China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
DOCUMENTARY FILM REVIEW
This 11-essay collection is testimony to the remarkable industry of Ramachandra Guha, one of India’s most spirited and widely read writers. The book grows out of Guha’s long interest in biography and his quiet campaign to redress the fact that “for many years, the biographical method was disparaged by academic historians” (10). One aim of the book is to highlight the value of “biography as history” and the “superb showcase” that twentieth-century Asia provides to demonstrate such potential (10).
People love lists, and the book invites browsers to think about who ranks as a “maker of modern Asia.” Here is Guha’s line-up (with the name of each essay’s author in parentheses):
M.K. Gandhi (Ramachandra Guha)
Chiang Kai-shek (Jay Taylor)
Ho Chi Minh (Sophie Quinn-Judge)
Mao Zedong (Rana Mitter)
Jawaharlal Nehru (Ramachandra Guha)
Zhou En-lai (Chen Jian)
Sukarno (James R. Rush)
Deng Xiaoping (Odd Arne Westad)
Indira Gandhi (Srinath Raghavan)
Lee Kuan Yew (Michael D. Barr)
Z.A. Bhutto (Farzana Shaikh)
That means four from China, four from South Asia and three from Southeast Asia. The absence of a Japanese figure is explained by the argument that “it is hard, if not impossible, to name even one major Japanese politician who has provided an autonomously developed idea of his country’s place in the world” (13). But what about Emperor Hirohito? Not a politician or thinker, but what a symbol and survivor! How did such a life unfold in the tortured times of modern Japan? “Modern Asia” cannot be imagined without Japan. The office of emperor, which Hirohito occupied from 1926 to 1989, provided the symbolic glue that enabled Japan to carve its remarkable path—industrializing, terrorizing, crumbling, rebuilding.
I would have had two others on my list. Jose Rizal of the Philippines probably missed out because he died in 1896, executed by the Spanish. But Rizal was a forerunner of all the others in attacking European imperialism with intellectual weapons of Europe combined with deep connection to his own culture. The other figure who would be on my list is Bhim Rao Ambedkar, activist, writer, and today, patron saint of 180 million “ex”-untouchables in India. An “untouchable” himself, Ambedkar contended with appalling prejudice, yet left a legacy that inspires, and is fought over, throughout India today.
Guha begins the book with Mahatma Gandhi—Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi—and calls the essay “Gandhi, India and the World.” Implicit in the positioning as the first essay, and explicit in the title, is the fact that of the eleven leaders in the book, only Gandhi advanced a program that claimed global applicability and that still attracts millions of sympathizers. (To be sure, there are “Maoists” to be found elsewhere, not least in India, but admiration for Mao is small in comparison to the global esteem of the Gandhi legend).
Guha is writing a big biography of Gandhi, the first volume of which was published in 2013 (Gandhi before India). As an admirable archival historian, he is able to draw on details that knit this short essay to the “Asian” fabric of the book. He points out that during Gandhi’s first major civil disobedience campaign in South Africa, some of his most ardent backers were more than a thousand Chinese, who also suffered from the discrimination of the British regime. And he points out that Liu Xiabao, the imprisoned Chinese Nobel Laureate, has often referred to Gandhi in his writing.
The longest essay in the book deals with the leader of least significance: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the disastrous Pakistani prime minister and president of the 1970s, who was executed by the general he had appointed commander-in-chief. Farzana Shaikh makes an able and engaging attempt to convince readers that Bhutto was a political visionary “in pursuit of an Asian Pakistan.” But Bhutto comes across more as a well-heeled dilettante capable of picking up catchwords and repeating them resoundingly. His legacy appears to have been to leave Pakistan with both an entrenched military dictatorship and a family political dynasty of the kind common in South Asia (not to say elsewhere).
Three other representatives of dynasties are treated in the book: Jawaharlal Nehru, who didn’t mean to leave a dynasty (Guha assures readers); his daughter, Indira Gandhi, who did; and Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), who certainly did (given the ideas about genetics and race attributed to him by author Michael Barr) (246–7, 249, 262). For me, Barr’s essay on LKY and Srinath Raghavan’s on Indira Gandhi are two highlights of the book. Barr’s provocative essay profits from the fact that LKY and the city-state of Singapore are bound together uniquely. Because Singapore is so small and the People’s Action Party so all-pervasive, there is no part of the Singapore pie in which LKY has not had a finger. Barr is not impressed: “I realize that Singaporeans could have done much worse, but personally, I think they deserved better” (266).
Raghavan’s essay surprised me. I expected to be a bit bored by a story I thought I knew well. But Raghavan, like Guha, works in the archives like a beaver in a forest. And he too writes well. He provides as insightful and fast-moving account of India from the 1960s to the 1980s as one will find.
The other essay that especially appealed to me was the shortest: Deng Xiaoping by Odd Arne Westad. Deng’s Hakka/southern China background (like Lee Kuan Yew), the seven years in France from the age of 16, and the long experience as a guerrilla and administrator from the 1930s (plus the ups and downs experienced in Mao’s China) make the life of Deng worthy of a soap opera.
This book will appeal to varied audiences. Curious travellers in Asia will find it a friendly and invaluable introduction to countries they visit and names they encounter. Scholars will relish the invitation to measure their judgements against those of Guha’s expert authors and to muse over Guha’s arguments about the importance of biography as “history.” And teachers will find tight, well-written essays that may entice students into questions about what “making modern Asia” may mean.
Robin Jeffrey, National University of Singapore, Singapore
The genre of Asian comparative politics has tended to be dominated by what may be called the historical-cultural explanation. By this I mean the mix of historical narratives and cultural threads. In this broad category the study of political culture may be included. This school tends to see power and politics deeply determined by certain culturally fixed societal norms, rules, and institutions. This exercise has tended to be practiced often from a Western bias.
Well-known for this characterization are Hegel (one man’s freedom), Marx (Asiatic mode of production), Weber (Protestant ethic), and Wittfogel (oriental despotism). Underlying these and some other works of a similar kind is Asia’s alleged lack of modernity. When modernization theory flourished in the third quarter of the last century, this school of thought produced the genre of political culture based on the above-cited classical works.
Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba’s comparative political culture study, Civic Culture: Attitudes and Beliefs of Six Nations (Princeton University Press, 1962), is the first of its kind executed through social survey. Their analysis of citizens’ attitudes and beliefs in the US, Britain, Mexico, Germany, and Italy seems to vindicate the then still-dominant view in Western Europe and North America that democracy is a political system that only northwestern European Protestants could aspire to and achieve. Lucian W. Pye’s comparative Asian political culture study Asian Power and Politics (Harvard University Press, 1987) is another kind not dependent on social survey. Perhaps time helps to mellow the above-cited fixed view of Asian politics. Pye seems to have more distance from the above-cited classical works, possibly including that of Almond and Verba, in that Pye’s analysis of Asian political cultures is much more accommodating of Asia’s diversity. However, both belong to modernization theory. Their thesis is that premodern societies have to go through industrialization, urbanization, and democratization via the important variable of the growth of a middle class to reach democratic politics.
After reading the above-cited classical works, I feel that Bruce Gilley’s book is very fresh and well-versed in Asian politics in terms of the basic political science concepts like state and society, development, democracy, governance, and public policy. Gilley should be applauded since Asian comparative politics has been dominated either by Western-biased modernization theory and fixed political culture narratives or by those area specialists sticking to the description of a society and politics they respectively specialize in.
It is the reviewer’s forecast that Gilley’s book will be seen as a solid step toward a genuinely comparative Asian politics exercise. Yet I am a bit bothered that in Gilley’s book, the overarching notion of the nature of Asian politics still retains the heavy carry-over from the classical works dating back to Hegel, Marx, Weber, and Wittfogel.
The author of the book may well reply that this is the result of very meticulous, thoughtful, empirical, and comparative investigations. The reviewer might well reply that in addition to the state-centric conceptualization, the society-centred conceptualization may open the way to a new Asian comparative politics relatively free from Western bias. As a matter of fact, the reviewer executed the Asia-wide social surveys on the quality of life in the 2000s (Takashi Inoguchi and Seiji Fujii, The Quality of Life in Asia: A Comparison of Quality of Life in Asia, Springer, 2011) in order to construct citizen-oriented society types for twenty-nine societies in East, Southeast, South, and Central Asia. Five society types derived from citizens’ satisfaction with daily life aspects come from factor-analysis results. How key dimensions are ordered determines society types. Survival, social relations, and state dominance are three key dimensions in this order when twenty-nine societies are pooled. Separately analyzed, five society types come up: 1) survival followed by social relations; 2) survival followed by state dominance; 3) social relations followed by survival; 4) social relations followed by state dominance; and 5) state dominance followed by survival. The point of this citizen-centred exercise is that seen from below, Asian politics look very different from Asian politics seen from above.
Takashi Inoguchi, University of Niigata Prefecture, Tokyo, Japan
THE POLITICS OF MARKETISING ASIA. Studies in the Political Economy of Public Policy. Edited by Toby Carroll and Darryl S.L. Jarvis. Basingstoke, UK; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. xx, 313 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$105, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-00166-5.
The role of the state in economic development and industrial adjustment has been an ongoing debate since the early twentieth century. On one hand, the idea that the state should play a leading role in economic development was central to early development economics. The neoliberal idea of the state, on the other hand, focused on promoting economic liberalization and minimizing the state’s role in regulating and securing freedom for capital. This edited volume contributes to this debate by analyzing cases of the politics and risks of marketization in Asia, and how it transformed the state’s reach, form, and function in recent years.
Several factors in Asia have combined to make it an interesting case to study. Scholars have long argued that government interventions have been the most divisive factors contributing to dynamic economic growth across the region (Alice Amsden, Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization, Oxford University Press, 1989; Chang Ha-Joon, The Political Economy of Industrial Policy, St. Martin’s Press, 1994; Robert Wade, Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization, Princeton University Press, 1990). Meanwhile, economic and institutional circumstances have evolved rapidly and rising inequality in incomes and access to social opportunities have started to threaten social stability and challenge economic growth in the region. This leads us back, then, to the question of the role of the state.
Carroll and Jarvis’s edited volume provides a timely examination of the developmental policies and state-society relations in contemporary Asia, in particular by dealing with the impacts of neoliberalism. They look at how policies now being adopted to promote private sector participation, restructure state entities, and reduce the presence of the state in the provision of public goods and services, are tied to transformations in the notions of state and development in Asia. The global cast of contributors—from the diverse fields of political economy, international relations, sociology, and public policy—offer 12 academic chapters illustrating how neoliberalism has transformed the role of the state and created new forms of socioeconomic risk and vulnerability in Asia.
The book is organized into three parts. Part 1 rationalizes the political economy approach used by the contributors to this volume by bringing back politics into understandings of the economic realities in Asia. From an historical context, Carroll and Jarvis revisit Asia’s developmental narratives and juxtapose neoliberal and statist perspectives on the region’s era of rapid growth. What’s more important, Carroll and Jarvis caution that a deepening of neoliberalism has gained greater momentum across a spate of sectors in Asia and highlight the challenges brought by its ideational evolution. They present a vigorous argument for the need to understand the growing intersection between the globalization of neoliberalism and the region in the post 1997–1998 crisis era.
Part 2 (chapters 2 through 7) takes a deeper view of the current form of neoliberalism and potential forms of risks associated with it. In chapter 2, Cammack starts by identifying key trends within the shifting neoliberal development agenda, including redefining the state’s role as regulatory, emphasizing market building and risk management, and the attempt to construct a global market economy. Drawing on a diverse selection of case studies, ranging from the World Bank’s mining regimes in Laos, the Philippines, and Papua New Guinea to AusAid’s policies and procedures for managing risks, this part consists of detailed analyses of the latest manifestations of increasingly dominant neoliberal development agendas that aim to roll back the state in the name of market building. Despite their differences in focus, all the authors believe that these neoliberal agendas have detracted from a genuine focus on development, while potentially fostering conflicting social relations and vulnerability.
The third part of the book (chapters 8 to 12) presents an assorted collection of articles, which take slightly different angles and offer somewhat contradictory views to the previous chapters—they assume that neoliberal reforms could be preferable and beneficial in promoting growth and development in some circumstances. In chapter 8, for example, Simpson argues that for countries such as Myanmar, the added value of a neoliberal agenda, particularly in the form of social and environmental safeguards and alternative sources of capital, is preferable to its absence. Chapter 10 presents a quantitative analysis of the benefits of market building in Asia. It proves that the total number and values of M&A deals are positively related to features of the institutional environment promoted by neoliberal agendas, including protection of property rights, the enforcement of contracts, and the stability of governance structures.
