted to women’s issues are not able to articulate their own needs as single women, possibly because the dominant South Korean social ethos views them as selfish. Song leaves her subjects in a “place of suspicion and suspension” (95).
This is an account of some members of a pivotal generation of South Korean women and it gains poignancy from the author’s own deep identification with her subjects. Song has a clear sense of her terrain and tells her story concisely and effectively. She offers a reasoned argument about life under neoliberalism in South Korea, a project Song initiated with her first book, South Korea in the Debt Crisis: The Creation of a Neoliberal Welfare Society (Duke University Press, 2009). She also contributes a fresh chapter to the unfolding story of South Korean women and begs reflection on the global phenomenon of under-employed educated young adults. What I missed was ethnography. The women’s voices were present but I never felt that I had a clear picture of any one of them, how they lived day-to-day, or why, apart from the few admitted lesbians in the sample, they had so adamantly rejected marriage. Some had recoiled from the “patriarchal” ethos of anti-state activism and from the familial pressures to embark upon a season of arranged meetings leading to possible matrimony, but a more sustained discussion would have been appreciated. Even so, Song made me care—even worry—about her subjects and this is a measure of the ultimate success of her project, requisite reading for anyone interested in the current state of South Korean society and the place of women within it.
Laurel Kendall, American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA
SPLIT SCREEN KOREA: Shin Sang-ok and Postwar Cinema. By Steven Chung. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. 262 pp. (Figures.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8166-9133-3; US$25.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-8166-9134-0.
Shin Sang-ok’s (1926–2006) incredible career might have been rejected as “too improbable” by the executive types had someone pitched a screenplay detailing the events of his life. As one of the most commercially successful Golden Age producer-directors, Shin was responsible for such landmark films as Hellflower (1958), Romance Papa (1960), Sŏng Ch’unhyang (1960) and Red Muffler (1964). In 1978, Shin was allegedly kidnapped by the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, just as his glory days as the head of Shin Films were winding down in South Korea. After making a series of high-profile films such as the musical Oh My Love (1984) and the monster film Pulgasari (1985) in the North, Shin “defected back” to the South, wherein he struggled but largely failed to re-establish himself as a relevant film artist.
I am going to “cut to the chase” and state that Steven Chung’s monograph on the entire career span of Shin Sang-ok, the businessman-auteur par excellence, is one of the best English-language books on Korean cinema I have read: it is also one of the most ambitious, perhaps deceptively so. Shin’s oeuvre, in Chung’s view, can neither be reduced to products of the “culture industry,” the contents and forms of which are over-determined by the structure and dynamics of global capitalism, nor to simplistic representations of the hegemonic ideologies, be they North Korea’s particular brand of communism or the Park Chung-hee regime’s aggressive developmentalism.
Chung’s innovative interpretive stance is anchored on the primacy he gives to the “enlightenment” (kyemong) mode of cultural expression, as opposed to the conventional narratives of Korean cultural history centred on the rise and fall of (nationalist and/or socialist) realism. Despite the persistently derogatory and dismissive treatment doled out to the works in enlightenment mode by Korean (in particular left-wing) critics, the author proceeds to characterize the enlightenment cinema as the “basic vernacular” of postwar Korean cinema, conveying “the predicament of a cinema caught between an intensely politicized cultural field and the need to remain publicly visible through commercial success or state sponsorship” (27). Realigning cultural expressions of colonial modernity, North Korean (nationalist) socialism and South Korean capitalist developmentalism into a single continuum, Chung shows how Shin Sang-ok masterfully practiced filmmaking in this mode. He was able to create the works of massive and enduring popularity, that also articulated social responsibility and political meaning through the heightened legibility of its “themes,” embodied in the melodramatically suffering figures of women.
Interspersed with the analysis of the modalities and mechanics of Shin’s work are provocative yet nuanced dissections of the select motion pictures. Chung, for instance, discusses Shin’s paradoxical yet brilliant manipulation of the realist style and form to foreground the fantasy of “refined” femininity and sexuality in the star personality of Ch’oe Ŭn-hŭi, in Hellflower (73–81): He also shows what appears to be explicitly pro-Park Chung-hee-regime didacticism found in the exemplary “enlightenment” film Rice is complicated by Shin’s own orchestration of “melodrama of development” that partakes of the visual imagery even redolent of socialist realism, as seen in the movie’s mass pan shots and labour montage (141–157). More intriguingly, Chung analyzes how Shin expanded upon Kim Jong-il’s mandate for “nonmimetic measurement of affective timing” in the dictator’s Juche film theory—“[the] strength of the emotions must be built up and there has to be a motive for their coming to a head,” as Kim memorably puts it (171–172)—yet managed to subvert the ideological imperatives of socialist realism, the results of which were welcomed by the Northern movie-goers as “movies that were really like movies”(185–203). By no means resistant to or critical of the dominant ideologies, Shin’s most notable works nonetheless manage to exceed the bounds of the ideological and create moments of “excess,” “surplus,” or even “superfluousness,” that nonetheless endowed them with vitality, beauty, and an affective power of their own: therein lies, Chung argues, their most significant cinematic raison d’être as well as their enduring appeal.
The “cultural history” component of Chung’s research is so well done that it actually raises many interesting new questions that we might not have come up with, had it not been for his suggestions. For instance, what about the question of plagiarism of the Japanese cinema? Shin was no exception among the early postwar Korean cultural producers in terms of the close attention he paid to the works of his Japanese contemporaries: couldn’t Cruel Stories of Yi Dynasty Women, to name just one example, be explicitly modelled after a similarly themed Japanese work, for instance, Imai Tadashi’s Bushido: The Cruel Code of the Samurai (Bushidō zangoku monogatari, 1963)? He does not really advance a convincing explanation about why Shin was unable to make meaningful films after 1986 either. This is a pertinent question in that the director-producer was alive and well throughout South Korea’s transition into the so-called New Korean Cinema: what structural and historical factors (aside from personal reasons) prevented Shin from producing a “Hollywood-style blockbuster” like the comedian-auteur-con artist Shim Hyung-rae’s D-War (2007)?
Finally, while I find Chung’s juggling of various theoretical and social-scientific concepts and heuristic terms very impressive, there are a few questionable usages, such as his choice to translate the terms kŏgukjŏk (“nationwide,” with a strong connotation of state-directed mobilization) and kojŭng (an act of making sure historical details are “authentic” or “accurate”) as “national-political” and “historical materiality,” respectively. I would hesitate to take the author to task for these rather minor questions and problems, as Chung’s effort to bring together rich textual analyses of individual cinematic works and the detail-attentive cultural history of postwar Korea into a coherent project is more Herculean than it might appear to a casual reader.
Written in clear, jargon-free prose and gently persuasive and accommodating in its engagement with the existing scholarship, Steven Chung’s Split Screen mounts a compelling case for re-examination and re-evaluation of the commercial Korean films produced between 1953 and 1979, which he aptly calls “a rich, irreducibly cinematic testament to the complexities of Korean modernity” (212). Chung throws a gauntlet of challenge to any ambitious scholar of the Golden Age Korean cinema to outdo his impressive research, with the likes of Yu Hyŏn-mok, Yi Man-hŭi [Lee Man-hee] [The same director better known for the name inside parenthesis], Kim Ki-yŏng and other contemporaries of Shin Sang-ok. The book is a must-read for any serious student of Korean cinema and strongly recommended to any general reader interested in the modern history of Korea as expressed through its mass media.
Kyu Hyun Kim, University of California, Davis, USA
INDIA’S HUMAN SECURITY: Lost Debates, Forgotten People, Intractable Challenges. Routledge Studies in South Asian Politics, 4. Edited by Jason Miklian and Åshild Kolås. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xvi, 243 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-83068-3.
Over the last three decades, security studies has expanded its scope from focussing on state-level security issues to understanding how individuals are subjected to different kinds of insecurity. The establishment of the UN Commission on Human Security in 2001 is indicative of this shift to what are seen as “soft” security concerns. This volume covers this expanded terrain, by offering a collection of papers on different dimensions of the new frontiers of security studies in the context of India. The case of India, the editors explain, is significant given its size and the fact that it continues to have a strong democratic tradition. Further, the Indian state and sections of civil society have sought to project India as an emerging superpower on the back of relatively high levels of economic growth for nearly 15 years. This claim to a status of power fails to take on board India’s poor record in human development. Its health and nutrition parameters, for example, are lower than those of even some of the poorest countries in the world. Along with the growing income inequality in the country since the onset of economic reforms, such issues of human “illfare” pose a serious threat to individual security despite India’s economic performance. Further, the process of growth itself generates new risks and insecurities as demands made on energy and land resources can undermine the basis of livelihoods for many of its citizens.
While the editors do point to the dangers of securitizing socio-economic issues, they believe that non-securitization of some issues such as inequality, environmental degradation or rural dispossession may prevent policy making from devoting sufficient attention to these aspects. A basic premise of a security-based framework is that if left unattended, these issues may lead to potential situations of conflict in the future. Apart from academics working within the field of security studies, contributors include scholars working in other domains such as health and environment and also journalists covering issues of internal insurgency and illegal cross-border migration. The collection is organized under three sections: resource management, governance, and development. Papers in the section on resource management address insecurities emerging from poor management of what is referred to as the food-energy-water complex. Two chapters cover aspects of sustainable access to water ranging from insecurities arising from over-exploitation of ground water to how water interdependencies between the south Asian countries and China pave the way for an emerging hydropolitics in the region. Significantly, the section points to an important lacuna in collective action against depletion of water resources. While protests against contamination and extraction of groundwater by multi-national corporations like Coca Cola are relatively visible, there are hardly any protests against everyday illegal mining of water by a large number of actors which pose more serious risks for depletion of water resources. The need to look beyond productivity in agriculture to understand food insecurity and the need to link food policy with agricultural policy is stressed in another chapter. The need for power to propel growth and how that has led to destruction of land and livelihoods through setting up of thermal power plants in central India is the focus of the other chapter in this section. Though not explicitly stated, the chapters in this section clearly question the paradigm of development that generates these conflicts.
The section on governance deals with security risks posed by poor governance of internal insurgence in central and north-east India, risks posed by politicization of immigrations from Bangladesh and the state’s fragile efforts to work with Myanmar to secure certain geopolitical interests. While this section covers familiar territory for the most part, the paper on recent attempts to improve governance by developing a universal biometrics program makes an interesting point. The security risks of centrally pooling and coding such large quantities of information about individuals may actually pose far greater risks to national security than the advantages that it is supposed to have in terms of monitoring and tracking security threats. The last section, on development, addresses threats posed by insecurities generated by the pattern of development processes such as urbanization. The paper on urban stress makes a useful call to pay more attention to the small and medium towns where environmental degradation is acute and regulatory capacities are poor. Other papers look at insecurities arising from the reform process such as competition among state governments to attract private investments and rising income inequality in post-reform India. The incentive to compete among states to attract investments may be a race to the bottom as poorer states tend to offer more incentives to attract private capital.
Approaching issues of inequality and lack of human well-being from the perspective of security may well work to enhance policy attention on these dimensions. However, I am not too sure how securitizing issues of fundamental rights as citizens and studying the relationship between environmental degradation and economic growth from this angle provides new insights on the processes that generate them. Given the large-scale gender and caste-based violence and insecurity in the country, one is also left wondering how a framework of this kind can contribute to addressing such social violence.
M. Vijayabaskar, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, India
BORDERLAND LIVES IN NORTHERN SOUTH ASIA. Edited by David N. Gellner; with an afterword by Willem van Schendel. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. 310 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$89.95, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8223-5542-7; US$24.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8223-5556-4.
India’s anxiety with its border regions has received much attention in the media, and scholars of international relations and political scientists have been engaged with them in ways that do not consider their inhabitants as central. The dominant state response to the border regions of Northern South Asia is that they are to be secured, mainly as a preserve of security agencies. What this has also meant is that research has been difficult to conduct in these regions spanning over 10,000 kilometres, where India borders with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Further, while the field of borderland studies has gained traction elsewhere, the relatively new border regions of South Asia have neither been studied as much nor understood in depth. This insightful collection of essays attempts to fill that gap and provide a detailed understanding of the nuances and dynamics of life in South Asia’s borderlands.
The book, which is organized to move from the west to east, takes readers through the northern parts of the South Asian international borders even as, collectively, the chapters largely engage with three bodies of literature: new writings that focus on how ordinary people interact with, engage with and experience the state in South Asia; recent work on the dynamic relationship between upland and lowland peoples (see James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed); and, work on borderlands.
Throughout the book, the borderlands of Northern South Asia are variously depicted as “a place of interaction, meeting, struggle, exchange, belonging, and transition, sometimes despite vigorous attempts at state interdiction” (269). However, these broad themes manifest themselves in hugely different ways, where cultural practices and even difference in geographies (such as shifting enclaves) determine the manner in which people across the border have come to interact with each other, with the state on both sides and with the different “nodes of control” (chapter 8).
The chapters reveal multiple agencies that control life in the border regions and these range from local officials (chapter 1), nongovernmental organizations (chapter 4), the army (chapters 6 and 7) to insurgent groups (chapter 7), which in turn interact with the state. Often, people living in the borderlands face the brunt of the distrust (on both sides) that is pervasive in the regions. Sometimes, systems that have been put in place to safeguard people at the border region actually achieve the opposite. Hausner and Sharma’s (chapter 4) account of the India-Nepal border reveals a couple facing difficulty and suspicion in crossing the border together, due to lack of documents. The porous borders present easy access to the other side as much as they allow for personal humiliations and difficulties on a daily basis.
The narratives also depict the border regions as places that straddle the zone between neglect and control by their states and the governments which rule them. While border regions in Northern South Asia share traits of underdevelopment, arguably due to neglect, the developmental discourse uneasily intertwines with security concerns. India’s frosty relationship with its neighbours provides the canvass that determines the scale of deployment of security forces and the intensity with which they exercise control, with political situations playing out in faraway capitals often determining if and when borders are to be opened.
For some of the people who inhabit the borderland regions, who were not consulted at the time of the creation of these borders, there is a seeming resignation and acceptance of authority that is exercised from far away. But for others, this authority is contested (in the case of Nagaland) while some of them find themselves in a situation where they need to prove allegiance and loyalty (Kargil). The fate that such public policy decisions have brought on the people at the borderlands is depicted through struggles for claims to “national belonging and citizenship” (chapters 2 and 9) as well as “struggles over local and national narratives of the past” (chapters 9 and 10).
Yet, the book starts with a proposition of a new sub region: Northern South Asia. Despite the common themes of anxiety, tension, interaction, hope as well as apprehension in the border regions, there are differences in historical particulars and peculiarities that underpin each region. Then there are different agents of state, “nodes of control,” geography and terrain, and economic imperatives. Furthermore, the regions’ relations with the state vary vastly. While the organization of the book from west towards the east provides a flow to indicate continuity and change, the evidence presented as a whole in the book is one of difference, diversity and complexity. The book makes a solid contribution to the understanding of the borderlands and lays the ground for further work to allow for the imagining of a new sub region. While the task is made easier for future scholarship on the complexity of the proposed sub region, the challenge will be to find discourses and narratives that bring together these complexities.
Laldinkima Sailo, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CROSSING THE BAY OF BENGAL: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants. By Sunil S. Amrith. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 353 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-72483-9.
The name, the Bay of Bengal, referring to the eastern wing of the Indian Ocean, is not one that resonates very strongly these days. But as Sunil Amrith explains in this beautifully written, elegiac book, the idea of “the Bay” was once a meaningful one amongst colonial administrators, mariners and the many common people who moved across it as coolies and traders, soldiers and slaves. Over more than a millennium the territories of the littoral of the Bay were bound together by culture, holy relics and movements of people and goods. It was “once a region at the heart of global history” (1), the maritime highway between India and China, where, in the European Middle Ages, great regional states of Asia encountered one another, and where later, from the end of the fifteenth century, the expansive European powers fought each other for supremacy. Then, over the century from about 1840 to 1940, when connectedness across the Bay of Bengal changed quite dramatically in scale with the arrival of steamships and railways, it was the site of one of the greatest movements of people of modern history. Amrith calculates that about 28 million crossed the Bay, in both directions, in this period, a figure that compares closely with the numbers of migrants (26 million) who arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1930, and which exceeds the numbers (19 million) of Chinese who moved into Southeast Asia over the same period. Very many of those, especially from south India, who moved into Ceylon, Malaya and Burma at this time, cleared forests in their sparsely settled frontiers for the benefit of capital, and so brought about both great wealth for the British empire (in which Malaya became the most valuable tropical colony), and enormous environmental change. Yet then, rather suddenly, from the 1930s, and especially with the Second World War and with the decolonization that followed it, this distinct world, with its own social imaginary involving expectations of mobility, broke apart. The Bay of Bengal was forgotten in the later twentieth century, carved up as it was by the boundaries of nation states, within which the citizenship of many of those who had moved across the sea—now treated as minorities—was contested. First in military strategy during the War, and then in academic area studies, it was split apart by the definitions of South Asia on the one hand, and of Southeast Asia on the other. Only in the present, when the Bay has become once again an arena of competition between rising powers—this time the Asian powers, China and India—has it come to be seen again as having some sort of an integrity as a region. Environmentally, too, the pollution of the sea and the over-exploitation of the resources of the Bay that has followed from its “enclosure” by being treated as “an extension of national territory” (260), is bringing about some awareness that it must be seen as a region.
This, in outline, is the story that Amrith tells: that of “The sea’s role in human history—and the consequences of that history for the sea” (31). Though he ranges widely his focus is on the history of movements of labour, of their cultural and political implications, and of their consequences for the environment (though, if I have a criticism of the book it is that its environmental history sometimes seems a little bit of an add-on, nowhere near as well developed as the history of labour). Of course the book treats of trade, and of the commodities that have so much shaped the history of the Bay: spices and rice, Indian textiles, American silver and more recently coffee, tea, sugar, tobacco and especially rubber (of which Malaya produced 70–80 per cent of global supply early in the twentieth century). But this is not primarily an economic history. Relatively little is said, as well, about the role of Chettiar capital—perhaps because this is a subject that has been well documented by other scholars.
The book starts with a short account of the monsoons and of their implications for navigation. It then touches briefly on ancient and medieval history—though those who might look to the book for an account of how Hinduism reached Southeast Asia will be disappointed—and proceeds fairly briskly to the role of the Tamil Muslim merchants in binding the Coromandel coast of south India with Southeast Asia, and then to that of the Portuguese and of the Dutch in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But the focus is really on the rise of English power in the Bay, and on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These take up almost two-thirds of the text, and for many readers of this journal, the book will probably be important mainly for its accounts of labour migration and of its implications, including especially in struggles over citizenship. Scholars interested in the idea of Asia, too, will appreciate what it says about the division between South and Southeast Asia, and Amrith’s reminder of the brief moment towards the end of the colonial period when some nationalist leaders—Subhas Chandra Bose, Nehru and Aung San—had ideas about the possibilities of Asian federalism, smothered though they were by the tide of nationalism.
The book draws on impressive scholarship, combining archival research in the different nation states of the region, oral history and the author’s own observations and experience. His photographs of buildings in different port cities around the Bay help to document his own vision of “what the region does possess, richly, [which] is a practical ethic of coexistence” (284). His wider purpose is to show how the history of the Bay of Bengal constitutes “an archive of cultural resources that might help us to reimagine solidarity across distance” (5). Amen to that, in this age of continuing national and ethnic conflict. Altogether, this is a very fine contribution to the great corpus of “ocean studies,” inspired initially by Braudel’s Mediterranean.
John Harriss, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
Given the paucity of good scholarly material on civil-military relations in Pakistan, The Army and Democracy must be welcomed as an important contribution to the field. This very digestible and readable book has made a cogent and strong case for civilian rule and democratic principles without in any way being opinionated or preachy. It mercifully avoids the typically laboured attempts to force data to fit a theory merely to prove the author’s theoretical expertise and instead confidently asserts its case by stating the essential bare-bones facts of civil-military relations in the history of Pakistan.
The book is divided into an introduction that is a brief literature review, seven main chapters, and a lengthy and very finely written conclusion. Shah begins with a brief mention of the principal theories that have been utilized to explain civil-military relations. These include the Lasswellian garrison-state argument that contends that an external enemy strengthens the men in uniform (see for instance, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Garrison State, Oxford University Press, 2013); the contention that military dominance in Pakistan is a product of the country’s decision to align with the United States during the Cold War (see for instance, Hamza Alavi, “The State in Post-Colonial Societies: Pakistan and Bangladesh,” The New Left Review I/74, July-August 1972; Selected Writings of Eqbal Ahmad, edited by Carollee Bengelsdorf, Margaret Cerullo and Yogesh Chandrani, Columbia University Press, 2006); and the view that the financial interests of the military-industrial complex create the necessary push-pull factors to keep the military involved in the politics of Pakistan (see for instance, Ayesha Siddiqa, Military Inc., Pluto Press, 2007).
While Shah’s book concedes that these factors play a role, he wishes to examine civil-military relations from the perspective of the internal institutional values and norms of the Pakistan military itself. In this regard, he considers his work to be a continuation of Stephen P. Cohen’s earlier work (The Pakistan Army, University of California Press, 1984). In other words, Shah wants to ask how and why the military’s own perception of its role in society has changed in the course of the history of Pakistan.
Having laid out its fundamental theoretical premises, the book proceeds into a chronological examination of civil-military relations in Pakistan. The next seven chapters illustrate how the military’s institutional thinking was shaped and reshaped by conflict with India, Cold War imperatives, safeguarding perceived interests against encroaching civilian authority, the war on terror and so on. In a word, he portrays how the British-trained army slowly morphed from considering itself an “apolitical professional military” into the sole guardian of the very reason for existence of the state. These chapters, which follow the now fairly standardized periodization of Pakistan’s high politics (that is, Pre-Ayub, Ayub, Bhutto, Zia, the return of democracy, and finally Musharraf) remain fairly close to the most important facts even when the book does not directly support or give any particular insight into the institutional norms of the military. Hence, the book is a tour de force of the last 70 years of civil-military relations in Pakistan.
However, those who study and write on Pakistan may legitimately ask, “What’s new in this book?” In theoretical terms the book does not necessarily present any new ideas. And the supporting evidence may not be extraordinarily new to other scholars in the field. Although, in addition to accurate and detailed accounts of the issues causing tension between civil and military institutions, the author has conducted a number of interviews with army personnel, some would argue that all this information was already in the public domain.