Overall, this book represents a valuable addition to the expanding literature on the dynamics of neoliberalism and its impact on state society relations in Asia. It draws attention to the increasingly dominant neoliberal agenda and illustrates how it has threatened the “developmental state” that has historically driven Asia’s rapid economic growth.
However, the book might have benefitted from bringing out the highly uneven and complex nature of institutional circumstances and industrialization stages in the region that, to a certain extent, predetermine the range of options faced by the governments and the role that the state should play in the economy. In other words, the neoliberal approach towards the forms and function of the state should not be regarded as a universally proper role for the state. Rather, there is a need to match the capacities and functions of the state to the tasks posed by specific problems of a particular era. MITI’s evolving role in Japan’s economy, for example, is not just a response to pressures from external neoliberal agendas, but also the result of structural changes in Japan’s domestic institutional circumstances. Likewise, certain governmental industrial policies in China, which historically enabled the development of particular sectors, have now become a hindrance for achieving further efficiency and equity, leading to readjustment of the role of government and its policies.
In addition, the book focuses predominately on the state’s influence from the top-down. The huge capability building at the grassroots level and the coordination between the top and grassroots levels in Asian countries should be taken into account. The small and medium enterprises in Taiwan, for instance, played an essential role in driving economic growth through investment in fixed assets, generating exports, and promoting technology assimilation. Undoubtedly, together with a coordinating state, these enterprises have contributed to the success of the Asian stories.
Wei Li, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASIA. Routledge Contemporary Asia Series, 48. By Robert J. Hanlon. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xix, 191 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-70505-9.
This is an ambitious project. It draws on jurisprudence, recent Asian political history, corporate social responsibility (CSR) literature, and political economy. Robert Hanlon argues that although social responsibility is an increasingly important corporate strategy, human rights and corruption remain marginalized CSR issues in China and Southeast Asia for three reasons. First, multinational corporations see the structural causes of human rights violations and corruption as outside their sphere of influence and responsibility. Second, divergent stakeholder interests are sidelining human rights and corruption as CSR issues. Third, pressure to achieve profit maximization is encouraging a “race to the bottom” scenario in which human rights are increasingly ignored. This book concludes that human rights and corruption will remain peripheral business issues until elite stakeholders agree on how these concepts should enter the social responsibility framework while being vigorously promoted as a global best practice (18).
The author admits that he had to scale back his original plan for ten country profiles. This is a pity because whilst the three countries he covers, Cambodia, China, and Thailand, are all interesting and are comprehensively analyzed, a greater coverage of Asian countries might have produced more rounded and generally applicable conclusions. “Asia” after all consists of 48 countries. As it is, the promise of the book’s title “in Asia,” is not really delivered.
I hope it is not churlish or ungenerous to point out that the fieldwork for the book (published April 2014) was carried out between 2007 and January 2010. As someone who has previously tried to juggle a day job and writing a book, I do empathize with Hanlon’s challenge but it means, for example, that there is no reference to the major, on-going anti-corruption campaign in China initiated by Xi Jinping when he became leader in 2012. Certainly, I would have expected Hanlon’s editor to have picked up on infelicities such as ISO 26000 “is set to launch in 2010” (131); and the use of “recent” to describe a report published in 2007.
Nevertheless, the material he does have is well presented, with a logical flow. Each chapter begins with an overview of what is to be covered; discussion; and then a summary recapping the main points of the chapter. The book is an antidote to the sometimes rose-tinted spectacles of business and human rights and CSR advocates. Hanlon raises some important questions about how serious companies doing business in Asia can be about CSR, if they are not including human rights or anti-corruption within their strategies.
However, there are some serious omissions. I double-checked the index to make sure I had not missed a reference to John Ruggie who, as the UN secretary-general’s special representative for business and human rights from 2005, developed a set of principles, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, commonly known as “the Ruggie Principles” (Protect, Respect, Remedy) which have been adopted by multiple international agencies. I would have liked to know Hanlon’s view about whether the Ruggie work will have any impact on business and human rights in Asia. Similarly, it would have been interesting to have Hanlon’s views on the role that Asia’s great religions and philosophical traditions (for example, Confucianism in China) play in shaping Asian attitudes towards how businesses should behave.
In his recommendations for future action, Hanlon emphasizes the role of business schools (as I am currently a business school professor, I, of course, agree!) but there is no acknowledgement of the work of business schools like the Asian Institute of Management and their annual Asian CSR Forum, for example. Similarly, and I believe correctly, the author argues that business representative organizations in Asia should be more proactive—but some recognition of the work of those like the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, which has had a CSR unit for several years, would have strengthened the argument. Hanlon also recommends more engagement from “CSR brokers” but there is barely a mention of the major form of brokerage: corporate responsibility coalitions. Likewise, Hanlon also argues that international NGOs need to engage business more, so some examples like Greenpeace’s campaign on sustainable palm oil and deforestation, which has had a major impact on significant Asian businesses like Asia Pulp & Paper and Golden Agri-Resources, would have added weight to the proposition.
At the end of the book, there is a powerful statement that “scholarship must evolve beyond disciplinary perspectives and more towards holistic research that can incorporate business administration, the humanities, law, and social science. The business case for human rights requires an interdisciplinary approach and will fail if left to narrow theoretical perspectives grounded in specific fields of study” (153). I agree and I hope that the workmanlike contribution that Hanlon has made will inspire others to pursue this evolution. For there is an important book still to be written on corporate responsibility, corruption, and human rights across Asia.
David Grayson, Cranfield University, Cranfield, United Kingdom
UNWANTED VISIONARIES: The Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War. Oxford Studies in International History. By Sergey Radchenko. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xi, 383 pp. US$34.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-993877-3.
In this remarkable book, Sergey Radchenko, a native of Sakhalin Island who now teaches in the UK, presents an even-handed and richly detailed account of Soviet policy in Asia from 1982 to 1991. His concern is the rise and fall of Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision for Asia. He argues that while the last Soviet leader is known for the rapprochement with the West that brought a peaceful end to the Cold War, Gorbachev initially focused on the East. His aim was to improve relations with India and China and maintain relations with longtime clients like Vietnam and North Korea in order to strengthen the Soviet position in the global struggle with the United States. His vision failed for lack of followers, as the leaders he believed he could woo were not, in the end, enticed by what Moscow had to offer. Nonetheless, Radchenko argues, Gorbachev’s unrealized dreams have lived on in the imaginations of post-1991 Russian leaders, nurturing visions of a grand comeback.
Radchenko bases this account on prodigious research. His main source is Russian archives, particularly the Gorbachev Foundation, the State Archive of the Russian Federation, the Sakhalin State Archive, and Soviet documents held in the Hoover Institute of Stanford University, the Library of Congress, and the National Security Archive in Washington, DC. He supplements these records with holdings of East German, Hungarian, and Mongolian archives, the Shanghai Municipal Archive, the Archive of the International Olympic Committee (for South Korea), the Nehru Memorial Library and Museum, and the Archive of the United Nations. He skillfully integrates this broad documentary base with newspaper and memoir accounts, as well as numerous interviews with policymakers. Balancing detail with the larger context, writing with wit and grace, Radchenko provides by far the most detailed and insightful account yet published of the Soviet Union’s involvement in Asia during the Gorbachev years.
He begins with China policy, charting how despite deep mutual mistrust, the small steps Moscow and Beijing took between 1982 and 1985—exchange of visits and increased trade—“helped to build up a certain reserve of trust that made further movement toward normalization possible”(50). He moves next to Japan, recounting how between 1982 and 1987, important players on both sides seriously considered coming to a compromise on the territorial issue. Despite moments of real opportunity, however, Moscow and Tokyo backed out of agreements because of the higher priority they placed on relations with the United States.
Turning to South Asia, Radchenko discusses the key role India played in Gorbachev’s vision for a new global order. As Sino-Soviet relations improved, Gorbachev hoped to create a strategic triangle that would unite the three Asian powers under his leadership. However, to pursue this goal Moscow had to withdraw from Afghanistan, which necessitated greater cooperation from Pakistan just as Rajiv Gandhi sought greater Soviet aid to prevail over Islamabad. Moreover, as Gorbachev increasingly turned to the West beginning in 1989, he lost interest in India while domestic chaos within the Soviet Union left Moscow unable to capitalize on the anti-American sentiment brought by the 1991 Gulf War.
A chapter on Southeast Asia recounts how Gorbachev sought to secure Vietnam’s withdrawal from Cambodia, a precondition of improved Sino-Soviet relations. Radchenko then examines, in particularly rich detail, the single lasting success of Gorbachev’s Asia policy: normalization of relations with China. He argues that the key factor in this success was the view held by Gorbachev and his inner circle that relations with Beijing would have to be on the basis of equality and respect for China’s place as a great power. By the time of the August 1991 coup against Gorbachev, Chinese leaders sympathized with Soviet hardliners. The gains of the previous years could have been lost had Yeltsin turned against Beijing for its suppression of democracy. However, “Beijing and Moscow jointly set out on a road toward strategic partnership informed by a shared sense of resentment of the United States, which, in Gorbachev’s words, had wished them both ill” (197).
Radchenko’s account of the tortured process of establishing diplomatic relations with Seoul is particularly groundbreaking, presenting much more evidence of the policy debates and confusion in Moscow than previously seen. He argues that Gorbachev was reluctant to sacrifice Soviet ties with North Korea, for fear of loss of credibility in the Third World, and therefore failed to respond quickly enough to overtures from Seoul. It was only the collapse of his grand strategic vision in the late 1980s coupled with Moscow’s acute need for money that prompted the Soviet leader finally to jettison Pyongyang in favour of Seoul. In Radchenko’s view, Gorbachev’s foot-dragging on the issue cost the Soviet Union a profitable economic relationship with South Korea and left Moscow with little leverage in Seoul, even as tensions on the Korean Peninsula remained high.
Radchenko concludes with two chapters examining Soviet-Japanese relations from 1988–1991. Even though Moscow entertained grand hopes of foreign investment in the Soviet Far East, Gorbachev was offended by Tokyo’s blatant attempts to use economic leverage to force a favourable settlement on the “northern territories.” Moreover, as Radchenko documents, decentralization of political power in the Soviet Union brought a new factor: the strong opposition to concessions by nationalists in Sakhalin and elsewhere. Thus, as Japan floated proposals in 1990 and 1991 to buy the islands for a considerable sum of money, Gorbachev was unable politically to accept such a resolution.
With the depth and breadth of evidence Radchenko presents and the subtlety and balance of his analysis, this book is a milestone in scholarship on the international history of Asia in the last years of the Cold War. It will be essential reading for political scientists, area studies specialists, historians of foreign relations, and policy analysts seeking to understand the antecedents of the region’s contemporary international affairs.
Kathryn Weathersby, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
CONSTRUCTING EAST ASIA: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan’s Wartime Era, 1931–1945. By Aaron Stephen Moore. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. xii, 314 pp. US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8539-6.
There was, until not too long ago, a curious gap in the conventional narrative of technology in Japan’s modern era. While we were often told that technological developments were central to both Japan’s emergence as an imperial power in the Meiji period and its rise as an economic giant in the postwar years, we tended to hear much less about the role that technology played in the intervening decades. Aaron Stephen Moore’s Constructing East Asia is one of several recent important studies that offer a corrective by revealing just how fundamental technology was to the shaping of interwar and wartime Japan.
Specific to Moore’s analysis is his concept of the “technological imaginary”—a discursive framework in which this one term “technology” (gijutsu) came to represent various key social and political ideas for different groups of people. Moore demonstrates that Japanese elites across the spectrum, from leftist intellectuals to state planners, saw in technology and its associated ideals of rationality and efficiency foundational principles for the remaking of society in the midst of the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s. His examination extends, however, beyond just the ideological. In following the construction of a number of large-scale infrastructural projects across the Japanese empire, Moore also shows how the technological imaginary was realized on the ground—a process not without contestation or compromise. The result is a wide-ranging account that invites us to rethink the workings of technology and power in imperial Japan.