On the other hand, one can argue with equal merit that given that the military is well-guarded with respect to the information about itself, and that what it is willing to share is already accessible in the public domain, any researcher would really have to work extraordinarily hard, even ruffle some feathers, to break new ground. In fact, this is, arguably, a very risky business. For instance, it is alleged by the Human Rights Watch that Saleem Shahzad was tortured and murdered as a consequence of his criticism of the role of intelligence agencies in Pakistan (Saleem Shehzad, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, Pluto Press, 2011).
In my view, however, the book does succeed in breaking new ground. While the book may not present a new theory or even any new information that is not already available in the public domain, its strength lies in bringing the two together to form an orderly, succinct and cogent presentation of the central political conflicts and contradictions that have shaped civil-military relations in the country. Hence, its most important contribution is that Shah has sifted through the mass of data and emphasized in a concise manner the crux of the problem. This synthesis of theory and public information and the resulting clear presentation of the problem help to bring into clear focus the essential elements of civil-military relations in Pakistan.
In the final analysis this extremely readable book will be enjoyed by the general public and will inform university students. It is an important contribution to the debate and would be my first recommendation to anyone who wishes for a succinct introduction to civil-military relations through the history of Pakistan.
Taimur Rahman, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
THE GOVERNMENT OF MISTRUST: Illegibility and Bureaucratic Power in Socialist Vietnam. New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies. By Ken MacLean. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013. xx, 278 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-299-29594-3.
Ken MacLean is interested in the mistrust that has pervaded relations between decision makers in Hanoi and lower-level cadres and peasants since the 1920s. In The Government of Mistrust he interweaves archival material, secondary sources, his own ethnographic research and his experiences working for an international NGO to describe the accretion of bureaucratic processes of documentation and control over time. With a focus on the Red River Delta, he traces the unsuccessful efforts of the architects of Socialist Vietnam to achieve reliable insight into the political, economic and social practices of villages, agricultural collectives and communes. This is a balanced study that is attentive to national and provincial actors that occupy the upper reaches of the party hierarchy, as well as lower-level cadres and rural rice farmers.
The book’s central argument is that bureaucratic processes that were intended to dispel mistrust and facilitate central state authorities’ insight into local political and economic practices, actually produced an opposite effect. They created more mistrust and made local practices less legible for leaders of the Vietnamese Communist Party. These enduring and layered illegibilities buffered interactions between national leaders and local actors. While the socialist state was able to extract resources from the countryside and thereby guarantee its own durability over time and space, its partial blindness impeded it from exercising the power that would be necessary to fundamentally reform local political and economic practices. One result is an unintended (at least from Hanoi’s perspective) flexibility in centre-periphery relations that has persisted through independence and until the present. In this context, key national economic policies (including decollectivization and Đổi mới reforms) are shown to be the outcomes of the protracted and complex interplay of the actions and interests of Party leaders, local-level cadres and peasants. Here, change neither arises suddenly in response to crisis, nor as the result of a single group’s agency.
The Government of Mistrust is organized as six chapters grouped into three historical periods (pre-collectivization, collectivization, post-decollectivization). Each chapter offers a genealogy of a particular bureaucratic process, or legibility device, and analyzes its role in the exercise of power and the obscuring of reality from the view of Party leaders.
Chapter 1 examines call and response dialogues as they were deployed from the late 1920s through the 1950s. Vietnamese Communist Party members used these techniques to engage with peasants, identify potential local leaders and (unsuccessfully) nurture new class-based subjectivities. Chapter 2 describes the use of field reports during the 1950s to convey information about the commune upwards in the Party hierarchy and to define exemplary and deviant practices. The next three chapters follow the bureaucratic processes that accompanied the establishment, consolidation and scaling-up of agricultural collectives. During early phases of collectivization the Vietnamese government sought to increase legibility by standardizing the format of field reports using administrative templates (chapter 3). The 1960s brought the consolidation of village collectives into larger-scale collectives with the assistance of labour contracts (chapter 4) that organized and rewarded individuals for specific contributions of labour and material. Chapter 5 follows the implementation of the performance audits that sought to track inputs to and outputs from the Soviet-style collectives of the late 1970s. Chapter 6 addresses the revival of village conventions, a legibility device with pre-colonial origins, to cultivate socialist morality and ideology in decollectivized post-Đổi mới villages. Throughout the chapters, MacLean offers rich historical and contemporary illustrations of how the state’s accumulation of legibility devices has resulted in “a disorganized assemblage of conflicting policies, plans, and projects” (207).
The main arguments of The Government of Mistrust appear credible. Nevertheless, the details supporting them could be more precisely organized and explained. An example of this is the treatment of facts about collectivization. In some instances MacLean deconstructs the facts produced by Vietnamese legibility devices in order to reveal them as official fictions/paperealities. In other instances, facts that were presumably produced by the same kinds of legibility devices are used to arrive at objective descriptions of the historical performance of agricultural collectives. Missing here is a discussion of how the author is able to discern objective facts from official fictions. For instance, when sources indicate that Vũ Thắng Commune made investments and production changes resulting in 10 tons of paddy per hectare per season in the late 1970s (143), how is MacLean able to determine that this is an accurate and objective fact, and not just another papereality? Taken alone the uncertainty about the status of this fact is a minor detail. But as similar instances accumulate in the text, they call for a more fundamental discussion of the author’s own theoretical and methodological basis for conceptualizing fact, fiction and papereality in his empirical material. The reader is left to wonder whether MacLean is influenced by science and technology studies (STS) approaches to understanding the social/natural construction of facts (as the use of John Law’s work in the introduction seems to suggest), or if he is more committed to a theoretical position where facts and truths exist independently of their social and political contexts (as a brief discussion of the work of Michel-Rolph Trouillot in the conclusion seems to suggest)? One would like to see more clarity about MacLean’s own theoretical standpoint, and how he in turn operationalizes that position in his analysis of his empirical material.
The Government of Mistrust is an ambitious text, both for its creative use of mixed methodologies and its temporal thematic and range. Despite its occasional ambiguities, the richly descriptive text will be of value for graduate students and other scholars who are interested in the dynamic power relations that infuse the innovation and accumulation of state bureaucratic processes, as well as for Vietnam specialists interested in the history of Vietnamese governance, agricultural collectivization and economic policy since independence.
Eren Zink, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
This slim volume is a concise and quite accessible public document, produced by a team of IMF researchers led by Unteroberdoerster, deputy director for Asia Pacific at the IMF in Washington, who has specialized in linkages between financial systems and overall macroeconomic performance in developing economies. He was IMF Mission Chief for Cambodia during the preparation of the paper. Several analysts, most of them from South and Southeast Asia, have set out to justify the optimistic title. Given the fractious history of relations between Cambodia and the IMF through the early 2000s, that is a positive development.
The paper follows a standard format: it is divided into two sections, the first largely descriptive, the second offering prescriptive models, synthesized over several years based on IMF experience in a number of developing countries. The objective is to promote continuing and effective fiscal and monetary policies and practices. While correctly noting that Cambodia has enjoyed a decade of extraordinary economic growth—averaging close to nine percent a year—the study still raises a number of questions with regard to weak infrastructure and poor fiscal management, e.g., a failure to establish an adequate taxation system, and overdependence on a dollarized economy. As befits an official document produced by an intergovernmental body, it stops short of the kind of objective in-depth criticism that academic researchers have levelled at the country, e.g., Sophal Ear’s excellent Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy.
The prescriptive formulae suggested in order for Cambodia to pursue growth in a more stable and systematic way seem, therefore, to be somewhat theoretical. The 21 years since the new constitution was proclaimed in 1993 have assuredly seen positive growth in indigenous capacity, especially in business and financial services. The public service, however, still lacks professional skills and is seriously undercompensated. Education and health services are scarce in the countryside, where some 70 percent of Cambodians still work.
In order to deal with shortcomings in Cambodia’s economic governance, the authors suggest a number of measures for “creating and safeguarding fiscal space” (87). These include managing public debt more effectively and strengthening financial management, with the objective of “anchoring” macroeconomic stability. Near- and medium-term fiscal challenges are identified, crucially highlighting Cambodia’s failure to improve the collection of direct tax revenues and perhaps overly generous tax incentives to investors. De-dollarization is considered a priority for the medium term to shield Cambodia during periods of international economic instability. Specific recommendations to the Royal Government are prioritized into “achievable and well-sequenced measures” (104).
As unexceptionable as they are, the recommendations of the study underline just how far Cambodia still has to go to join the “tigers” of Southeast Asia. The most important are summarized in the opening chapter, and include (1) creating and safeguarding fiscal space, including letting the Cambodian riel play a greater part in the economy; (2) addressing financial stability challenges; and (3) modernizing the role of government by, inter alia, strengthening coordination among ministries and agencies. One might also add getting a stronger grip on anti-corruption measures countrywide, e.g., putting an end to massive deforestation. The question one must ask is just how capable is the Royal Government to implement any of the IMF’s proposals, even if it should accept them in their entirety.
And there remain other nagging issues: to begin with, in keeping with the requirement for international organizations to maintain a dispassionate face, the contributors have been reluctant to comment at any length on Cambodia’s political and social governance. Since the paper was prepared prior to the controversial National Assembly elections of 2013, it could obviously not take into account that, for the first time in 20 years, there is emerging, perhaps faster than one might have guessed, a genuine popular appetite for political change. In a country with Cambodia’s tragic history, in which the ruling party has been entrenched for 30 years, this has the potential to be extremely destabilizing, both in political and economic terms. After a full year of bitter confrontations, punctuated by an estimated 500 demonstrations, occasional violence and a half-dozen deaths, the recent agreement by the opposition party finally to take their seats in parliament is welcome, but is by no means the end of the story. The National Assembly has never been a major player in setting economic or social policy in Cambodia, but a large and feisty opposition may try to change that in due course, especially if Hun Sen should keep his promise to make policy making more “transparent.” No IMF paper is likely to affect the political process to any discernable degree; we can only wait and see how this quite practical, but, again, theoretical set of recommendations will play over time in the formation of policy by the current Royal Cambodian Government.
D. Gordon Longmuir, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
ENERGY, GOVERNANCE AND SECURITY IN THAILAND AND MYANMAR (BURMA): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South. Transforming Environmental Politics and Policy. By Adam Simpson. Farnham, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. xii, 260 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$119.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4094-2993-7.
Mainland Southeast Asian governments have often relied upon a conventional development paradigm to justify the widespread exploitation of finite natural resources, much of which are used to satiate growing regional energy demands. In Energy, Governance and Security, Adam Simpson tackles a series of important questions concerning the politics of energy security and governance in Thailand and Myanmar. With both countries serving as major sites of controversial energy projects, this ambitious book takes as its departure point the “paradox” that surfaces when the pursuit of “improved energy security” comes at the expense of the “environmental security of local communities” (5).
In interrogating the question of “how environmental politics is played out in both the states and transnational spaces of the less affluent South” (5), a key argument advanced here is that “a distinctive relationship [exists] between the level of authoritarian governance and the predominance of local or transnational activism under hybrid or authoritarian regimes” (186). Focusing on four large-scale projects—the Shwe Gas Pipeline and Salween Dams in Myanmar, and the Yadana Gas Pipeline and Thai-Malaysian Gas Pipeline in Thailand—Simpson provides a detailed, comparative study of how local and transnational activism have contributed to raising public scrutiny over these “high-impact” schemes and, in so doing, to filling governance gaps.
The book is comprised of six chapters. Chapter 2 lays out the book’s conceptual underpinnings, which centre on the notion of “activist environmental governance” (28). While a promising idea in some ways, it is not a particularly novel one. Engagement with existing scholarship on, for example, “rightful resistance,” “embedded advocacy” and “civil regulation” would have strengthened this chapter, or at least made clearer the specific theoretical contributions afforded by this model. That said, the book’s typology of the different actors involved in activist environmental governance—namely, emancipatory governance groups (EGG), compromise governance groups (CGG) and environmental governance state (EGS)—is helpful and well-presented.
Chapters 3 to 6 make up the empirical foundations of the study. Chapter 3 offers an overview of the Thai and Myanmar political situations, directing attention to how varying levels of authoritarianism and political competition at different points in time (i.e., the Thaksin period in Thailand and post-1990s Myanmar) have contributed to environmental insecurity. Although containing a meticulous account of environmental politics in these two countries, the chapter could be rendered more succinct, given how the bulk of it is comprised of background information that does not always have a direct bearing on the book’s arguments.
Chapter 4 examines the dynamics of local activism surrounding the aforementioned four energy projects to unpack the role and effectiveness of grassroots actors in engendering “emancipatory” governance. Pointing out how local activism in Myanmar was “extremely limited” (94) in contrast to the Thai case where “bottom-up” activism drove issue creation, Simpson draws upon an impressive array of primary source materials gained from interviews in the region. Indeed, it is in this respect that Energy, Governance and Security stands out. Given the political sensitivity surrounding energy issues in Myanmar and, to a lesser degree, Thailand, the novel perspectives distilled from these interviews are highly valuable, adding empirical substance to the discussion of contentious energy schemes on which reliable information does not readily exist.
Chapter 5 is, in a way, a peculiar contribution to the book. It explores the “central case study” of EarthRights International (ERI), a prominent transnational non-governmental organizations in the region. Simpson justifies this focus by arguing that ERI as an organization “straddling North and South … provide[s] a compelling case study of an [EGG] engaging in activism against environmental insecurity in the South” (124). To be sure, there is truth to this claim; yet, inclusion of the ERI case also creates a slight disjuncture in the book’s narrative flow. Moreover, considering how there is no cross-sectional study of the other organizations active in contesting the energy projects examined, this becomes problematic in methodological terms as well. Other EGGs or, even better, examples of CGGs and EGS ought to have been analyzed to reveal how they assisted or impeded activist environmental governance in comparison. That said, this chapter does reflect the extensive fieldwork that undergirds the book, providing an in-depth account of ERI’s “nuts and bolts” and broader contributions to environmental governance.
The focus of chapter 6 is on the nature and implications of transnational activism in Myanmar and Thailand. Here, Simpson suggests an interesting point: whereas local activism featured more prominently in the Thai cases, transnational activism proved to be a stronger dynamic in the Myanmar examples. Part of the explanation lies with the limitations faced by local NGOs. Due to the country’s restricted socio-political space, the activist diaspora based outside of Myanmar enjoyed greater freedom to maneuver and were thus capable of playing a bigger role.
The volume’s contribution to burgeoning literature on environmental governance in Southeast Asia lies primarily with its interviews, which yield fascinating insights into the state of environmental activism in the region. The author is also to be commended on his clear enthusiasm for the subject (9–10), though there is sometimes the risk of sounding “too” enthusiastic, such that the analysis appears skewed toward extolling the virtues of activist environmental governance. A more upfront discussion of the potential problems posed by civil society activism is needed. Also noticeably missing is a consideration of how the concept of human security fits in with the book’s overarching framework.
In short, while empirically satisfying, Energy, Governance and Security falls a bit short theoretically. Burdened by a convoluted analytical framework, the book struggles at times to convincingly relate its framework to its cases and arguments. This is evident in the conclusion, where the proposed “critical environmental security framework” (191) ends up obfuscating more than it reveals. Yet, its shortcomings notwithstanding, this book remains a thought-provoking contribution to existing scholarship. The insights and questions presented therein will be of certain interest to students of Southeast Asia and environmental politics.
Pichamon May Yeophantong, Princeton University, Princeton, USA
SQUATTERS INTO CITIZENS: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Modern Singapore. Southeast Asia Publications Series. By Loh Kah Seng. Honolulu: Asian Studies Association of Australia in association with University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013. xxvii, 315 pp. (Maps, illus.) US$32.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3946-8.
In May 1961 a huge fire ripped through the wooden houses in the urban kampong of Bukit Ho Swee, leaving 16,000 people homeless. Singapore, still a British colony, had two years earlier negotiated a form of self-government that brought the People’s Action Party (PAP) into power, led by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. Lee promised that all victims would be rehoused within nine months by the newly formed Housing Development Board (HDB). The story of how that was achieved has become part of the state-sanctioned historical narrative of Singapore and its extraordinary transformation into the ultramodern global city-state of today, and is the focus of Loh Kah Seng’s engaging book.
Loh, who grew up in the 1970s in the one-room flats built to house fire victims, has written an absorbing and detailed social history of the fire, based on oral histories, official records, photographs and media reports. The book is structured chronologically, moving through the complex neighbourhoods of the kampongs, the fire and the immediate response, to the subsequent rehousing of victims. In so doing, he presents a complex and nuanced analysis of the fire, its consequences and its place in the narration of the nation.
Wooden kampong settlements were common in Singapore at the time, as in many other parts of Southeast Asia, with over a quarter of the population living in what the authorities regarded as slums where disease and the potential for disorder were ever present. Loh turns the stereotype of the residents as backward “squatters” on its head, arguing instead that they usually paid rent, worked in formal and informal employment, were optimistic about the future, and increasingly engaged with politics. He argues that they constituted “an alternative modernity on the margin” (10).
The unplanned nature of the settlements meant that they were regarded by the authorities as an “ambivalent zone, where the state felt its control to be tenuous” (11). Here Loh argues that the government, like the British before them, sought to regularize the settlements and move to a planned, well-ordered urban society. The scale of the fire in Bukit Ho Swee gave the new government the opportunity to demonstrate that it could rehouse families quickly and efficiently. This was the beginning of Singapore’s massive public housing program. Today over 80 percent of Singaporeans live in HDB flats, and of these, over 90 percent own their flat. The housing program is hailed as an early success of the fledgling government and an ongoing and crucial part of nation-building after independence in 1965. In this scenario, the Bukit Ho Swee fire has been described as a “blessing in disguise,” since it cleared the slum and kickstarted the public housing program.
The continued hegemony of the People’s Action Party, which has held government since 1959, has been of ongoing interest to scholars of Singapore. Loh continues this in arguing that the fire enabled the government to remodel the kampong dwellers into disciplined citizens, in planned housing, with regular rental payments and as workers in the new industrial economy. In other words, it tamed the ambivalent zones of the kampongs and wedded the residents to the new Singapore, and in the process, to the government. The transformation effectively became a metaphor for the progress of Singapore under the PAP.
What adds particular interest to Loh’s analysis are his interviews with survivors of the disaster who describe their lives before and after the fire. They express a mixture of views, with some regretting the loss of their former lifestyle, and others grateful for the new housing provided. Perspectives have mellowed too over the years, with many residents now reconciled to the advantages of high-rise living. Their candour is engaging: one informant who prefers life in public housing to the hardship of the kampong, demonstrated an understanding of how the fire had helped the political legitimacy of the PAP, saying, with a laugh, “Now we Singaporeans are obedient like a dog to the government” (251).
Loh argues that the fire and the response have generated three myths that have come to define beliefs about modernity in Singapore. The first is the official celebratory depiction of the public housing miracle of modern Singapore rising out of the ashes of the Bukit Ho Swee fire, replacing the unsanitary and unregulated squatter settlement with a planned modernity. He criticizes this as a selective account which places culpability for the fire with the residents and which ignores the dissatisfaction of many fire victims with the emergency flats. Loh identifies the second myth, which coexists with the first, as the romance of the harmonious kampong. He asserts that the term “kampong spirit” has been used by the government to establish the success of public housing and to rally support for the HBD’s upgrading and en bloc development of older estates. In this way, it is used to showcase the resilience of the fire victims who overcame hardship through the kampong values of neighbourliness, thrift and hard work, values which the government seeks to encourage in young people.
Most interesting, though, is the third myth, or rather the “countermyth,” as he terms it. This is the unwritten and persistent rumour that the fire was an intentional act of arson by the government to clear the kampong and enable redevelopment of the site to occur. The rumour has persisted despite the reluctance of Singaporeans to discuss the possibility openly. Loh argues that its longevity “indicates the deep-seated tension between self and nation” (260), an example of the pragmatic and ambivalent relationship between the PAP and the people, where restrictions on freedoms are tolerated in exchange for continued economic progress.
Loh uses the story of the fire and its ensuing myths to tell a bigger story: one of housing the nation and of the contested nature of modernity. In shining a light on a historical moment at the intersection of the colonial and postcolonial, Loh reveals an important national story, and also one that speaks to the history of Southeast Asian urban redevelopment more broadly.
Sandra Hudd, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
BEING MALAY IN INDONESIA: Histories, Hopes and Citizenship in the Riau Archipelago. Southeast Asia Publications Series. By Nicholas J. Long. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Asian Studies Association of Australia, 2013. xii, 288 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3865-2.
In Being Malay in Indonesia, Nicholas J. Long discusses numerous discourses and behaviours that contribute to a feeling of unsettledness among citizens and officials of the newly created Indonesian province, Riau Archipelago.
To understand the book’s subject and method, it is best to compare its subject – the lives of Malays in Indonesia – with the lives of Malays in Malaysia. In Malaysia, the Constitution defines who are Malays, and together with other indigenous ethnic groups, gives them privileges as sons of the country’s soil, thus constituting a Malay-dominated multiculturalism. However, in Indonesia, the official understanding of nation-building decries the domination of any ethnicity. Upon implementation of regional autonomy in 1999, however the concentration of an ethnic group in a particular territory became regarded, though unofficially, as the basis for redefining the boundaries of that territory or even splitting it into multiple territories. Thus, the creation of the province of Riau Archipelago in 2004 was the birth of a province “for Malays,” although Indonesia is a country where the superiority of any specific ethnicity is not officially acknowledged.
If the definition and privileges of an ethnic group are officially defined, as in Malaysia, it can be a topic for an official discussion (although such public discussion on the definition and the privileges of Malays is restricted in Malaysia). On the other hand, it is difficult to discuss the definition or privileges (if any) of Malays in Indonesia in an official forum, as this ethnic category is ambiguous. However, this does not mean that being Malay has no significance; rather, the issue of being Malay is often raised, and sometimes has a certain influence on determining social status, as the book demonstrates. The author carefully avoids falling into the endless search for a flexible definition of Malayness, instead successfully outlining the stage and performance of Malayness in Riau social life.