Moore begins by exploring how technology was conceptualized by two contrasting groups: leftist intellectuals, represented by Marxist theorist Aikawa Haruki, and state engineers, represented by technology bureaucrat Miyamoto Takenosuke. He traces how Aikawa’s understanding of technology shifted from a materialist manifestation of the means of production to an integrated assemblage of political, economic and cultural parts geared towards not only revolutionary transformation but also wartime mobilization. If leftists like Aikawa came to see technology as encompassing all areas of life, engineers, in Moore’s telling, viewed it as a social and technical field in which they claimed exclusive expertise. Both these groups would be implicated in Japan’s imperial enterprise. Aikawa’s theoretical realignment coincided with the outbreak of the war with China in 1937. Moore suggests that Aikawa may have been motivated by the idea that this conflict would help sweep away the feudal remnants holding Japan back from a socialist revolution. He ended up producing a handful of studies on technology and the management of colonial industry that resonated with the goals of the expansionist state. Similarly, engineers such as Miyamoto too perceived potential in empire and war. Continental expansion provided them with opportunities to introduce “comprehensive technology”—large technological systems serving multiple functions—that would in turn generate employment for the beleaguered engineering class. Drawn into planning agencies within the colonial administration, engineers became embroiled in pan-Asianist developmentalist visions and the exploitation they engendered.
The manifold efforts to turn the technological imaginary into material reality form the next part of the book. Moore takes us to different parts of the Japanese empire to survey an array of infrastructural projects, from river conservancy and urban redevelopment to port construction and, most notably, dam building. While many scholars have pointed out that empire often served as a laboratory for the social and economic experiments of technocratic planners, Moore goes a step further by looking at how exactly some of these experts formulated and implemented their plans. The picture he presents is not one of neat, mechanistic efficacy so frequently attributed to technocracy, but of contingency and messiness arising from the many competing interests within the colonial context. This is, in my opinion, the strongest contribution of the book. The examples of the Fengman and Sup’ung Dams illustrate the complex constellation of factors—including land ownership, labour management, and the forces of nature—that technocrats struggled to master in their bid to build. If they met with any success, this was not merely a product of well-crafted plans, but just as much—if not more—a result of the mobilized might of the colonial state.
In the last part of the book, Moore turns to the reform bureaucrats who promoted the establishment of a “managed economy”—an integrated economic system characterized by a high degree of state intervention—in order to save Japan from the crisis of capitalism and prepare it for total war. Focusing on their chief ideologue Mōri Hideoto, he describes how technology entered the thought and ideology of this group of policy makers. It was not only about industrial development and the production of advanced armaments, but also about an elaborate and extensive mechanism of social control that Moore identifies as a new mode of fascist power. He ends with an epilogue that suggests that the wartime technological imaginary and its undemocratic impulses have persisted into Japan’s postwar era, reflecting and reinforcing contradictions underlying efforts at national reconstruction at home and at development assistance abroad.
Moore goes to great lengths to argue that technology constituted a kind of power that was just as much about the mobilization of human creativity and freedom as it was about the exercise of technocratic repression and violence. What is to be gained by emphasizing the former, though, when it was, even in his account, the latter that ultimately defined the colonial encounter? To what extent did articulations about technology serve rhetorical as opposed to purely ideological functions? In what ways did the large-scale infrastructural projects in the colonies shape the contours of technological development back in the metropole? This book raises as many questions as it sets out to answer. However, it is among the few truly innovative studies on the Japanese empire to come out in recent years. It is, for one, an excellent example of how one might integrate intellectual history with histories of empire, technology and political economy. Constructing East Asia should be of much interest not only to historians of modern Japan and East Asia, but also to those interested in the politics of technology and the intellectual foundations of sociotechnical regimes.
Victor Seow, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
This book is the translation of the introduction to Wang Hui’s four-volume Rise of Modern Chinese Thought, published in Chinese in 2004 and as yet not translated. Wang is a preeminent new-left public intellectual in China, well known for his political and scholarly writings as well as for his editing of Dushu, one of China’s best-known intellectual journals. More of his work is available in English translation than is the case for most contemporary Chinese intellectuals, and this volume is a welcome addition to those interested in Wang in particular and in current intellectual trends in China in general.
Wang’s ambitious goal is to rethink the meanings of “China,” “modernity,” and “modern China.” The context for his inquiry is essentially sinological and historical discourse on China as practiced in Japan, the United States, and Europe over the past few decades (the introduction suggests that Wang pays less attention to his Chinese colleagues, which may be one reason that he is not universally appreciated there). His discipline is intellectual history, meaning both that he has read broadly and deeply in the writings of Chinese thinkers since the Song dynasty, and that he understands sinological and historical writing as a part of intellectual history. Wang’s approach is post-modern; it could hardly be otherwise, given the nature of his project. Happily, he avoids the sneering “holier than thou” tone of some post-modern writings. He also avoids “bashing the West” and “valourizing China,” although he does want us to rethink many of the central narratives of Chinese historical studies, both in China and elsewhere.
As the title of the volume suggests, most of these central narratives are related to notions concerning “empire” and “nation-state” in China and elsewhere. Relentlessly iconoclastic, Wang attempts to illustrate the extent to which these concepts, central to various narratives of modernity, are in fact much more complex than one might think from reading textbook accounts of Chinese history (or history elsewhere). In the first section of the book, “Two Narratives of China and Their Derivative Forms,” Wang argues that the common binary employed in most historical studies which discuss China’s evolution from premodern empire to modern nation are more teleological than fact-based, and ignore much of the complexity of the historical interactions between capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. In the second section, “The Empire/Nation-State Binary and European ‘World History,’” Wang similarly argues that much of the complexity—and intelligence—of policy discussion and implementation under the Qing has been swept under the rug by dismissive Western images of the Manchus as incompetent Keystone Kops (or by Chinese nationalist images of the Qing as racial enemies). In the third section, “Heavenly Principle/Universal Principle and History,” Wang examines the neo-Confucian notion of heavenly principle, its unfolding over the late dynastic period, and its confrontation with “universal principle” (broadly, science and rationality as introduced by the West in the late nineteenth century). Unlike Joseph Levenson, Wang does not see these two principles as mutually exclusive. Although based on a reading of China’s ancient civilization (rites and music), heavenly principle as conceived by Zhu Xi and others in the Song also contained an understanding of history and flexibility, and remains a resource for present-day Chinese intellectuals. In section 4, “China’s Modern Identity and the Transformation of Empire,” Wang seems to argue against the impact of print capitalism and Benedict Anderson’s idea of an “imagined community” in the rise of China’s modern identity, and for greater attention to the idea of economic empire under globalization.
As this brief summary suggests, this is heady stuff. Wang is clearly serious, erudite and, I think, judicious in what he is trying to do. It is a pleasure to read a Chinese scholar who takes Western and Japanese sinology seriously on its own terms, and who seeks to bend postmodernism to his own ends. At the very least, Wang asks interesting questions in interesting ways, and illustrates helpfully just how silly the (already much decried) notion of “changeless China” really is. At the same time, it is hard to tell the extent to which Wang is “successful.” The project exists at a very high level of abstraction, and given that Wang is hoping to interrogate just what we mean by “China” and “modern,” much of what he says is necessarily highly tentative. It does not help that Wang’s prose is rather dense; a typical paragraph might be a page long, and many are much longer (kudos to the translator, however, who seems to have done a marvelous job). Some passages were fascinating, and made me want to check out the larger four-volume work. Others were nothing short of exasperating, and made me put the book down. I suppose that in a study like this, much of the artistry consists in just getting the balls in the air. Juggling is appreciated for its own sake and there is no immediate larger goal.
Wang wants to do more than juggle, though, and I wish that he had tried harder to communicate his insights in declarative sentences. The final sentence of the volume reads: “Because the process of writing this book stretched out over ten years, I am already unable to sketch out the complete context of my theoretical considerations and how they have changed—this is something that still needs to be addressed” (145). I admire the honesty, but would still have appreciated a few morsels now.
David Ownby, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Canada
This fine introduction to contemporary China’s foreign policy stands out for its fairness and honesty. Debates outside China about Communist China and the world have ordinarily focused on the concerns of the American-led international community. Written by Stuart Harris, a former Australian government official who has dealt with China and other countries in foreign affairs and trade, the book would disappoint expectations of kindred inclinations, for it explains not only criticisms of Chinese foreign policy but also China’s own diplomatic objectives and the changing methods that the Communist Party and government have chosen to pursue those objectives. Neither China nor America bashers would be pleased.
Among the total eight chapters of the book, chapter 1 is the only one devoted to the impact of history and culture on China’s foreign policy and the main aspects of the Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping eras up to what Harris terms the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy. Instead of privileging Chinese nativism (nationalism)—popular in academic discussion and media communications on post-Deng Chinese foreign relations—Harris pays homage to the many other traditions and cultures, such as cosmopolitanism, quasi-imperialism, Sinocentrism, and victimhood, that have played important and changing roles in foreign policy. Chapter 2 looks at who has made foreign policy decisions in China during the last thirty years within formal government organizations and through informal processes. More diffused than ever, both formal power structure and informal dynamics involve a growing degree of collectivism, coalitions, compromises, and coordination among a myriad of government offices and other stake-holders.
Chapter 3 turns to the question of how global actors and the international system have shaped Chinese foreign policy. Synthesizing works by other scholars, Harris notes that, apart from the issue of human rights, the People’s Republic of China’s contributions to international law have, on balance, been constructive and sympathetic. However, since its integration with the world order commencing in the 1970s, China has not aligned well with the new directions of international norms and values especially in the fields of human rights, humanitarian intervention, popular representation, and intellectual property rights now perceived as key to responsible statehood and the global common good. Sovereignty and non-interference, to which China adheres, represent the traditional norms of the Westphalian system. Five sets of Chinese vulnerability and insecurity are discussed in chapters 4 and 5, i.e., vulnerability of the Communist regime, China’s historical vulnerability about national unity, insecurity on geographic frontiers, and vulnerabilities to the United States and to international military threats. Harris does not resort to the usual quick condemnation of China in the South and East China Seas and on its continental frontiers such as Tibet and Xinjiang. While pointing out China’s legitimate rights under international law, Harris suggests that the increase in China’s attempts to deter other claimants in the South China Sea was a response “to other claimants’ increased activity in fishing and resource exploration,” and that US officials and some Chinese military agencies shared responsibility for stoking the tensions in the region (76–85). Between the lines, readers will find that Harris interjects his judgment with care. For instance, he observes that although “the presence of US nuclear-armed submarines patrolling the Pacific waters, is a persistent affront and a security vulnerability to China” (91), China has not attempted to counter the American military capabilities except in relation to Taiwan. Hence, one still needs to ask “what would motivate a change to expansionist and aggressive Chinese policies” (103–104 and 119).
Chapter 6 examines China’s economic foreign policy through the lens of currency exchange rates, the World Trade Organization, outward direct investment, and the use of economic power. Despite their successes and the recognition of their contribution to developing countries, Chinese “going out” policies in Africa and Latin and South Americas have been the subject of complaints, some valid and some not, for their disregard of human rights, local labour conditions, and environmental standards. As China under the influence of developed countries adopted many Western norms and values, Harris posits that in the wake of economic interdependence there may have been an influence in the other direction as well, on Western norms and values, although he does not spell out what this may involve. Chapter 7 shifts to China’s complex relationships with its neighbours and beyond, including ASEAN, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russia, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Japan, and the European Union. Again, these wide-ranging topics are treated with both brevity and sophistication. In the concluding chapter, Harris implies that the US pivot has not made easier the Northeast Asian security situation: the potential for inadvertent clashes between the United States and China at the local level is more immediately worrying than the China “threat.” In the end, what is needed to approach the sovereignty issues in the Asia Pacific is not more military force, but political leadership and diplomatic compromises on all sides.
Readers will find the author’s writing and analysis readable and skillfully effortless. Although one would desire to see more directness and originality as well as coverage of China’s reputation challenge and cultural diplomacy, this book is very much valued as a reliable source of expertise.
Dong Wang, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany
ASSESSING TREATY PERFORMANCE IN CHINA: Trade and Human Rights. Asia Pacific Legal Culture and Globalization. By Pitman B. Potter. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2014. xii, 295 pp. (Tables.) US$34.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-7748-2560-3
Potter is a prolific writer and scholar, respected among China law practitioners and academics alike. This book, providing insight into both contract law and property law, will interest even readers whose primary focus may be Chinese domestic law, rather than China’s accession to international treaties. There are five substantive chapters: “China and the WTO”; “Contract Law in China”; “Property Law in China”; “Encounters with International Human Rights Standards”; and “Treaty Performance on Human Rights: Sustainability and Social Justice.”