The introduction examines the literature of Malayness, and discusses a theoretical framework based on the work of Jean-Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud and Slavoj Žižek, followed by a chapter introducing the autonomy-era province of Riau Archipelago. The following chapters spotlight historical consciousness, economy, multiethnic neighbourhoods and otherworldly forces. The book further focuses on achieving mindset and cultural contests.
Each chapter presents two or more differing opinions on its topic. Chapter 2 details different views on the history and make-up of the population, in regard to the understanding of Riau Archipelago as Malay. Tanjung Pinang, the provincial capital of Riau Archipelago, was founded by the Chinese, while the Indonesian rupiah was not used in Tanjung Pinang until 1965, the point at which Singaporean dollars ceased to be used. While the region is understood as having a multi-racial composition, Malays only account for about 30 percent of the population in the whole province and in Tanjung Pinang.
Chapter 3 addresses the issue of who is allowed to discuss the meaning of Malay identity among Riau Malays. A housewife’s offer of a document which had been passed down in her family for generations to the government as a historical resource is rejected by a government official because she’s not aristocratic. The official advises the author who accompanied the housewife to associate with aristocrats if he wants to write a dissertation on Riau Malays. Herein lies an unofficial understanding of who is permitted to discuss Malaynesss: clearly, the housewife is not. Curiously enough, the same housewife criticizes the Bugis people who make a presentation on Malays in a seminar on Malay history.
Tensions are also found in the marketplace in Tanjung Pinang, where the stereotype of lazy Malays, formulated during colonial times, is considered to be true (chapter 4). The author finds that those who are successful in the market tend to be called Keling, or Indian, while those who are not successful are called Malay. Interestingly, the Malays who work at the market tend to claim Indonesian identity.
The uneasiness of living with people of different cultures is expressed in terms of ethnicity and religion (chapter 5). A Chinese newcomer is expelled after being accused of homosexuality when he invites another man to his room during the evening and closes the door, then dims the light.
The boundary between Malays and non-Malays is turbid even in cosmology (chapter 6). When a young Chinese man is possessed after escaping the 1998 Jakarta riot and returns to Riau, the family requests treatment from both Malay and Chinese dukun, as they are unsure if their son is tormented by a Malay or Chinese ghost.
Batam, supposedly influenced by the colonial, foreign atmosphere of Singapore, is regarded as a rival of Tanjung Pinang, in regard to physical and human resource development (chapter 7).
The author plays the lead in chapter 8, in which he is asked to be on the jury of a beauty contest organized by the Tourism Board. He is surprised, through his involvement in the dramatic decision on the male winner, that the judging is not only based on performance on stage, but also participation in previous contests. Selecting the female winner is unproblematic, until she is found to be of Chinese origin the following day, mirroring an episode in the introduction wherein a newspaper reporter claimed the mayor of Tanjung Pinang was Chinese, born of Chinese parents and brought up by Malay parents. The mayor (also a poet) objected to this account, and wrote a poem saying she was raised in Malay culture as a Malay, and so she is a Malay no matter her DNA.
A remarkable feature of this book is in the cinematic style of the description. The author vividly presents the voices of people of various standing and from various places within Riau. Informants appear in the beginning of each chapter as though they are cinematic characters. They talk with officials, bandy about with others, and participate in events such as beauty contests. The author observes and sometimes participates, listening to informants and others, guided by his analysis as voice-over narration. Reading the book, I was given the impression I was “reading” cinema.
By repeatedly exposing the contradictory allegations, the author shows the polyphonic reality of being Malay in Indonesia. The book is a product of extensive research and the author’s theoretical insight into Riau islanders, and should be a valuable resource for students and scholars interested in ethnicity and development in the Malay archipelago and beyond.
Hiroyuki Yamamoto, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
In a moment of both increased global anxiety about Islam and arguably decreased awareness of misogyny and violence against women generally, scholarship on the intersection of feminist activism and Islamic piety is welcome. Rachel Rinaldo’s book Mobilizing Piety: Islam and Feminism in Indonesia analyzes this intersection through sociological fieldwork with four feminist organizations in Jakarta, Indonesia, each of which position themselves vis-à-vis Islam in arguing for women’s rights in the public and private spheres. While these activists do not argue for the same rights that Western feminist activists might, and even reject activism that “smells of America” (77), Rinaldo shows they maintain their own visions of feminism and the future. In the process, Rinaldo depicts activists who are creative, courageous, and determined. Rinaldo suggests that feminist activists around the world could do worse than take inspiration from Muslim Indonesian feminists. Rinaldo’s book will be of highest value for scholars and teachers of women’s studies and feminist sociology.
As is often stated yet nearly as often forgotten, Indonesia is the world’s largest majority Muslim country. Because of its geographic and ethnic position outside of the Arab world, non-Indonesian Muslims and non-Muslims alike often perceive Indonesian Muslims as inauthentic examples of piety. Yet since the 1980s, Islamic practices and identity have become important sites of Indonesian political and public culture. Rinaldo builds on this history to suggest that the turn to Islamic piety has had an unlikely outcome: it inspired and mediated gendered activism in the face of the Suharto New Order regime’s authoritarian celebration of housewifery for female citizens (1965–1998).
Rinaldo’s research is based on fieldwork in Jakarta in 2005 and 2008 with four women’s organizations, and is in closest theoretical conversation with the sociological literature on agency and Islamic gender politics. She proposes three types of agentive action that the four organizations articulate: pious critical agency, pious activating agency, and feminist agency.
Rinaldo’s concepts most closely engage intellectual debates of the past decade about pious agency, particularly in the work of anthropologist Saba Mahmood (Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, Princeton University Press, 2004). Mahmood argues that liberal feminist conceptions of agency foreclose alternative visions of agency that may look docile or repressive, yet are nonetheless choices for pious Muslim women in the mosque movement in Cairo. Rinaldo argues that this is a useful insight, but worries that defining pious agency as docility and submission (to Allah and/or to men), may reflect a narrowly Cairene context, and may over-represent other modes of pious agency that are less docile and more collective. For example, she describes how Indonesian Islamic activists used Islamic law and theology to lobby with the Indonesian Ministry of Religion and Ministry of Manpower over issues they framed as moral justice, not just secular human rights, such as managing polygamy, outlawing pornography, or identifying the extraction of usurious fees for transnational female migrants. This strategy involves selective, but not necessarily strategic, embodiment of pious comportment, appearance, and language, even as it has concrete policy goals for groups of citizens in the public sphere. As a result, religious morals are not simply a matter of individual self-fashioning but are linked to national progress or regress.
Rinaldo identifies three types of agency with the four organizations she studied. First, she describes two organizations that practice what she calls pious critical agency, Fatayat NU and Rahima. Pious critical agency focuses on religious textual interpretation (itjihad) and women’s religious authority. Fatayat is the women’s branch of the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, Nahdalatul Ulama, while Rahima describes itself as a Muslim women’s rights NGO. Starting from textually religious foundations, activists in both organizations then borrow from global gender rights language to articulate an explicitly pious language of gender equality, including, perhaps surprisingly, sexual education and the right for wives to expect sexual satisfaction in a marriage.
A second type of agency is what Rinaldo calls pious activating agency, which she describes as dominant in the offices of the women’s branch of the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) or Prosperous Justice Party. PKS is a relatively new but influential political party born of the post-Suharto era. As a political party competing for elected office, its official aims are to bring Islamic theology into the political sphere as the ideal solution for corruption and social decay. Its members consider the disconnection in secular societies between public politics and private faith destructive. Women activists within PKS have become publicly active in lobbying for national policies that protect women, but which focus on domesticity and morality campaigns (such as protecting women within polygamous marriages, rather than outlawing polygamy, and outlawing pornography). Rinaldo shows that, ironically, the women who worked to achieve these goals themselves enjoy active, public, professional careers with PKS even as they wish to introduce Islamic ideas of domesticity into national law.
Finally, Rinaldo studied an NGO that might feel most familiar to Western feminists, Solidaritas Perempuan. SP makes no formal religious claims, instead focusing on women’s rights as human rights. The activists focus on protecting transnational migrants who are often vulnerable to agency fees, corrupt Indonesian officials as well as harsh working conditions abroad. These activists directly engage feminist terms, and consider themselves critics of neoliberal political and economic conditions in ways very different from the activists of the other three organizations. In this sense, they may seem secular, in that they appear to treat religion as a matter of personal choice. Yet in practice, Rinaldo offers detailed descriptions of how SP activists carefully and intentionally use Islamic history, Islamic terminology and especially Islamic comportment in their official meetings with government officials and in their training sessions with regional activists. Their blended use of Islamic style and content relays to potentially skeptical Indonesians that feminism and Islam are compatible.
Carla Jones, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA
RECOLLECTING RESONANCES: Indonesian-Dutch Musical Encounters. Southeast Asia Mediated, v.4. Edited by Bart Barendregt and Els Bogaerts. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2014. xi, 353 pp. (Illus.) US$162.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-25609-5.
Recollecting Resonances: Indonesian-Dutch Musical Encounters combines musicological, historical, and anthropological approaches to productively explore an array of musical interactions between Indonesians and Dutch, tackling a legacy of Dutch colonialism by taking the reader, through its fourteen chapters, to different parts of what is now Indonesia, the Netherlands, and Suriname; examining an impressive variety of musical genres and other forms of performance; and exploring musical encounters that have spanned centuries. As the editors Bart Barendregt and Els Bogaerts write in the first chapter, “Recollecting Resonances: Listening to an Indonesian-Dutch Musical Heritage,” their aims include “broadening discussions on colonial and postcolonial migration and its legacies and the role culture, more specifically musical encounters have played in all of this” (26). They highlight the importance of studying music in this endeavour, and emphasize that in understanding colonial life “[m]usical practices cast a light on the customs of both colonizer and the colonized, and the very fabric of everyday life in those days; matters that otherwise might be difficult to untie” (1). They also recognize the unequal power relations that characterize many of the musical encounters explored in the volume (5).
Indeed, unequal power relations between Dutch and Indonesians underpin many of the issues addressed in the volume. In chapter 2, “Photographic Representations of the Performing Indonesian,” Liesbeth Ouwehand analyzes photographs of Indonesian musicians, instruments, and dancers “taken between 1870 and 1910” primarily by Europeans for scholarly or commercial purposes (31–32, 57), taking on issues of race, representation, and authenticity. The next three chapters explore processes of localization and hybridization by examining the impact of Dutch music on Indonesian music as well as how and why Indonesians have made sense of Dutch music in their own ways, effectively both reinforcing and resisting Dutch power. Gerard A. Persoon considers the history of the Dutch national anthem in Indonesia in chapter 3, “‘Queen Wilhelmina, Mother of the Mentawaians’: The Dutch National Anthem in Indonesia and as Part of the Music Culture of Siberut” (an island off the coast of West Sumatra). In the fourth chapter, “Past and Present Issues of Javanese-European Musical Hybridity: Gendhing Mares and Other Hybrid Genres,” Sumarsam examines “‘marching’ gamelan pieces” (gendhing mares) in central Java, a genre that incorporates European drums and brass instruments, and relates this type of music to other hybrid genres such as tanjidor and campursari (87). Miriam L. Brenner examines the impact of Dutch music on the island of Buton (off the coast of Southeast Sulawesi) in chapter 5, “Drummers of the Sultan of Buton: The Lasting Influence of the Dutch East India Company on Local Music Traditions,” starting in the 1600s with the arrival of the Dutch East India Company and the military music they brought (111–112).
Chapters 6 and 7 investigate hybridity in the realms of twentieth-century art music, discussing some of the ways Indonesian and Dutch composers synthesized elements of Western art and Indonesian musics. R. Franki S. Notosudirdjo analyzes the contributions of Indonesian composers—as well as their nationalist ambitions—and Dutch composers living in the Indies in the creation and development of Indonesian art music (musik seni) in chapter 6, “Musical Modernism in the Twentieth Century.” In chapter 7, “Constant van de Wall, a European-Javanese Composer,” Henk Mak van Dijk (translated by Wim Tigges) considers Indisch classical music, a type of music composed by Dutch composers who had lived in the Indies, focusing on the work of Constant van de Wall (1871–1945) (151, 153).
The next two chapters probe encounters between the Dutch ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst (1891–1960) and Indonesian individuals. Chapter 8, “A Musical Friendship: The Correspondence between Mangkunegoro VII and the Ethnomusicologist Jaap Kunst, 1919 to 1940” by Madelon Djajadiningrat and Clara Brinkgreve (translated by Aletta Stevens-Djajadiningrat), centres on Kunst’s relationship with the Javanese prince Mangkunegoro VII through their letters to each other. Chapter 9, “Encounters in the Context of Inspiring Sundanese Music and Problematic Theories” by Wim van Zanten, explores Kunst’s relationship with “the Sundanese music teacher and scholar Machjar Kusumadinata (1902–1979)” (203). Together, these chapters demonstrate the different but intersecting social worlds that Kunst and his consultants inhabited, their shared concerns with musical preservation, and the impact that their work together has had upon subsequent specialists of Indonesian music.
The remaining chapters investigate a further assortment of artistic encounters, and continue to explore the cultural results of movement and migration related to a history of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia. In chapter 10, “Indonesian Performing Arts in the Netherlands, 1913–1944,” Matthew Isaac Cohen “surveys the Indonesian performing arts ‘scene’ in the Netherlands” and its social, cultural and political implications, examining a variety of activity and forms of performance, including “Javanese dance and music associations, Indies drama, kroncong [a form of Indonesian popular music] clubs, touring professionals and pan-Indonesian student groups” (232). Lutgard Mutsaers examines Dutch contributions to the development of kroncong in the next chapter, “‘Barat Ketemu Timur’: Cross-Cultural Encounters and the Making of Early Kroncong History.” Chapter 12, “Tradition and Creative Inspiration: Musical Encounters of the Moluccan Communities in the Netherlands,” by Rein Spoorman and chapter 14, “Kollektief Muziek Theater’s Repositioning of Moluccan Issues” by Fridus Steijlen, discuss the arts of Moluccan communities in the Netherlands. Annika Ockhorst analyzes theatre in Suriname in chapter 13, “Multicultural Encounters on Stage: The Use of Javanese Cultural Elements by the Surinamese Doe-Theatre Company.”
Recollecting Resonances is a worthy contribution to a number of fields, including Southeast Asian studies and ethnomusicology, for its subject matter, scope and interdisciplinarity. While it is likely to be of particular interest to specialists of Indonesian culture, it has much to offer others with interests in the affects of colonialism on expressive culture and how people use expressive culture in colonial and postcolonial contexts. The essays are clearly written and the photographs and other illustrations bring the material to life. I very much look forward to using this book in future research, in teaching, and in thinking more about the important issues and histories that the authors of the volume bring to the fore.
Christina Sunardi, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DON’T EVER WHISPER: Darlene Keju, Pacific Health Pioneer, Champion for Nuclear Survivors. By Giff Johnson. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2014, c2013. 443 pp. (B&W photos.) US$13.99, paper. ISBN 978-1489509062.
Although “the best of both worlds” is a commonplace expression, I rarely encounter anyone or anything that truly encapsulates the best of two worlds. Darlene Keju, whose life and work this book chronicles, surely did. She embodied the best of both Marshall Islands and Western/European cultural life.
“Labour of love” is another cliché, but in this case, we really do find both terms of the equation in abundance. Ms. Keju’s life was shaped by hard, valuable labour overflowing with love, and her husband’s telling of her story is infused with warm, respectful, and sorrowful love. At the same time, however, I sense an undercurrent of white-hot rage in a man who must have learned a great deal from his wife about masking his emotions. Keju won her spurs battling American attempts to cover up the effects of the radiation that spread across her homeland’s islands in the wake of the sixty-seven atmospheric nuclear tests the US military conducted on Bikini and Eniwetok atolls. Years later, like so many of her family members and fellow islanders, she succumbed to cancer. Many people are brought down by cancer, to be sure, but given the incredible (and I employ that word quite literally) dosages she was exposed to as a child on her home atoll of Wotje, there is every reason to think that that radiation had a very direct impact on her.
Keju herself might have preferred me to dwell on the remarkable resiliency of the young people she worked with as a public health leader in the islands, but before I leave this matter of the Marshalls’ nuclear tragedy, I feel obliged to do more than merely allude to American attempts to paint her testimony as unbelievable. Fred Zeder, the American ambassador charged with finalizing the compacts of free association between the decolonizing Micronesian states and the US government, accused Keju of “the most nauseating example of bizarre propaganda I have ever seen” (372). Drawing on official reports finally declassified after more than a half century, however, Johnson documents American disregard for the Marshalls people that quite clearly amounts to crimes against humanity, and confirms every charge that Keju levelled. Adding insult to injury is of course another cliché, but Keju refused to be silenced by the American’s gratuitous insults.
What is more remarkable, though, was her ability to couple a tenacious insistence that the US provide properly for its victims with the gentle respect typical of her own culture as she promoted health awareness and education to the people of the Marshalls. She drew on years of schooling in Hawai‘i and on the Hawai‘ian sovereignty movement’s example. “After Darlene’s pride as a Pacific islanders was awakened in the late 1970s, she used her island cultural skills in combination with her modern school-learned knowledge as a force for change in her home islands” (381).
Her early childhood on Wotje Atoll and her young adult experiences in Honolulu were bridged by years living in a third setting, Ebeye, the speck of coral that Kwajalein Atoll’s people were exiled to when their island was converted into a missile testing range. The US Army practiced an extreme form of the segregation common in postwar America on Kwajalein, and Ebeye in those days could be likened to a township under South African apartheid. Keju’s outspokenness—“Don’t ever whisper,” she exhorted the young people she trained—was put to work trying to improve the rapidly deteriorating quality of life on Kwajalein and Majuro, combining her experiences in American schools with the low-key, deeply respectful social relations characteristic of her people. Using song and drama and working especially with young people, she used methods she learned at the University of Hawai‘i public health school with great success to redirect their energies. In the Youth to Youth in Health program she created, the people she trained promoted family planning and producers’ cooperatives and battled substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
Keju liked to insist that people Tuak bwe elimajno (literally, walk through the rough currents to get from one island to the next, but also translated as “face your challenges”) (9). On Pohnpei, a Micronesian island lying to the west of the Marshalls, people sometimes exhort one another to Alu nan nta (which literally translates as “Walk in blood,” and refers to walking across coral reefs till one’s feet are bloodied). I have heard this misunderstood to mean the same as the English phrase “wade in blood,” but Keju’s translation expresses the sentiment in a much more effective tone.
This is not meant to be a scholarly work, but Johnson is a journalist, and his understanding of what we call human interest reflects, I think, the best of what C.W. Mills termed the “sociological imagination,” that is, the intersection of individual human stories with the larger sweep of social history. It is effective, compelling, moving, and absolutely honest.
One of the more remarkable facets of life in these islands is the way in which local cultures emphasize kindness, generosity, and quiet respect. Survival there demands the highest degree of resilience, and over millennia islanders have learned that these qualities allow them to get the best out of their underlying toughness. I have known many Micronesians who possess this combination of character traits, but Darlene Keju possessed them to a degree matched in my personal acquaintance only by Tosiwo Nakayama, the Federated States of Micronesia’s first president. Each showed how the ability to face challenges could bring about huge changes, while drawing on a rock-like commitment to gentle persuasion, as the Quakers have been known to call it. The best of both worlds, indeed.
Glenn Petersen, City University of New York, New York, USA
“Tobacco is the drug about which Islanders should really be concerned—not marijuana, alcohol or methamphetamines, that is the legacy of Drinking Smoke” (222). With this statement, renowned medical anthropologist Mac Marshall concludes his magnificent new book Drinking Smoke: The Tobacco Syndemic in Oceania. As with Marshall’s other books on alcohol and drug studies, this volume is an impressive contribution to a topic not yet extensively explored by anthropologists.
Marshall’s solemn and powerful warning is a fitting place to begin, as it speaks to the aims of the book: not only to demonstrate the enormous impact tobacco has on Pacific Islanders’ social and economic worlds and health, but to also argue for an approach to tobacco that views tobacco as the connector between all the major causes of mortality in the region. Marshall writes that tobacco lies at the core of a complex set of disorders and diseases, not just cancer, but tuberculosis, obesity, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cardiovascular disease as well. He employs the term the “tobacco syndemic” to explain that these “smoking diseases” are interrelated. It is a term conceptualized by medical anthropologist Merill Singer to account for the way in which diseases cluster as they are exacerbated by social context. Drinking Smoke recounts, in fascinating detail, how this has come to be.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part, comprised of five chapters, draws on historical research and ethnography to document the spread of tobacco throughout Oceania by seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial explorers and traders. A self-proclaimed amateur historian, Marshall shows how this exotic (not to mention addictive) new substance became a much sought-after object in the region. One of the reasons tobacco was quickly incorporated into Pacific culture was because people classified it as a comestible, as something to be eaten or drunk. Marshall explains that before tobacco became part of mainstream culture in Europe no word existed to describe its consumption. It was compared with drinking and so people spoke of “drinking smoke.” As food gifts are seen as a token of sociality used to create and sustain relationships, giving and receiving gifts of tobacco fit into already established cultural norms in Oceania. Marshall notes a mother who gave her baby a puff of tobacco whilst breastfeeding. Until recently children in Oceania consumed tobacco as it was given to them in the same manner as other food items.
As tobacco became incorporated into Oceanic societies it developed as an important exchange commodity between islanders and foreigners. Marshall shows how prices became standardized (one chicken could be traded for one stick of tobacco) and tobacco became the first globally traded luxury item. Interestingly, Marshall notes how anthropologists have also used tobacco in exchange. Malinowski spent 20 percent of his fieldwork budget on tobacco for trading purposes, and a poll of anthropologists shows that many have given, traded or shared tobacco with the people with whom they work.
Marshall also surveys transformations in the ways Pacific Islanders consumed tobacco. Tobacco was first smoked in its loose-leaf form in clay, coral and stone pipes, or in loosely wrapped little cigars (sometimes wrapped in banana leaf or in pages of the Sydney Morning Herald). He notes how when ear ornaments went out of style, some Islanders carried their tobacco and pipes in their stretched perforated ear lobes. Pacific Islanders began replacing their loose tobacco for industrially manufactured cigarettes in the early twentieth century; an act that Marshall writes changed tobacco consumption forever as the nicotine content in industrially manufactured cigarettes is stronger and more dangerous. Both World Wars were instrumental in the spread of cigarettes as soldiers were given cigarettes in their rations and shared them freely. Marshall shows how this uptake of cigarette smoking has resulted in enormous health and economic costs, and notes the efforts by national governments, NGOs and churches to control it. Success has been moderate, but a “non-smoking” Fijian village stands out as an effective example of public health intervention at the community level.