Readers unfamiliar with Potter’s technical lexicon might be forgiven for equating the terms “treaty compliance” and “treaty performance.” But the Introduction makes clear that he uses “treaty performance” in a specialised sense and attributes to it a meaning quite distinct from that of compliance. He argues that “performance” allows us, by introducing subjective factors of local normative standards, perceptions, conditions, selective adaptation, and institutional capacity, to gain an understanding of why compliance falls short.
The chapters on contract law and property law are comprehensive and helpful to any China Law specialist. Potter describes the influence of WTO and international contract law on the development of Chinese domestic contract law, tracing its evolution from the first Economic Contract Law applicable to Chinese parties, through the Foreign Economic Contract Law applicable to contracts involving a foreign element, to the present Unified Contract Law with universal application. The chapter on property law provides a useful review of how the concept of private property has developed since Deng’s “Open Door.”
The chapter on International Human Rights Standards addresses a number of topics in some depth. It is unfortunate that the author gives such short shrift to “The Judiciary,” to which he allots less than one page. With respect to human rights in China there is nothing more critical than the judicial system, which is barely addressed. Chinese “courts” function as little more than low-level administration organs of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). From arrest to execution, the entire judicial process is so fundamentally flawed that neither documentation adduced by Chinese prosecutors nor conviction in a Chinese “court” can be legitimately considered evidence of guilt against a Chinese citizen. The implications for Canadian and other western immigration officials in the handling of refugee applications are obvious.
Potter makes frequent reference to seemingly encouraging interpretations and edicts from the Chinese Supreme Court. But judges at all levels below the Supreme Court are appointed by and may be removed by local officials; the Supreme Court has little leverage over them. Supreme Court decrees are accepted by lower “courts” when they provide advantage to local interests; when counter to local interests they are rejected on the basis of “local practice,” which normally takes precedence over the wording of any law.
Mention must be made of one huge “elephant in the room” as the author discusses China’s “performance” of international human rights standards. For more than sixteen years, the most bestial crime against humanity since the Third Reich has steadily unfolded as tens of thousands of healthy Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in donor “herds,” to be killed on demand for instant organ harvesting when their tissue and blood types have been matched to those of organ tourists shopping for transplants of hearts, livers, kidneys, corneas, lungs, or skin. Estimates of the number slaughtered in Chinese hospitals to feed the burgeoning organ “industry” range from 50,000 to well over 100,000.
The first reports a decade ago alleging the systematic murder of healthy Falun Gong practitioners, were greeted with scepticism even from the severest critics of the CCP. Notwithstanding the CCP’s murderous record of human rights abuse, claims that Chinese doctors and the entire medical establishment of China were facilitating the mass murder of prisoners of conscience, for the purpose of pillaging and selling their organs, seemed as unbelievable as science fiction. The claims were treated in the early days as the products of sensationalist journalism.
But the evidence of organ harvesting has not come from The National Enquirer or Fox News. The ongoing reality of this atrocity has been thoroughly documented by the solid and substantial research of David Matas, David Kilgour, Torsten Trey, and Ethan Gutmann, whose credibility and integrity are beyond question. This level of bestiality begs the question of whether we can even rationally discuss the Chinese “legal system” or China’s alleged “long march to the rule of law.” How can “rule of law” and human rights in China be researched, examined, and discussed with not a word about this diabolical practice, originally perpetrated against Falun Gong practitioners, but now known, as a result of Gutmann’s research, to include Tibetans, Uighurs, and Christians? Even the Canadian Government, which normally turns a servile face to Beijing, has raised the issue at the United Nations and demanded that China end the practice. Yet Potter’s only mention of Falun Gong persecution is a one line reference to the authorities having illegally detained Falun Gong practitioners and forced them into study classes! The mass murder of healthy prisoners for organ theft cannot be explained as a function of “local normative standards.” This omission is analogous to publishing a study on the “rule of law” in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, but forgetting to mention the Holocaust. Turning a blind eye to such an enormous issue risks rendering scholarly discussion of the Chinese legal system irrelevant.
Some readers may interpret Potter’s focus on subjective factors of “local normative dynamics,” “selective adaptation,” “institutional capacity,” etc., as an attempt to excuse or explain away China’s clear treaty breaches. That would be unfortunate because the author is no apologist for the Chinese Party/State. On the contrary, his chapters on human rights contain many unvarnished references to gross human rights violations. He deserves credit for his consistent references to the “Party/State,” showing awareness, not always exhibited by other scholars, that the CCP is the government and that the entire state apparatus is simply part of a fraudulent charade. But the “performance” approach at times seems to excuse non-compliance on the basis of Chinese cultural characteristics, perceptions, and institutional limitations. It is unfortunate that the relevance of the chapters on human rights is so reduced by failure to consider the human rights issues that dwarf all others in China today; Potter’s solid chapters in the remainder of this book constitute a useful contribution to the scholarly literature on Chinese law.
Clive Ansley, Ansley & Company, Courtenay, Canada
STRATEGIC REASSURANCE AND RESOLVE: U.S.-China Relations in the Twenty-First Century. By James Steinberg, Michael E. O’Hanlon. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014. ix, 260 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-691-15951-5.
In an increasingly interdependent and globalized world, relations between the existing and the rising dominant power are of material interest to nations and regions throughout the world. Strategic Reassurance and Resolve not only tackles in sustained depth the contemporary security challenges that the United States and China face, particularly vis-à-vis one another, but also presents a general security framework that is applicable across other bilateral or multilateral international relations debates. Acknowledging but ultimately eschewing the role of economic and political relations in the determination of security, Steinberg and O’Hanlon present a sustained, informed and practical study of military and strategic issues and their potential resolution for the United States and China.
The core intervention by the authors is the concept of strategic reassurance between the United States and China as the only solution in a new world where the United States can no longer maintain its dominant role and China increasingly is an economic, political, and military presence. While acknowledging the national security concerns, historical context, and strategic culture of each nation, the concept of strategic reassurance requires both countries to compromise. For the US, that means accepting the rise of China as a benign superpower with which it will share the responsibility for global public goods—such as the security of shipping lanes, counterterrorism, counternarcotics, responding to international disasters,and cyber theft. For China, it means showing that China’s national security does not come at the expense of others including, but not limited to, allies of the United States. For realists in a zero-sum game, this is a loss for the US and a win for China. For Steinberg and O’Hanlon, this is an opportunity to enhance global peace and security.
There are various means by which strategic reassurance is achieved. Most apparent is the need to avoid “hedging.” When military planners and policy makers envision military buildups on the other side as reducing their own security, the only response is to devote more resources to counteract the effect. This leads to competition and military arms races that produce less security overall. Instead, strategic reassurance serves to communicate the types and goals of military and security deployments. Underlying this is strategic resolve encompassing the clear statement of “red lines” that cannot be crossed without a response, as well as agreeing on global, regional and national order. How much the United States and China can agree on public goods and the status quo in the realm of security is the challenge of contemporary and future eras.
The authors explore the way security scenarios may lead to conflict. They first state in no equivocal terms that “in a major war between the United States and China there would be no winners… [hence] de-escalation and conflict termination should be as high as, if not higher than, the priority for victory” (121). They proceed to examine North Korea, Taiwan, and the East and South China Seas as areas of strategic concern for China and in terms of security and open access for the US and its allies. Using the overall framework of global interdependence and multilateralism, North Korea presents the biggest security challenge in its economic and political isolation. Steinberg and O’Hanlon suggest a US-China dialogue—secret, to forestall North Korean paranoia—to discuss how regime change and military occupation by US and Chinese forces will proceed following regime overthrow, though they acknowledge Beijing may be unwilling to explicitly discuss the possibility. While Taiwan, Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and the range of islands claimed by China within the so-called “nine-dash line” are emotional and contentious issues, they involve countries that are all increasingly integrated in the global economy and regional security organizations, such as ASEAN, and so escalation seems less likely, though the scenarios sketched present a chilling picture of what American or Chinese intransigence may entail.
The biggest challenge to future global security, particularly between the United States and China, is cyber. The authors examine nuclear, missile, operations and space threats to mutual or global security and outline measures such as the United States not targeting or contemplating invasion of the Chinese mainland, China continuing to limit warhead development, and both banning space weapons. But it is cyber that remains fraught with the most unknowns. It is difficult to argue that intellectual property and trade secrets are national security interests and Beijing does not prioritize ensuring profits to Western multinationals through measures to counter cyber theft. Opposition to companies such as Huawei and Lenovo in Washington does not provide assurance, either, that the United States is committed to an open playing field in cyber terms. Yet by broaching this topic, Steinberg and O’Hanlon have brought the issue to the fore, underscoring how this realm increasingly touches on national and global security.
In the appendix (209–211), there is a list of some 24 concrete measures that both countries should take to achieve strategic reassurance. For a practitioner, this may provide a useful “crib sheet” to think through what specific steps might be palatable in advancing strategic interdependence. Of greater significance, however, is the overall framework that the book presents. While not stated as such, it is a revolution in how the United States and China can collaborate rather than compete to provide global security and public goods. This is a new paradigm for thinking about US-China strategic interactions that will guide policy, inform decision makers, train international relations and foreign policy scholars, and even help business leaders. China is a player. Its rise is inevitable. How the US copes with this new reality and how China takes up its leadership role will determine whether or not the next 40 years will continue the mostly harmonious relationship of the past 40 years between the world’s richest and its most populous countries.
Tyler Rooker, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
RELIGION AND ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY IN CHINA. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 119. Edited by James Miller, Dan Smyer Yu, and Peter van der Veer. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xxi, 247 pp. (Figures.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-85515-0.
The edited volume, Religion and Ecological Sustainability in China, contains twelve articles which range from considerations of philosophical and religious resources in the Chinese traditions to reflections from on-the-ground, detailed accounts of real-world cases. The traditions considered consist of Confucianism, Daoism, Yijing (The Book of Changes), fengshui (commonly rendered as “geomancy”), and Tibetan Buddhism, along with some passing references to Chinese Buddhism; whereas those articles involving case studies mostly concern Tibetan communities of western China, with the exception of the final article in part 1, which deals with a village in southern China. The volume, as described by the editors, falls within the larger project of a search “for environmentally wholesome models of human flourishing from diverse cultural constituencies, religious systems and traditional lifestyles” (1). Despite the diverse disciplinary allegiances of the contributors, involving “social scientists, eco-philosophers, historians of religion and human ecologists” (1), perhaps the articles collectively could be loosely conceived as a kind of trans-disciplinary study (2). In terms of providing a general framework, the “introduction” provides helpful articulation of key terms, including a cultural interpretation of religion that includes secularity (4–6), and an understanding of nature as “a critical modern intellectual and policy concept” (7–8).
The volume is divided into two parts, entitled “Ecology and the classics” and “Imagining nature in modernity.” For the majority of articles in part 1, the opening article by Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim states the rationale for investigating the classics: given the ecological crisis which the world cannot ignore, the authors are engaged in the project of drawing upon the Chinese traditions for inspiration and instruction “because they reflect both timeless and timely concerns of the human spirit” (21). Other articles in this part include an examination of the significance of the terms di 地 and tu 土 in the classical texts (Deborah Sommer); an articulation of philosophical grounding for deep ecology through the Yijing (Joseph Adler); and an exchange on the rereading of (neo-)Confucian and Daoist classics conceived as “soft-hearted” and “hard-hearted” ecologies (Chen Xia 陈霞 on Daoism, Peng Guoxiang 彭国翔 on Wang Yangming’s teachings, with comments from James Miller). Also included in part 1 are two articles with somewhat different foci: an elaboration of biospirituality as “transgressive eco-spirituality” based on a study of medieval Shangqing Daoism 上清道 (James Miller); and an investigation of the rural tradition of preserving forests in their natural state for the sake of better fengshui, and what lessons this holds for the environmental movement (Chris Coggins).
Part 2 contains reflections from the ground up, and is concerned with “forces that are shaping modern Chinese conceptions of nature, ecology and religion” (11). Articles in this part include an analysis of religion within the social environment of the Chinese Republican era viewed through the theoretical framework of a secondary “landscape of fear” (Rebecca Nedostup); a study of the role of globalizing forces (namely, the introduction of new world crops, the Enlightenment, Buddhism, and the modern idea of conserving nature) in influencing environmental policies in China, and arguing for the importance of appreciating diversity in understandings of the natural world (Robert Weller); an investigation and critique of the practice of fengshui as a global phenomenon, and assessment of its compatibility with ecological concerns (Ole Bruun); a case study on Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve—exploring the claim that overgrazing of the area, which led to the establishment of the nature reserve involving the relocation of the ethnic population, is the main culprit of ecological degradation of Sanjiangyuan (Qi Jinyu 祁进玉); a critique of Western environmentalism from the perspectives and experiences of Tibetan environmentalists in Yunnan Province (Emily Yeh); and a reflection on the intersecting of “natural landscape, religious practices and home-making” (220) in a Tibetan village in Qinghai Province (Dan Smyer Yu).
Despite this being a volume of divergent opinions with affiliations to different disciplines, it reads, surprisingly, rather coherently, its many voices offering glimpses of aspects of a complex and multifaceted issue. And one feels inspired, even lead, to form the following view—which remains, naturally, this reviewer’s
It concerns the place of the human in nature. A number of contributors, drawing from the Confucian tradition, appeal to Tu Wei-ming’s notion of an anthropocosmic experience of nature. For Joseph Adler, the experience speaks of a “common nature shared by humanity and the natural world,” and according to his consideration of the Yijing, this nature could be identified further as “creativity, and more specifically, moral creativity, which can be fully realized only by human beings” (49). The human then is viewed as the culmination of nature, and becomes nature’s affective and moral centre. From such an understanding, we have Peng Guoxiang’s emphasis on “sympathy, care and commiseration” (80) for all things, sentient or non-sentient, as the basis for a Confucian ecology; and hence his characterization of a “soft-hearted” ecology (80–81).
In contrast with the neo-Confucian anthropocosmic vision is a notion of a biospirituality in which the human does not occupy a privileged position, a notion that seems to find strong affinity with Daoist teachings (87). One possible version is found in what Miller describes as “transgressive ecospirituality,” such that the experience is one of “the world dwelt within human bodies, and not the other way round” (94). Thus, it is misleading to think that the Daoist has ceased to care (i.e., one reading of being “hard-hearted”) (71, 80), but that what one cares for is a consequence of the “human” differently experienced, in that the fleshly heart gives way to the cosmic heart of the dao (82).
While the foregoing paragraphs outline the point of tension between Confucian and Daoist positions, they need not necessarily be incompatible. If we adopt the view that Daoism often serves as a corrective to Confucian teachings, then the kind of Daoist biospirituality just mentioned points out the danger in adopting the Confucian vision unreservedly: Miller states, “Daoists have been distrustful of the central place afforded to the human heart in the Confucian view of human engagement with the natural world” (82). At the same time, such contrasting notions coexist—as seen in Weller’s study of the conceptions of nature in late Qing China. When embraced, diversity enhances adaptability. Weller states, “adaptability requires the maintenance of a pool of diversity—biological as much as human, among many possible natures rather than within one Nature” (161). It is a view well exemplified by this volume.
Peter Wong Yih Jiun, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
MODERNITY WITH A COLD WAR FACE: Reimagining the Nation in Chinese Literature across the 1949 Divide. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 360. By Xiaojue Wang. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. xiii, 359 pp. US$39.95, cloth . ISBN 978-0-674-72672-7.
Wang Xiaojue presents six chapters in this book, each devoted to a modern writer in Chinese whose life illustrates the various courses that vocation brought during the Cold War. They are Shen Congwen (1902–1988), who gave up literature for museum work after political denunciation, and died in Beijing before he could receive the widely expected Nobel Prize; Ding Ling (1904–1986), the electrifying feminist writer of the pre-1949 period and then winner of the second Stalin Prize for literature in 1951, after which she suffered brutal torture at the hands of the Communist authorities, being rehabilitated, a shadow of her former self, only in 1978; Wu Zhuoliu (1900–1976), a leading Taiwanese novelist, in particular of the period of Japanese rule; Feng Zhi (1905–1993), greatly influenced by German literature, on which he was an expert, who navigated the political tides of his times with considerable success; and finally Eileen Chang (1920–1965), a great writer but also a tragic expatriate, who spent her life after 1949 dividing her time between Hong Kong and the United States.
The essays are largely successful and informative, though unlike much writing on the subject, they say little about the role of official compulsion in the careers of the three who lived their lives in China. The book’s subtitle, “Reimagining the Nation in Chinese Literature across the 1949 Divide,” however, suggests greater ambition than simply a well-chosen set of biographical vignettes. By attempting to de-emphasize the Cold War, Wang seeks to unify her subjects under a national rubric that somehow transcends ideology. Neither her introduction nor conclusion, which present her larger arguments pointing to “a De-Cold War Criticism,” quite achieve the evidently hoped-for purpose of making the book more than the sum of its parts.
For one thing, the Cold War has effectively been over since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—twelve years before the publication of the book. Since then the strange confrontation has not so much been re-evaluated as disappeared: a visit to Moscow discloses few symbolic traces of the Communist past, while even in China, vestiges of the period of Maoism (1949–1976) are increasingly difficult to find. It is as if the very different waters of pre-Communist and now effectively post-Communist (but still authoritarian) China are closing over the 24 years of Mao’s rule which, it turns out, did not so much transform the nation’s development as delay it until the great man was dead. Furthermore, like it or not, while it lasted the Cold War did split the Chinese-language world into fragments, some of which communicated a bit, others not at all. So the whole premise of the book seems a bit archaic: that we must somehow wrestle with a once-real “divide” now largely forgotten and well on the way to closing.
A never-resolved ambiguity about the actual history of the period plagues the book. Thus, an ordinary observer might think that Ding Ling, having been a daring and untrammeled author until Communism, subsequently encountered (after a brief celebrity) exile, mental torture, and so forth that effectively broke her spirit. She was, after all, an emotionally delicate woman of literary genius, but so traumatized that at the end of her life, visiting America, she had scarcely anything of interest to say. We know, after all, from a plethora of sources, how brutal were the Chinese Communist authorities, how many great talents were killed or died or broke down. Like Ding Ling they had no choice: they could not opt out of the then pervasive and coercive politicization of art and all else in China. It was obligatory and forcibly imposed.
We also know that the whole process of harnessing art to political goals began with Mao Zedong’s “Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art” (1942) which had the full support of the new (since 1935) secret police of Kang Sheng, trained by the KGB in the USSR. Only in a footnote does Wang acknowledge that “Mao’s notion of spiritual and physical hygiene was implemented during various political campaigns targeted at intellectuals, of which the 1942 rectification campaign was only the beginning” (118, note 20). Yet rather than exploring what Mao said (and did) to Ding Ling, Wang devotes effectively all of her attention to a putative “self-transformation” by which Ding Ling attempted to change herself into a new kind of writer, as indeed she may have, before perhaps crumbling.
Likewise striking is the ease with which Wang slides over the terrible tragedy of Shen Congwen’s turn away from literary brilliance to museum curatorship. Even her lack of curiosity about Feng Zhi’s passage into Communism “without a strenuous process of assimilation” (242) is puzzling. Perhaps his ability to write in 1958, no less, that only under socialism would “freedom and law, the individual and the collective” be realized, suggests something about his gift for overlooking the obvious oppression in China (243)? As for Wu and Chang, they would fit only if the topic and structure of the book were more intellectually rigorous and better articulated.
One simply cannot erase at will divisions within a world of writing which, in China, saw the final manuscript of Ding Ling’s Sun Shines Over the Sangan River (1948) delayed a year until approved by Mao himself (114), while in contemporaneous Taiwan creative writing was certainly restricted, though Chiang Kai-shek, a far less ambitious dictator than Mao, had little desire to transform human souls, and finally the free world of Hong Kong and beyond. Instead of attempting the impossible by placing the Chinese police state in the background while seeking to rub away hard boundaries, Wang’s deep scholarship might have been better used confronting the indubitable realities of the rapidly receding world of which she writes.
Arthur Waldron, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA
China has experienced nothing short of a new social revolution since market reforms were launched in 1978. The centrally planned socialist system of the late-Mao era has been transformed into a very different social order today, one in which foreign capitalists are welcome to invest and native millionaires and even billionaires are entering (or re-entering, after an absence since the 1950s) the historical stage. What should we call this transformed Chinese social order? How are structures of wealth and power currently organized, and what terms should we use to characterize contemporary social stratification? Which individuals and groups are the primary beneficiaries, and the major losers, as a result of this new social revolution? These are the kinds of “big questions” that David S.G. Goodman, a Chinese politics specialist at the University of Sydney, tackles in this important book.
Goodman situates his book within a venerable tradition by framing it as an analysis of social class in contemporary China. This choice is inherently problematic, since the term class carries so much ideological baggage from prior intellectual and political traditions. Are we talking about class in the sense used by Karl Marx, by Max Weber, or perhaps by Milovan Djilas or Ralf Dahrendorf? Do classes in China today have clear boundaries, and if so what are the primary classes by which stratification is currently structured? Do contemporary Chinese classes possess class consciousness (à la Marx) or shared values, opportunities, and ways of life (à la Weber)? How do contemporary classes relate to the classes and class struggle that Mao Zedong placed at the centre of Cultural Revolution battles in the 1960s? In analyzing contemporary stratification, is it preferable to avoid using the term class (jieji) in favour of the simpler but vaguer term stratum (jieceng)? Some of these questions bedevil attempts to conduct class analysis in any complex modern society, but the rapidity of the changes in China and the historical context of an explicit rejection of the type of class analysis employed during the Cultural Revolution make the dilemmas of what class means in China today particularly problematic.
Fortunately, Goodman is aware of all of these issues and many more. His book does not present the results of a specific research project he has conducted, and he does not argue for a particular interpretation of class as the best or only framework for analyzing inequality in China today. Instead this work could be viewed as a massive review of the existing literature, from both China scholars in the West and from social scientists in the People’s Republic of China, in order to describe both the major changes that have occurred in stratification since the reforms were launched as well as competing ways of conceptualizing and explaining those changes. As such it provides a very welcome and useful overview of recent debates about a wide range of issues regarding evolving patterns of inequality and stratification. Even though social class remains front and centre in much of his analysis, the term does not prevent Goodman from considering a number of issues that do not readily fit into conventional class analysis.
Goodman joins many analysts in emphasizing the irony that Mao’s revolution, which was dedicated to eliminating the property-owning basis of all social classes in the Marxist sense in the 1950s, has in effect been repudiated, with rich entrepreneurs and real estate magnates not only prospering mightily, but even being welcomed into membership in the Communist Party and into service as delegates to the national legislature. However, he resists referring to China today as a restored capitalist society by emphasizing that major parts of the social and political order built during the Mao era have been retained, thus creating a hybrid social order that is difficult to pigeon hole as either capitalist or socialist. Furthermore, he makes it clear that the political elites in China today are still dominant over the new economic elites, with the latter having much less autonomous power and influence than their counterparts in more fully capitalist societies. At the same time he does not fully endorse the Djilas option of referring to the political elites as a “new class,” instead lumping political and economic elites together in a chapter devoted to China’s dominant class.
The author also stresses other distinctive features of stratification in China today that make that society quite different from more conventional class societies. In particular, he emphasizes the key role of China’s system of household registration (hukou) in creating a rigid, caste-like status barrier between China’s rural and urban citizens, with both rural residents and urban migrants consigned to the low end of the social hierarchy, which Goodman again refers to in somewhat vague terms as “subordinate classes.”
Particularly interesting is Goodman’s chapter on China’s middle classes. He summarizes and wades into debates about multiple and conflicting criteria for classifying Chinese as belonging to the middle class, as well as debates about the implications for political stability of a large and growing middle class. He is quite skeptical of claims that China’s middle class is already very large and growing rapidly. And based upon both his more conservative estimate of the present size of the middle class and research showing the diversity and ties to the status quo of many who might be classified as middle class, he casts doubt on the view that the growth of the middle class is driving China toward a democratic transition anytime soon.
Despite the very broad range of topics covered in the book, there is some unevenness. As the author is well aware, the primary focus is on social patterns and class formation in urban China, even though roughly half of the population remains rural. Nevertheless, anyone interested in how the structures of inequality are changing in China today will want to consult this book.
Martin King Whyte, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA
BORN OUT OF PLACE: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor. By Nicole Constable. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. xvii, 259 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28202-5.