Part 2 examines the impact of tobacco on people’s health. It draws on a vast amount of health-related sources from medicine, environmental health, public health, maternal and child health, medical anthropology and regional health statistics. Most of the material in part 2 is presented in three case studies: Maori and Pacific Islanders in New Zealand, US associated Micronesians, and native Hawaiians in Hawaii. Marshall shows how the relative mortality risk for each of these groups is much higher than that of other ethnic groups in these countries. He argues that the high prevalence of tobacco-related diseases among these populations is not because of any ethnic or genetic reason, but rather because of the impact on peoples’ health of imperialism, intrusion, loss, dispossession, colonization, trauma, chronic stress, racism, poverty, and unequal access to medical care. Marshall writes that such histories have created a climate of poverty, and statistics reveal that lower-income populations have higher rates of smoking and other diseases. Marshall uses these case studies to demonstrate how human social environment influences tobacco-caused diseases. The tobacco syndemic is one of the legacies of invasion, colonization, and globalization. Marshall writes that to combat this legacy, Pacific Islanders must stop viewing tobacco in a positive light. Instead, Pacific Islanders must “de-normalize” tobacco and start thinking about tobacco as an addictive poison.
That tobacco smoke is the single greatest cause of preventable death worldwide makes anthropological lack of attention to it astounding. With Drinking Smoke, Mac Marshall fills this gap in our knowledge. It is a meticulously supported and well-argued text that is an important contribution not only to academia focused on Oceania but to a broader readership interested in the effects of tobacco on global health and the rise of the dominant tobacco industry as well. Full of anecdotes, historical episodes, statistics, and medical claims that demonstrate the power of this significant commodity, Drinking Smoke makes for compelling and informative reading and I highly recommend it.
Daniela Kraemer, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
LEVIATHANS AT THE GOLD MINE: Creating Indigenous and Corporate Actors in Papua New Guinea. By Alex Golub. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014. xiv, 247 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5508-3.
Leviathans at the Gold Mine is an important contribution to anthropological discussions of mining, corporate social responsibility and indigenous identity. The book is based on Golub’s PhD research at the Porgera gold mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Its value lies not so much in its originality, although it is indeed an original contribution to these debates. Rather, I am struck by Golub’s ability to follow long-running and complex discussions (both in anthropology and at Porgera) and to distil them into an elegantly simple analytical framework based on the theme of leviathans. Drawing out the resonances from the Hebrew Bible and Hobbes, Golub plays with the definition of “leviathan” as “the power of bureaucracy incarnate” and leviathan as a cosmological order. This allows him to show how both Porgera mine and the Ipili come into existence, and indeed co-produce each other, as leviathans. These entities are much less stable than they at first appear. As Golub puts it: “Both ‘the mine’ and ‘the Ipili’ then, share a common feature: at a distance they appear to be unproblematically existing actors, but the closer you come to them, the more their coherence and integrity begins to falter” (12).
The book’s first chapter describes the negotiations over a waste dump in order to “unpack the black box” of corporate entities such as the state, landowners, or the mine. Golub reveals the conflicting internal dynamics and political interests that lie within these ostensibly cohesive leviathans. From this example, Golub also demonstrates how issues can come to be discussed in terms of the personalities of these “personated” leviathans and how individuals (community affairs officers, landowners) can effectively become the leviathans that they represent. Indeed, they must be able to do so in order to be feasible actors.
The second chapter provides historical background that contextualizes the development of the mine and the reshaping of the land-owning communities. This discussion is developed further in the third chapter, which offers a satisfying account of “being Ipili in Porgera.” This is a useful discussion of kinship and landownership amongst a fluid and dynamic people whose lived reality does not readily conform to the bureaucratic expectations of settled indigenous communities with stable boundaries based on descent.
The fourth chapter draws out the implications of Golub’s analysis for understanding PNG as a nation, particularly moral debates about the development of the country that are grounded in ideas of an “innocent population” of “grassroots” villagers. Golub seeks to open up a dialogue that brings the many scholarly insights about Papua New Guinea into conversation with the contemporary moral imagination of the nation. His intention is to create more space for grassroots people to depart from expectations of primordial subsistence indigeneity and for urban Papua New Guineans to embrace more options for themselves as modern Melanesians. This is a project that I strongly support. Golub’s first step in it is to attempt a scholarly articulation of this Papua New Guinean moral imagination. He begins by sketching the developmental background to Papua New Guinea’s independence and the response of elite thinkers, such as the influential Bernard Narokobi. He then points to some of the deeper roots in Melanesian culture that he believes foreground contemporary ideologies of the grassroots and shape the strategies that Ipili and groups like them must deploy in order to be recognized as feasible development actors.
In a useful schema, Golub traces the moral imagination of PNG by examining the positive and negative valuations of five themes that are used to evaluate village and town life: Christianity, wantoks, law and order, culture and development. Strangely absent here is any mention of gender, despite this being a focus of much contemporary moral debate in PNG. While there are many alternative ways of framing these issues, for the most part, Golub provides a satisfying account of the modern social imaginary of PNG and explains how grassroots can fail to be feasible if their representation falls on the wrong side of the moral ledger.
Golub introduces his book with an apology for his focus on men’s lives, claiming that this is the result of the situation described, namely the male-dominated Yakatabari waste dump negotiations. However, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that women will not be discussed at all, nor is there any investigation of the “pervasive sexual inequality in Porgera” (124). I have not worked in a masculinist setting such as Porgera myself but I am aware of several (female) anthropologists who have written about the plight of women there. Perhaps this was not an option available to Golub himself. However, for a book that covers complex discussions of kinship, identity, and resource development so deftly, the absence of women’s voices from Golub’s account and the neglect of gender as a tool of enquiry is puzzling and disappointing. I am sure that I am not the only reader left wanting to hear more from Golub on how and why the practices of personation and the making of leviathans are gendered. Despite this significant omission, Leviathans at the Gold Mine is a very good book that is both succinct and fresh in addressing complex and long-debated issues of identity, cultural change, and resource development; and doing so from a solid ethnographic grounding. For these reasons the book will be a very useful teaching resource and its arguments about the creation of various corporate actors will be central to further debates about (and within) PNG.
John Cox, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
RITUAL TEXTUALITY: Pattern and Motion in Performance. Oxford Ritual Studies. By Matt Tomlinson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xii, 169 pp. (Figures.) US$35.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-19-934114-6.
In Ritual Textuality, Matt Tomlinson presents a provocative study of varieties of ritual performance in contemporary Fiji, one that resonates with seminal anthropological works that have explored how ritual patterns establish and reproduce religious authority. In terms of analysis, he draws on semiotic and linguistic theory in an approach that is text-based and focuses on entextualization—a process whereby discourse is made into signs and texts that are arranged in patterns that can be separated and then replicated through performance. His goal in studying rituals as texts is to understand their efficacy; not merely in terms of how they affect participants, but also their contribution to the formation of language ideologies. In this he addresses what can be termed the cultural work that ritual communication does at a meta-level; the “micro-macro problem” that explores the use of language in relation to “larger social structures, particularly the structures of power and value that constitute the political economy of a society” (Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs, “Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life,” Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 1990, 19: 79).
Ethnographic research for this work was carried out over nearly two decades in several settings in Fiji, and analyses of four ritual performances are presented: a Pentecostal sermon; a Methodist sermon and ceremonial speeches delivered during Fijian kava ceremonies; testimonies of the Methodist belief in the “happy deaths” of religious converts; and recent post-coup political discourse circulated by Fijian government and military spokespersons.
Tomlinson grounds his analysis of ritual textuality in a review of literature relating to religion and communication which includes an ambitious summary of the complex lexis developed for linguistic and semiotic approaches to religious performance. From this theory he delineates four communicative patterns of entextualization: sequence, conjunction, contrast, and substitution, which are then analyzed in relation to ritual efficacy. One pattern is explored in each of the chapters that follows as each is constitutive to the efficacy of one of these performances.
The first type of entextualization, sequencing, Tomlinson identifies in the American preacher’s sermon delivered at an outdoor Pentecostal rally in Suva where ecstatic participants wait to receive the Holy Ghost. Sequence is evidenced by the numerous examples of a linked looping pattern involving repetition and parallelism. Continually repeating the sequence of declaration-promise-action establishes this text’s ritual efficacy, as repetition confirms the missionary’s performative authority.
In the following two chapters, entextualization in this preacher’s speech is compared to a Fijian Methodist minister’s sermon and an excerpt from traditional Fijian oratory. Significant amongst their differences is the Methodist sermon’s almost exclusive use of declaratives, while in Fijian speeches delivered during kava rituals the performative sequence declarative-promise-action is prevalent. This difference can be accounted for, Tomlinson argues, because the Methodist sermon follows a communicative path that unifies, and repeated declarative statements reaffirm the unity of the congregation that prays, sings and makes offerings in unison.
Tomlinson then considers the Christian communion ritual and focuses on conjunction as a form of entextualization which is evident in patterns of chiasmus, a verbal or literacy device that sees an inverted order reflected in text. Here he presents a detailed comparison of Christian rituals of communion, which use wine and bread to represent the blood and body of Christ, with Fijian kava rituals, both of which demonstrate a chiasmic X-shaped pattern reflected in a ritual crossing over of substances. For Christians, consuming consecrated bread and wine incorporates Christ’s body and blood into one’s being, which simultaneously incorporates oneself into the wider church of Christ, a chiasmic process; while in Fijian ceremonies, kava or the “water of the land or vanua” is presented to the chief so that he can symbolically appropriate it. Yet in taking control, it will turn and destroy him. An interesting aspect of Tomlinson’s discussion is whether kava might replace wine in the communion ritual. Though conceivable for Tomlinson since from a Western perspective kava and consecrated wine are both seen as sacred, transformative substances, it can be argued that as “blood and water” in Fijian culture, these markedly different ritual substances are symbolically too deeply opposed to allow substitution.
Nineteenth-century Methodist reports record the “happy deaths” of converts who joyously await the opening of the gates of heaven, in contrast to Fijian beliefs in a bleak afterlife that offered a series of struggles with other-worldly creatures. Tomlinson argues that the emerging contrast between life and death in these texts established a fractally recursive pattern of entextualization that reinforced a public-private distinction over time, continually pushing Fijian beliefs aside towards a less public space. Incidents he recounts reveal Fijians’ anxiety and negative attitudes towards death and the demonic, which furthered the consolidation of Christian belief. While it cannot be disputed that missionaries encouraged conversion or that Fijians express fear towards their afterlife, it can be argued that this public/private distinction represents a Western ontology, whereas in Fijian culture the significant distinction is between what is hidden versus open or clearly visible. On Viti Levu, villagers are extremely wary of secrets, particularly when anyone closes their doors or goes to a remote location to hide their activities. Secrecy arouses the suspicion that in this hidden space a person may be performing sorcery aimed at harming others.