Nicole Constable has produced another compelling ethnography about gender and migration. Her 1997 classic Maid to Order in Hong Kong explores domination and resistance of foreign domestic workers (FDW). Romance on a Global Stage (2003) examines the landscape of desire and power in women’s and men’s pursuit of cross-border marriage. Born Out of Place is a sequel that weaves the critical threads of her previous studies to look into the experience of Filipina and Indonesian FDWs who became pregnant, gave birth and struggled to mother in Hong Kong.
FDWs in Hong Kong are granted local residency on the condition of a labour contract, and are deprived of the right to family unification. Although they may stay in Hong Kong for as long as decades, they are not entitled to permanent residency, and their Hong Kong-born babies are rarely given the right of abode, either.
Born Out of Place demonstrates a range of experiences: some women chose abortion or gave the baby away for adoption, while others struggled to raise the child by themselves or with their partners. Their migratory status and tactics of survival also vary, from those who sought legal residency through marriage or employment, to those on the less privileged spectrum who filed refugee or torture claims but mostly failed in their applications eventually. During their extended period of stay in Hong Kong, they made ends meet by locating low-paying illegal work, including camping in line for the release of iPhones.
The thousands of migrant babies are numerically limited, compared to the total number of FDWs in Hong Kong (about 300,000 in 2012). Some activists have therefore dismissed this as a “tiny little problem.” And yet, Constable has successfully argued that this small problem can speak to large theoretical questions and reveal wider structural paradoxes.
First, this book poignantly reveals the human costs and social injustice of temporary labour migration. The “guest worker” regime places migrant workers in a condition of what Agamben calls “bare life”: they are denied the needs to fulfill their sexual lives and union with family members. Some migrant women desire children to gain some stability in their transitional life, but their pregnancy paradoxically pushes them into a more precarious condition. Although they are legally entitled to maternal leave, their employers tend to terminate the contract, leaving many jobless and undocumented.
Second, Constable vividly demonstrates that the intimate life hidden in the glamorous global city is shadowed by power inequality and moral ambivalence. Although the book focuses on the experiences of migrant women, Constable made a concerted effort to hear the voice of men. Hong Kong is a meeting place for Western tourists, African traders, and South Asian asylum seekers and undocumented workers. Many of these men, as well as local Chinese residents, become “boyfriends” to the FDWs, a term blurring into “a sort of customer, client, or benefactor relationship” (129). Migrant women seek what they call “Hong Kong happy” to escape the patriarchal constraints at home, but they still aspire to the moral legitimacy of marriage. Some bear the consequence of pregnancy because “not using contraception is associated with trust, hope and intimacy” (133).
Finally, the book shows the bitter reality of family alienation and circular migration as an unfortunate and unexpected consequence of labour migration. Constable revisited these women in Indonesia and found that many had become alienated from their natal family and left their children to work overseas again. She coins the concept “the migratory cycle of atonement” to describe how the moral stigma associated with single motherhood and foreign-born children, coupled with the difficulty of earning sufficient wages back home, tends to push women to reenter the migratory cycle. They hope to redeem themselves by converting their earlier moral failure to a steady flow of remittance, which is nevertheless earned in the face of bare, stripped-down lives.
Constable made a conscious decision to write in an accessible, story-telling manner. She is not shy about her passion and sympathy for these migrant women, or her position as a politically engaged feminist-ethnographer-activist. This helps her to delve into migrant women’s underground lives and unsettled feelings, and also enriches this book with touching life stories with telling details. Such a format, however, leaves academic readers like me hungry for further theoretical analysis. Perhaps the expansion of a concluding chapter can tease out issues such as the circuit between paid and unpaid reproductive labour across multiple spheres, the intersecting inequalities of race, gender, and class in multiracial intimacy, and the research implications for policy and activism.
This book is an ideal assignment for courses about gender, migration, citizenship or globalization in anthropology, sociology, and Asian studies. It would also interest lay readers who are concerned about the vulnerability of disposable labour and the persistence of humanistic values in an era of global migration.
Pei-chia Lan, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
There is a generation of Chinese novelists, now in their fifties and sixties, whose careers began in the early years of reform and opening after the death of Mao, and who have enjoyed uninterrupted literary careers of three decades, a span denied to almost all their predecessors in China’s tempestuous twentieth century. Members of this group, which includes Mo Yan, Su Tong, Yu Hua, Ge Fei, and Han Shaogong, and has Wang Anyi as its only female representative, rode the wave of “high-culture fever” in the 1980s, and transitioned in subsequent decades from the “avant-garde Boom to post-avant-garde Post-Boom” (29). In recent years, their works have been extensively translated and honoured with international awards, most notably Mo Yan’s 2012 Nobel Prize, even as younger and less earnest writers have begun to outsell them at home.
In Visions of Dystopia, Jeffrey C. Kinkley introduces an extensive selection of the fiction of this generation of writers; the works combine to present a history of modern China which contradicts previous state narratives of triumph and human perfectibility. For these authors, “[h]unger, desire, gangsters, and prostitutes are universals in Chinese history” (42), and their novels are replete with violence, tyranny, betrayal, absurdity, and collective madness. Rather than a steady march towards enlightenment and liberation, the reader is presented with stories that generally end badly for the characters that populate them. Writing of Mo Yan’s Life and Death are Wearing Me Out, Kinkley concludes that “the overall direction of history … is one of decadence, decline, and injustice” (90).
In his reading of these new historical novels, Kinkley acknowledges, but does not allow himself to be directed by, two established ways of reading modern Chinese fiction: C.T. Hsia’s proposal that writers share an “obsession with China” and Frederic Jameson’s generalization that third-world literatures can be read as “national allegories” on themes such as liberation from colonialism and nation-building. Rather, the novels are seen here as dystopian, and compared to a global literature of grand visions gone terribly wrong for those who have to live them, a list that includes Anglo-American works such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. A reading of these works offers valuable insights into the writing of this generation of Chinese writers, but for literary influence, Kinkley rightly ascribes greater importance to Latin American authors, most notably Gabriel García Márquez, whose masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude was widely circulated and much admired by young writers emerging from the confines of socialist realism in the 1980s. That novel’s vision of an unpredictable world seen through the microcosm of a locality, and its blending of the realistic and the fantastic, appealed to writers searching for the elemental and the primitive in the Chinese soul rather than charting progress towards communist utopia. A further reason to emulate Márquez in the late twentieth century was his 1982 Nobel Prize, at a time when Chinese authors were convinced that their long wait for the honour would soon be over; the “hallucinatory realism” cited in the announcement of Mo Yan’s award recalls the “magic realism” for which Márquez is celebrated.
The post-Mao generation of authors did not only look for inspiration in translated fiction: Kinkley draws attention to their veneration of Dream of the Red Chamber/ Story of the Stone; Cao Xueqin’s Qing-dynasty masterwork records the decline of a great family through the microcosm of a complex of residences contained in a large compound, with periodic visits from supernatural realms into the world of official intrigue and family discord. In many of the new historical novels, family is likewise the microcosm for twentieth-century China: Su Tong’s Wives and Concubines (filmed by Zhang Yimou as Raise the Red Lantern) is set in the toxic environment of a rich man’s compound, and dysfunctional families people Yu Hua’s sagas of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century China.
Yu Hua’s Brothers is a recent example of the new historical novel: the lives of two utterly dissimilar men rendered brothers by their parents’ marriage are charted from the unspeakable cruelty of the revolutionary past to the unspeakable vulgarity of the mercenary present. Kinkley writes of the novel that “the relationship of the brothers is perpetually symbiotic and mutually self-destructive” (152); he also sees in it the signs that the genre itself may be in decline, becoming “over-the-top, slapdash, and repetitious” (200), and predicts that readers may lose enthusiasm for dystopian critiques of their consumerist goals.
This is a masterful study of a major genre in recent Chinese literature; it is erudite but readable, strongly comparative, and with both historical and literary perspective. A relish for the material is evident throughout, and the book is studded with passages of translation that convey the flavour of the originals.
Richard King, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
A LANDSCAPE OF TRAVEL: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China. Studies on Ethnic Groups in China. By Jenny Chio. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. xxxi, 294 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99366-9.
Over hundreds of years, the mountains of Guangxi have been transformed into terraced rice paddies famous the world over, a textbook example of the human transformation of China’s natural environment. Since the 1980s, Ping’an has become a major tourism destination, though its famous fields are increasingly sown by outside hands hired to keep up appearances. The local labour that maintained these terraces is now devoted to tourism work, including guesthouse management, village beautification, and new ethnic displays created specifically for tourism.
The situation in Ping’an village makes up one of the two comparative cases that Jenny Chio presents in A Landscape of Travel. The other is the village of Upper Jidao, a nine-hour drive across the border into Guizhou, provided you make the right turns. Upper Jidao has no famous landscapes, but like Ping’an it is caught up in a national push to economically and socially develop the countryside. In the 2000s, Upper Jidao village became a provincial target for tourism development. Despite being marginalized by more popular and accessible Miao villages in eastern Guizhou, Upper Jidao carved a piece of the tourism market by playing up its rural ethnicity with ethnic costumes and performances, and disguising modern brickwork behind wooden plank facades.
Chio’s book is an ethnographic account of the mobilities and subjectivities of rural ethnic villagers in China working to become visible, attractive, and relevant in a competitive new tourism economy. Chio finds that in both villages, “doing” tourism (gao lüyou, in Mandarin) is not something tourists do, but is a process undertaken by villagers learning how to be ethnic and rural (210). This is not an altogether new insight, yet the book makes an important contribution in covering the intensified pressure placed on rural areas over the past decade to more actively contribute to national economic and social goals. In highlighting the role of migrant subjectivities and labor, Chio has at the same time helped clarify the relationship between migration and tourism in China. The rediscovery of rural and remote China by urban Chinese has been a significant social and political change over the past two decades in China. This is a question that I have pursued in my own work. But mobilities of leisure and labour don’t map cleanly onto the schematic movement of urban tourists to rural China and rural labourers to urban China, and A Landscape of Travel is a valuable study of how closely related these mobilities are.
Stories of Ping’an and Upper Jidao are woven through each chapter, each contributing to Chio’s focus on a broad set of theoretical issues. The introduction explains that instead of focusing on the mobility and the visuality of tourists, the book concentrates on the concrete work rural ethnic villagers do in order to be mobile and be seen. Chapter 1 surveys literature on ethnicity and tourism in China, and provides historical overviews of tourism development in Ping’an and Upper Jidao. Chapter 2 frames tourism in these villages as part of the central state’s New Socialist Countryside campaign, and as commodified through the trope of the nongjiale, the “happy farmer home.” The middle chapters go into more detail regarding the mobilities, appearances, and subjectivities behind the work of tourism. Tourist subjectivities sneak into the book in chapter 3, which covers the uneven mobilities generated through tourism development—how rural tourism requires that someone remain in the role of the peasant, and how residents come to see their village and themselves through tourism. Chapter 4 probes the politics of the visual work required for tourism, how villagers make themselves and their landscapes appear rural and ethnic. Chapter 5 covers the local politics of tourism—between residents, developers, and local governments—and the requirement to create distance and difference between rural ethnic villages. The conclusion reprises the major themes of the book through an account of a tour to Ping’an organized by Chio for Upper Jidao officials.
Chio demonstrates sensitivity to the complex relationships and politics of tourism development in these villages. In her close focus on specific villages in a specific period of time, Chio does not slip into making generalizations about all tourism in China. However, there is no explicit discussion about how this might relate to other parts of China: to “non-ethnic” rural villages, for example, to more urbanized (or more remote) ethnic areas, or to China’s “greening,” “ruralizing” cities. And while the book establishes its place in past literature, it makes only tentative steps into new theoretical territory. The central idea of “landscape,” for example, is framed in terms of the visual and phenomenological, rather than the material and political. Geographer Don Mitchell’s book The Lie of the Land, with its take on landscape as labour history, came to mind as I read Chio’s account of how these villages came to appear both rural and ethnic.
A Landscape of Travel is a valuable contribution to the study of tourism and ethnic minorities in contemporary China. It is unique in its attention to the role of rural-to-rural and returnee migrant subjectivities in the making of rural tourism destinations. Chio’s work echoes a number of important book-length studies on ethnicity in southwestern China going back to the 1990s. It provides an updated account of dynamics detailed in the work of scholars such as Tim Oakes, Margaret Swain and Louisa Schein, and it stands out among more recent but less rounded ethnographic books on tourism in China.
Travis Klingberg, University of Colorado Boulder, USA
XINJIANG AND THE EXPANSION OF CHINESE COMMUNIST POWER: Kashgar in the Early Twentieth Century. Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia (2005), 98. By Michael Dillon. New York: Routledge, 2014. xxxiii, 252 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-58443-2.
An array of foreigners played vital roles in Xinjiang, which is often portrayed as a remote and isolated region, in the period from 1911 to 1949. Although it lay in the interior of Asia and was far from the sea, it attracted diverse groups despite its relative inaccessibility. The Turkic group, which became identified as the Uyghurs in the twentieth century, constituted the largest segment of the population, but Han Chinese, Dungans (also known as Hui or Chinese Muslims), British, Russians, Swedes, Hindus and Afghans reached or settled in the region. Han Chinese leaders governed the region from 1911 to 1949, and Xinjiang was frequently independent and not responsive to the central Chinese or any other government. Xinjiang’s geographic location adjacent to the USSR’s Central Asian republics offered the Soviet Union considerable leverage in the economy and politics of the region. The British had a consulate general (known as the Chinibagh) in Kashgar that gathered information and intelligence about Xinjiang and attempted to promote British India’s trade with Xinjiang, and a few Indian merchants reached the area. Afghans smuggled opium into Kashgar; the Swedes had the only religious mission in western Xinjiang and, like other Christian missionaries in China, started schools and provided modern medical care. The local inhabitants, in addition to the Uyghurs, consisted of small but diverse communities of Hui, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, and even Mongols.
Dillon writes about the political and economic history of Xinjiang during this era and supplements Andrew Forbes’ Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911-1949 (published in 1986), which he praises as a “key text,” but which did not have access to currently available Chinese and English sources. He focuses on the city of Kashgar, the point of intersection of the northern and southern routes around the Taklamakan Desert. His brief description of the city’s history is generally accurate except for a slip about the dates of the Mongolian Empire. In relation to dates, the author jumps around, leading the average reader to be confused about chronology. Part of the reason is that he focuses on biographical sketches and identifies specific individuals with important developments, including education, journalism, and officialdom. The narrative sometimes shifts from the 1930s to 2010. For example, he writes that “Kashgar is no longer medieval” (27), referring to a period 65 years after the purported conclusion of the book.
Nonetheless, Dillon presents new information and insights, especially based on the reports of British subjects associated with the consulate general in Kashgar. He has mined the British accounts and writings to provide a vivid portrayal not only of the British community but also of its perception of the Chinese and Turkic rulers. He also contributes to knowledge of pre-1949 developments in Xinjiang. Other studies have described the policies of Yang Zengxin, Jin Shuren, and Sheng Shicai, the three autocratic rulers during the three decades from 1911 on, but Dillon presents additional notes based upon the 12 volumes of the Kashi wenshi ziliao (Cultural and Historical Materials on Kashgar City) and other sources issued by the present Chinese government.
An interesting by-product of Dillon’s research is a generally positive view of Mao Zedong’s brother Mao Zemin and other communists who collaborated with Sheng Shicai in Xinjiang before he turned against the USSR and subsequently imprisoned and executed the communists who had worked for him. Dillon praises Mao Zemin for initiating reforms that “were modern and rational, and were designed to eliminate corruption and the worst excesses of exploitation” (104) and writes that Mao “refused to stay away from work when he was ill and often had to be sent home by his colleagues” (122). In 1943, Sheng had Mao executed, turning him into a martyr and providing the communists with an ideal model of a Han Chinese who had sacrificed himself for the benefit of the Uyghurs. After the communist victory in 1949, Mao’s remains were moved to the Revolutionary Martyrs Memorial Cemetery in Urumchi in a transparent attempt to indicate the dedication and selflessness of the communist Chinese in Xinjiang.
Dillon’s book is also useful for its front matter and its visuals. It provides a compact chronology of major events in Kashgar and southern Xinjiang from 1911 to 1953, a valuable source for the non-specialist educated reader. As important, it includes a generous selection of photographs from the Höök collection. Ivar and Elisabeth Höök, Swedish missionaries in Xinjiang, took their own photographs and collected others from friends and acquaintances. Their daughter gave Dillon permission to use these black-and-white photos of a mosque, a market, a hospital and a school, as well as images of the local inhabitants at work, the religious leaders, and the soldiers guarding the Swedish compound. There are also photographs of the natural environment, which complement Dillon’s descriptions of Xinjiang.
Morris Rossabi, City University of New York, Queens, USA
CHINESE LABOR IN A KOREAN FACTORY: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China. By Jaesok Kim. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. xii, 290 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8454-2.
In recent years there has been steady growth in the literature on global supply chains and labour in China. In Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory, Jaesok Kim adds to this scholarship with an ethnography that is sensitive to managerial strategy, ethnicity, and local embeddedness. Focusing on a Korean-owned garment manufacturer in Qingdao, the author explores the ways in which the organization of production is shaped by the interaction of both global and highly localized forces. With excellent access both on the shop floor and among management, the result is a nuanced account of how one company responds to social and economic vicissitudes spanning from the mid-1990s up until the recent past.
The first two chapters of the book describe the spatial and ethnic organization of the firm. Indeed, the spatial organization of housing serves to reinforce ethnic difference and hierarchy. While all employees live on factory premises, the Korean expatriate managers live in secluded and spacious private houses with their families. The Korean-Chinese and Han-Chinese employees live in dormitories. But the former enjoy more space (fewer roommates) and the relative luxuries of access to hot water, heat, and electricity.
One consequence of these ethnically stratified working and living arrangements is that the Han-Chinese workers frequently suffered from body odor. Kim explains the reason for this, namely that the workers toiled in an environment without air conditioning, and did not have access to hot water for showering. Nonetheless, this olfactory marker came to be a key point of ethnic distinction, as both the Korean-Chinese and Korean managers in the firm attributed it to the cultural deficiency of unhygienic practices among Chinese peasant workers.
Kim argues that the company’s use of Korean-Chinese employees as interpreters and mid-level managers “overturned the dominant ethnic power relationship of China” (70). Indeed, Korean-Chinese employees found that their ethnicity came to be an important asset. Since the Korean expatriate managers had come to depend on them for much of the business operations, the Korean-Chinese enjoyed not only better living conditions and higher wages, but also higher social status within the firm. One consequence of this was a newfound sense of ethnic pride for people that had grown up as part of a minority in a Han-dominated society.
One of the most interesting parts of the book is the company’s evolving strategy of “localization.” When the plant first opened in the mid-1990s, nearly all managerial positions were held by Korean nationals, as locals were seen as untrustworthy or lacking in skills. But over time, the company sought to increase the number of both Korean-Chinese and Han-Chinese managers. The first reason was simply economic: wages for expatriates were much higher. But they also used new hiring practices to accumulate political capital, as they hired relatives of the village head. For a time, this localization strategy worked well, and the company received favourable treatment.
But Kim also shows how this approach was a double-edged sword. When it became apparent that local employees were assisting organized crime groups in stealing materials from the factory, management was in a bind. It was widely known that the gangsters had close ties to the government. The Korean management felt that there was little they could do to stop the pilfering without endangering their company’s cozy relationship with local officials. This is a wonderful illustration of the complexity of social embeddedness for global capital: both enabling accumulation and yet imposing new and unforeseen limits.
There is much to recommend Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory. First, it takes the issue of ethnicity seriously. Some research on work has looked at the hierarchy between overseas and Mainland Chinese. But given that there are tens of millions of ethnic minority workers in China, the question of ethnicity/race and work should be higher on the scholarly agenda. Kim’s study is an important first foray into this field, and provides insights on the relationship between ethnicity and identity in globalizing China.
Second, the study takes management’s views seriously. Much existing research assumes capital’s imperative of expanded reproduction, without seriously assessing the complex decision making of managers on the ground. With important ethnographic, interview, and administrative data from Nawon, Kim has a nuanced account of the contingency of the organization of work. With a longitudinal perspective, he is able to demonstrate how managerial agency interacts with global structural shifts—as well as worker activism—to produce particular organizations of work at particular times. His ability to integrate capital’s perspective into the heart of the analysis is a welcome corrective.
That being said, there is some ambiguity in Kim’s argument about the relationship between the local and the global. At some points, he seems to suggest that local realities impose major constraints on global capital: “the images of free-flowing transnational capital and multinational corporations are clearly wrong” (227). This is something of a straw-man argument, as it is not clear who specifically believes that transnational capital can ignore local conditions. And yet, later in the book we see that with increased operating expenses in China, the company begins outsourcing production to Vietnam. While Nawon will inevitably be forced to accommodate local conditions in new sites of production, Kim’s own evidence suggests that capital’s advantage in spatial mobility over and against labour and the state remains huge—even if such a move involves frictions and incurs various costs. Kim does not take a strong position here, implying that the relationship between global capital and local states changes, depending on a variety of conditions. While this is certainly true empirically, one is not entirely sure what the analytical takeaway is.
While Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory sticks to relatively safe terrain theoretically and analytically, the empirical work is impressive. With its contributions to our understanding of managerial strategy and ethnicity, the book should be of interest to a variety of China and Korea scholars.
Eli Friedman, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA
CONVERTS TO CIVIL SOCIETY: Christianity and Political Culture in Contemporary Hong Kong. Studies in World Christianity. By Lida V. Nedilsky. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2014. xii, 227 pp. (Tables, B&W photos.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4813-0032-2.
In August 2014, the National People’s Congress in Beijing determined that Hong Kong could have universal suffrage in electing its chief executive in 2017, provided that the candidates were first nominated by an election committee and, after popular vote, appointed by the central government. Needless to say, many Hong Kong citizens were outraged by these limitations on universal suffrage. In what would become known as the Umbrella Movement, citizens joined in several months of protests in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters. As time progressed, a number of news media outlets reported that many of the leaders of the protests were Christians, and that the ranks of protesters included a large percentage of Christians, Buddhists, and practitioners of Chinese popular religion.
Hence, the publication of Converts to Civil Society in July 2014 that looks at the relationship between the Christian faith and civil engagement in contemporary Hong Kong is very timely. It focuses on the years 1997 to 2008, immediately following Hong Kong’s reintegration into Chinese sovereignty, and provides rich ethnographic research into the lives of several Hong Kong citizens as they express their Christian faith through NGOs.
After some introductory material, two chapters engage a key motif discussed throughout this book: conversion. Chapter 2 looks at how conversion to Christianity sets the initial groundwork for engagement with civil society. For many Hong Kong Christians, conversion often runs against one’s parents’ wishes and brings about conflicts in fulfilling one’s filial duties. The choice of conversion is a step away from collectivism and towards individualism. Such a decision is a break from one community (the family unit) to join another community (the local church). Moreover, this choice of conversion can occur multiple times, from one Christian community to another. Chapter 3 continues this theme and looks at how the conversion to Christianity facilitates the conversion to civil society. Events like the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests and the 1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule challenged Hong Kong Christians to consider how to respond to sociopolitical uncertainty. The perceived political apathy of many Christian churches led interviewees to rethink their personal faiths. Christian NGOs were new institutions which addressed the failings of the old institutions of the churches, and provided the Christian with a new expression of individualism.
After these two key chapters, the book follows with three more general discussions about civil society. Chapter 4 provides a survey of the variety of concerns addressed by Christian and non-Christian NGOs in Hong Kong, from economic development and environmental issues, to working with migrant workers and youth. Despite this breadth, the present study focuses on four Christian NGOs that have a primary concern in human rights. Chapter 5 moves on to discuss the longevity of these NGOs and how to pass the fervour of Christian civil engagement to younger generations. The final major chapter, chapter 6, takes the stories and lessons from this single city of Hong Kong and casts an eye upon the much bigger nation of the People’s Republic of China. While post-Mao China’s pursuit of a socialist market economy has resulted in a rising civil society, this is constantly tempered by the heavy hand of the state. Though the chapter speaks of the significant growth of Christianity in mainland China, the author concludes that the potential for Christians on the mainland to engage in civil society is still quite preliminary and not yet realized.