Tomlinson’s final analysis examines linguistic coercion used by the Fijian state as it attempts to limit criticism and legitimize their seizure of government through force. The monologic discourse it generates explains away violence, claims to speak in a single ethno-nationalist voice shared by all Fijians, and deploys intimidation, imprisonment, expulsion, and censorship as tactics of linguistic repression. Substitution as a textual strategy does not only replace public discourse, however; circulation of a People’s Charter for Change that maps out a “shared utopian vision” for the future also erases it.
In his analysis, Matt Tomlinson provides an ethnographically detailed, well-argued account of entextualization and ritual efficacy in Fiji. His insightful analysis reveals a method of locating language ideology in several contexts, and demonstrates for the Fijian case how ritual performance articulates with structures of power.
Pauline McKenzie Aucoin, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
AINU: Paths to Memory. A film directed by Marcos Centeno Martín; screenplay by Marcos Centeno Martín, Almudena García Navarro; editing by Almudena Garcia Navarro; voice over, Mayumi Matsushita; DVD edition, Sento Paredes; soundtrack, Shōji Fukumoto and Barnakústica. [Japan]: Produced by Marcos Centeno Martín and Almudena García Navarro; Released within Año Dual España-Japon, 2014. 1 online resource (82 min.) In Spanish, Japanese, English and French, with English, Spanish and Japanese subtitles. Url: ainumemoryfilm.com. Online viewing and DVD contact: email@example.com.
An 82-minute montage of interviews with museum specialists, scholars, and a limited number of Ainu culture bearers, the documentary Ainu: Paths to Memory represents the culmination of the efforts of Spanish filmmaker/scholar Marcos Centeno, capping nearly a decade of study of Japan’s minorities, to “try to find what were the possible ways to retrieve Ainu identity” (documentary Homepage). This film was created in conjunction with the four hundredth anniversary of Japanese and Spanish contact, under the auspices of the 400 Years of Relations fund. As “the first event of the Indigenous Ainu made in Spain,” it represents an important and much-needed first step to introduce the presence of the Indigenous Ainu people of Japan to contemporary non-English-speaking world audiences.
The film accurately portrays the Ainu as an Indigenous people of northern Japan, Sakhalin, the Kurile Islands, and the Kamchatka Peninsula, whose current population is estimated at between 30,000 and 300,000, and who were subjected to severe marginalization due to assimilation policies under Japanese expansionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Originally, Ainu were a hunter-gatherer people who also engaged in extensive trade with Japan to the south and Russia and China to the north. Under this expansionism, Ainu society and culture were decimated by stringent assimilation measures leading to severe poverty, which when combined with heavy social discrimination led to negative ascription and passing as mainstream ethnic Wajin Japanese. It is only in limited tourist regions and isolated cases of well-to-do or well-learned families that we find exceptions. Presently only a few Elders in their eighties and over can be regarded as speakers of the Ainu language.
Together with the United Nations-supported right to self-determination, the potential revitalization of the Ainu language and culture as everyday lived praxis remains tenuous and direly in need of a boost. Scholars and other depictors of the Ainu such as Mr. Centeno thus need to be mindful of their work’s potential influence in creating “external pressure” on the Japanese government to support indigenous Ainu rights. One of the most needed of these is a comprehensive policy to shift the nexus of knowledge about the Ainu, and decisions about its use, away from non-Ainu scholars and into the hands of Ainu cultural practitioners and scholars themselves (Cf. Linda Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies, Zed Books, 1999).
In covering the majority of knowledge sources available as prospective building blocks of contemporary Ainu identity and the issues surrounding them, this work has touched upon all of the elements that it should have in its effort to “help the Ainu people in their task to regain their dignity and culture, and make it available as an aspect when approaching Japanese history.” Structured as a travel journey throughout the island of Hokkaido and beyond to Europe, centred around key interviews in each locale, the first half of the documentary seeks to dislodge the myth of Japanese ethnic homogeneity, and features the above themes of discrimination, assimilatory policies, disempowerment, loss of the Ainu language, history of research of the Ainu, and social and institutional hurdles to Ainu self-empowerment. The second half concentrates on issues of identity, generational attitudes toward the Ainu movement, the current state of cultural transmission, and issues of cultural authenticity.
On the other hand, contrary to recent films like Tokyo Ainu and Kamui to Ikiru, whose entire focus is on contemporary Ainu, Ainu: Paths to Memory, despite numerous shots from present-day Hokkaido, remains mainly a “tour of history,” relying on “the collaboration of several European museums that store large amounts of Ainu antiques and photographs; and the help of Japanese experts and researchers” for the bulk of its footage. This movie remains for the most part, as the title suggests, a review of pathways to culture featuring non-Ainu academics and experts. Out of a sum of approximately thirteen interviewees, only three Ainu are featured for a total of approximately fifteen minutes out of a 82-minute film. Thus, despite its good intentions, the film runs counter to recent trends in the academic disciplines of indigenous studies and anthropology toward prioritizing the indigenous voice, and thereby inadvertently poses the quite real danger of undermining Ainu self-determination (Smith, Decolonizing).
Meanwhile, value of cultural hybridity granted, the director’s choice to almost exclusively omit narrative and make the film content to “speak for itself” creates confusion as to the distinction between Ainu and Wajin interviewees, Ainu versus other locations, the Ainu and Japanese languages, and Ainu music versus music from other genres. For example, Wajin scholars are never identified as such, while Buddhist music such as the Heart Sutra is played in several key scenes featuring non-Buddhist Ainu.
Indigenous Ainu activism at the UN is only mentioned for the first time in the movie at minute 48, and at that in the context of the Ainu being used by other indigenous peoples. This reviewer got the impression that Mr. Centeno had not versed himself adequately enough in the ethics of working with indigenous populations (Cf. Alaska Federation of Natives Guidelines for Researchers), and that in this sense the film may have been shot a bit hastily ahead of its time, perhaps due to the four hundredth anniversary deadline. The film could have greatly assisted the status of the Ainu by seeking out contemporary activists to comment on the status of Ainu self-determination as an indigenous people vis-à-vis international human rights instruments.
The film poses the counter-intuitive challenge to the viewer of understanding possible ways to retrieve Ainu identity without first ever explicitly outlining who the contemporary Ainu are. In this sense viewers will need to put to use the ever-growing information provided in the extensive documentary homepage, to weave together the somewhat sketchy images and narratives of the film and retroactively supplement their understanding of the Ainu people. However, keeping the above caveats about foreign support for Ainu self-determination as well as scholarship driven by the Ainu themselves in mind, this film is on the mark in its spirit and I hope that the director will continue to pursue his cause of upgrading the website.
Jeffry Gayman, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
RED WEDDING: Women Under the Khmer Rouge. A film by Lida Chan and Guillaume Suon; writer, Lida Chan, Guillaume Suon; produced by Rithy Panh. New York: Women Make Movies, 2012. 1 DVD (58 min.) US$350.00, Universities, Colleges & Institutions; US$125.00, Rental; US$89.00, K-12, Public Libraries & Select Groups. In Khmer, subtitled in English. Url: http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/pages/c849.shtml.
Shot in Pursat Province, Cambodia between 2010 and 2012, Red Wedding explores one of the forced marriages of more than 250,000 women during Khmer Rouge rule (1975–1979). Interspersed with film footage and songs from the period, it is at times eerie in its flashbacks. The documentary follows the struggle of 48-year-old Sochan Pen who, at the age of sixteen, was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge soldier and was subsequently raped. Early on, the film displays the warm friendship of Chhean and Sochan, two adult women, bordering on middle-age, roughhousing.
But once the laughter dies down, Sochan tells us, “I feel sorry for my body. I hate my ex-husband. I want to cut off the parts of my body that he touched at that time.” Sochan remarries after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, has six kids, but her husband is killed and leaves her to feed them.
The Khmer Rouge had a policy of population growth; part of this can be explained by the idea that to fight neighbouring Vietnam, Democratic Kampuchea would need people (relaying Khmer Rouge wishful thinking, Ben Kiernan once lectured that the Khmer Rouge even argued that if one Cambodian could kill ten Vietnamese, Democratic Kampuchea could wipe out Vietnam). The film has an audio clip from a Khmer Rouge broadcast translated as follows: “The chief of the Community Party of Kampuchea gave a speech… [Pol Pot’s voice:] Today our country is small and sparsely populated. The country has only eight million inhabitants. We’re still far from the potential of our country. In the coming ten years, we will need twenty million Cambodians. We have no reason to reduce the number of our people or to maintain it. Our goal is to increase the number of people as soon as possible.”
Sochan’s story is emblematic of those women forced to marry men they did not know or love. Sochan suffered multiple rapes—a form of torture—and today suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. She can’t sleep and has headaches.
When Sochan and her friend are in a lotus pond harvesting, the scene is a metaphor for the lotus which grows in muddy water but is fragrant and beautiful, embodying the resilience that these women represent. What she wants to know, in her own words is the following, and she hopes the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia can produce answers:
“Why I was forced to marry…
Why the spies had to watch us…
Why after starving me the Khmer Rouge wanted to kill me.
And why I was forced to marry…if after the marriage the couples couldn’t stay together. Whether we got along or not, we were killed.”
If viewers watching expect closure, they will be disappointed; there appears to be no rhyme or reason. When Sochan questions those individuals responsible for her own forced marriage and suffering, they deny any knowledge. It’s a hall of mirrors. A character named Oeum blames the district chief. Then when the district chief is interviewed by Sochan, he denies being a district chief. He asks: “Do you have any proof?” The minimalist filmmaking style doesn’t let us understand who is in front of us at any given moment, which can be confusing.
The sister of Sochan’s ex-husband is more forthcoming. She sheds some light, but doesn’t know much. She concedes that “If we behaved correctly, we lived. Otherwise we died.” Of course that is an observation of life under Khmer Rouge rule, but it provides no satisfaction.
At times, the film feels as if the conversation is guided/scripted, but without an interviewer. It has a narrative film feel, but is a documentary. The directors, Chan and Suon, protégés of legendary Franco-Khmer filmmaker Rithy Panh, are probably asking questions. The movie has a very different atmosphere from “Enemies of the People,” which I have also reviewed. There is no smoking gun. No Nuon Chea character explaining that people were killed because they were enemies of the people. People were forced to marry because, apparently, the Khmer Rouge needed more people—but without food you aren’t going to have child-bearing mothers. Moreover, as Sochan attests, the newlyweds were killed whether or not they got along! Actually, we learn later that if they didn’t get along by the third night, they’d kill you because you were not going to procreate.
Men do come out looking pretty bad, except for one hero: Sochan’s uncle, who rescues and helps her during her ordeal with her ex-husband.
The movie ends with Sochan’s daughter getting married; it’s a parallel to Sochan’s own experience and a happy contrast. Many survivors of Pol Pot time—as the period is known for many—especially those who did not have a proper marriage, can do right for themselves through their children’s marriage. When I first returned to Cambodia in 1996, after 20 years away, I often saw excessive food ordering in restaurants as a kind of kneejerk reaction to the starvation felt during the Khmer Rouge period—a kind of “we will never be for want” testament. Marriage is perhaps another expression of this need to undo the mistakes of the past. Sochan sits her daughters down to tell them about her own forced marriage experience, but any remedy to the lack of justice for Cambodia’s past (and present) will need to wait for the next generation.
Sophal Ear, Occidental College, Los Angeles, USA