Two criticisms can be raised against this volume due to its scope. Firstly, while the book focuses on the significance of NGOs in contrast with socially “complacent” institutional churches (76–84, 91), it has a tendency to downplay the important public role that religion has historically played in Hong Kong society. While the Umbrella Movement has brought this point to mind for the broader public, it is worth noting that, in contrast with fledgling NGOs, the long legacy of many Christian denominations has resulted in theological understandings of social engagement (e.g., Catholic social teaching, Anglican social theology, etc.). How has the theological legacy of particular denominations helped to bring shape to Christian NGOs? What about the stories of converts to civil society who engage from within the structures of institutional churches? Recognizing the narrow focus of the book on Hong Kong NGOs, a second criticism can be raised with regards to the widening of focus to include mainland China in chapter 6. Since the 1990s, there has been a vast amount of scholarly literature that has come out debating the notion of a civil society in mainland China. Moreover, there are a large number of faith-based NGOs that exist in China, such as the Protestant Amity Foundation and the Catholic Jinde Charities, as well as the growing number of urban intellectual churches which act like NGOs in their involvement in human rights activism and social concern. This chapter could have been enriched by engaging these topics.
With these quibbles in mind, one must remember that any monograph should be necessarily narrow in its concern in order to be a manageable research project. Lida Nedilsky’s timely and well-written book provides a rich view into the journeys of select individuals as they convert to civil society, expressing their Christian faiths through Hong Kong NGOs. Converts to Civil Society is a focused treatment on an important segment of Hong Kong that cannot be ignored by researchers interested in the public role of religion.
Alexander Chow, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
ON THE FRINGES OF THE HARMONIOUS SOCIETY: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China. NIAS Studies in Asian Topics, 53. Edited by Trine Brox, Ildikó Bellér-Hann. Copenhagen: NIAS Press; Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press [distributor], 2014. xvi, 320 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$32.00, paper. ISBN 978-87-7694-142-0.
On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society is a collection of papers from a workshop held at the University of Copenhagen. The editors have drawn together academics working on Tibet and Xinjiang, situating their works in the context of China’s development strategy. The term “harmonious society” is drawn from Hu Jintao’s motto during his presidency. Hu was intimately connected to Tibet as the CCP’s first secretary. During his presidency of China, he launched the “Western Development Program,” which sought to promote an aggressive development strategy for the poor regions on the periphery within the mainstream of China’s economy. In the introduction, the editors hope to “make better sense, of the complex interconnectedness between culture, ethnic, and development policies in China” (1). The introduction also quotes Steven Harrell’s description of the regions as the “most resistant to the Centre’s civilizing efforts”(3). Despite similarities, the two regions are treated as distinct with differing milieus, Buddhist Tibet and Islamic Xinjiang.
The collection consists of twelve contributions, with six papers dealing with Tibet and five papers devoted to Uyghurs. Only the paper by Andrew Fischer (29–68) provides systemic comparative studies of the two regions. Fischer’s chapter looks at the “structural foundations” of governance and economic strategies. He places the two regions within the context of state-led economic and developmental models, showing economic growth rates in Tibet and Xinjiang exceeded the national average between 2000 and 2010 (35). The rapid growth was seen as a success from the government’s point of view, but, as Fischer shows, it was not without its problems. Both Tibet and Xinjiang saw the growth generated by the expansion of state administration and infrastructure construction. Fischer focuses primarily on the labour transition resulting from the state’s development strategies. Both regions saw the privileging of the urban sector over the rural economy; economic development also led to the exclusion and marginalization of Tibetans and Uyghurs from major sources of employment. Fischer makes extensive use of official statistics compiled by provincial governments and the central government. These provide fruitful data for comparative studies of the regions; the data demonstrates growing marginalization of “minorities” in the labour market (65–66).
The rest of the contributions focus on region-specific issues; however, there are thematic similarities both in subject matter and issues highlighted in the papers. The contributions from Henryk Szadziewski (69–97), Tashi Nyima (127–158), and Elisa Cencetti (159–182) all deal with the effects of the “Open the West Campaign” (xibu da kaifa) in differing ways. All these chapters present similar findings in the development campaign that is aimed at closing the economic disparity between Western regions, which make up 71 percent of China’s landmass, yet account for less than 28 percent of GDP (72). As noted in Fischer’s contribution, the emphasis was on promoted material development without taking into account ethnic disparities in employment and income. An interesting comparative point made in the book is that economic transformation was more disruptive in Tibetan areas, as the changes involved the destruction of a pastoral economy.
Chris Hann’s (183–208) and Francoise Robin’s (209–234) contributions look at language issues in Tibet and Xinjiang. Language issues facing the Tibetans and Uyghurs are similar to the extent that the promotion of Chinese as the national language through state administration and education has disadvantaged indigenous languages. Both languages are seen as markers of identity and religion, and any decline in the use of them is associated with the stripping away of identity. The chapter by Emily Yeh (235–262) deals with of the environmental movement in China and points out that the Tibetan areas were the “point of origin” of China’s environmental activism (237). This would have presented a possibility of convergence of interested parties, beyond ethnicity and locality. Yeh shows that the Green Movement brought Tibet from the periphery to the mainstream of the Chinese nation. However, this presented a problem since it meant mobilizing the local Tibetans, and the Han environmentalists were far more sympathetic to local practices and mobilizing religious leaders to their sides. This led Tibetan environmentalists to create “a space for cultural assertion” (258), viewed by the authorities as detrimental to the state-led campaign of ethnic harmony due to its accentuating ethnic identity.
The papers by Joanne Finley (263–292), Rachel Harris (293–217), and Eric Schluessel (318–346) deal with social and cultural contestation in Xinjiang. Finley’s paper focuses on the reception of a popular television soap opera (Xinjiang Girl) and the debates it generated regarding inter-ethnic marriage. However, as the chapter shows, inter-ethnic marriage remains taboo and marriage is seen as a site of maintaining Uyghur identity and resisting assimilation. Rachel Harris’s chapter is the only one dealing with religion and gender issues, a subject that has received little to no attention in the context of Tibet or Xinjiang. The women’s ritual practices are seen as outside Uyghur Islamic society and the state views these practices as “discordant” with the state modernization goal, resulting in the double marginalization of Uyghur women. Eric Schluessel examines the positions of and articulations by Uyghur public intellectuals. The situation described by Schluessel is very similar to the position of Tibetan intellectuals. Uyghur and Tibetan intellectuals face the problem of critiquing internal social problems without seeming to endorse the colonial power’s accusations of backwardness.
The book makes valuable contributions to the study of Tibetans and Ugyhurs in contemporary China. By providing well-researched and ethnographically rich details of Tibet and Xinjiang, the book moves the subject beyond treating the people merely as “minorities” who are recipients of state benevolence.
Tsering Shakya, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
LA FRANCE EN CHINE DE SUN YAT-SEN À MAO ZEDONG 1918–1953. Collection “Histoire”(Rennes, France). By Nicole Bensacq-Tixier. Rennes, FR: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2014. 751 pp. (Figures, maps.) €28.00, paper. ISBN 978-2-7535-2925-0.
Diplomats usually serve as transmitters of orders and directives received from their home country to the governments of nations where they are posted. They also act as brokers for their own citizens and national companies in those foreign countries and provide valuable information to their respective governments. However, the warlord period and World War II in China provided environments not as clearly delimited as during normal times. Because China had multiple governments during the 1918–1949 period (warlord-controlled areas, the Japanese-occupied area, and Nationalist China), and France had also suffered the fate of occupation during World War II, the normal state of bilateral relations was upset, which fostered initiatives from diplomats that did not necessarily reflect home policy. On top of this, France had to secure its interests in Indochina at a time when the Japanese threat complicated the situation. Bensacq-Tixier’s impressive work on French diplomatic history during this period exposes these difficulties.
The book is divided into three parts that reflect specific periods of Chinese modern history: warlord China, China at war, and Communist China. The first part aims to detail how China’s warlords dealt with foreign diplomats. In the case of France, whose sphere of influence was primarily in Yunnan province and Shanghai, the book takes an interesting view on the complex regional Chinese histories of this period. The reader can clearly understand why China could not be governed by a single government at that time and more importantly, the multiple governments emerging in warlord China had the effect of dividing state power in international relations. France recognized Beijing as the capital of China (as did most Western nations) while it shared in the Republican ideals of Sun Yat-sen. Developing their interests in Yunnan, the French were willingly contributing to the weakening of China. Meanwhile, France’s protection of the missionary Catholic network reflected the incapacity of the Chinese state to provide social services, crippled as it was by outsiders who controlled vital elements of national strengthening, such as railways, extraterritoriality, customs, and trade.
The second part of the book, by far the most interesting and insightful, tackles the role of French diplomats in China when their own country was occupied by Germany and the Axis powers, which included Japan. Divided between the Vichy government and the resistance led by de Gaulle, French diplomacy faced an internal revolt by those French wishing to join the resistance against Germany and Japan, and thereby exposing Indochina to Japanese occupation and indisposing their own diplomatic comrades posted in occupied China (in Harbin, Shenyang, Qingdao, Yantai, Dalian, Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Nanjing, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Shantou, Beihai, Haikou, Longzhou, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and notably Shanghai, where a sizable French population resided) and Free China (Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming, and Mengzi, established to protect the Haiphong-Kunming railway). Furthermore, French diplomatic recognition of China’s government posed a great dilemma, which turned out to be a catch-22 situation. France’s recognition of Wang Jingwei’s regime enraged Chiang Kai-shek, who recognized that the French were in a dire position and hoping to protect their colonial estate. An important and interesting point here was the posting of junior and senior diplomats who joined secret movements aimed at liberating French overseas territories (such as Japanese-occupied Indochina). Almost all of them spoke Chinese and had spent many years posted in China. They had a deep knowledge of the country and wrangled over the political influence of the French foreign service and the policies France should adopt towards China.
The third part details how the French had few friends remaining in the postwar period. Americans were not interested in helping de Gaulle regain a foothold in Southeast Asia, Chiang Kai-shek occupied Northern Vietnam with his troops, and Ho Chi Minh had proclaimed national independence. France’s weak position entailed the loss of extraterritoriality and the end of the French quarter of Shanghai. The Yunnan Railway was ceded to the Chinese as the French made efforts to maintain their presence by seeking treaties permitting French nationals to remain in China and conduct business. However, the situation in Indochina over the next eight years (1946–1954) and Mao’s victory (1949) definitely ushered in a new era and the departure of all French nationals from China. Although some French diplomats proposed the recognition of the new communist regime, Paris instead sought to save Indochina with American help.
The secondary weaknesses of the book do not undermine the scope of the study. However, it would have been appreciated if Chinese sources had been consulted to explain how the Chinese saw French diplomats. Unfortunately, the author uses only French sources, thus offering a one-sided narrative that portrays only how the French diplomats saw their own work in China. Also, a more theoretical framing of the study would have been welcomed because it would have provided some explanation on the limits of diplomatic action when a country is basically divided between multiple governments and non-state actors. This asymmetry could have been explored to demonstrate how under such conditions even the most able diplomats cannot efficiently implement their home country’s policies. Finally, the substantial amount of information on the lives of senior and junior diplomats could have been reduced to allow a tighter focus on French policy in China. Bensacq-Tixier published Dictionnaire du corps diplomatique et consulaire français en Chine (1840–1912) in 2004 and Dictionnaire biographique des diplomates et consuls en Chine (1918–1953) in 2013, which relate the lives of French diplomats in China with substantive biographical details. Overall, this book is quite entertaining and informative but it could have been a masterpiece had the author chosen to cut some of the biographical details in favour of more political science.
Serge Granger, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
ENERGY SECURITY IN JAPAN: Challenges After Fukushima. Transforming Environmental Politics and Policy. By Vlado Vivoda. Farnham, Surrey, Eng.; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2014. xv, 231 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$119.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4094-5530-1.
Assessing the past, present, and future of Japanese energy policy has become a boom industry. In Energy Security in Japan, Vlado Vivoda joins the fray with the objective of assessing the challenges posed by the March 2011 nuclear disaster (“3.11”) for energy security, defined as “the availability of energy at all times in various forms, in sufficient quantities and at affordable prices, without unacceptable or irreversible impact on the economy and the environment” (5). As a consequence of 3.11, Japanese citizens and businesses are paying more for energy (resulting in the country’s first annual trade deficit since 1980), the supply of which is less secure owing to increased reliance on imported fossil fuels, a preponderance of which originates in politically unstable regions. In addition to stoking regional competition for energy imports and inducing higher world prices, burning more fossil fuels increases emissions and works at cross purposes with Japan’s professed aim of contributing to the global campaign to combat climate change.
Vivoda’s central argument is that Japan’s energy future is embedded in a historically rooted political, economic, and social context, that is further constrained by sunk investment in the existing energy system and affected by changes in the global energy system. The chief sources of this “path dependency” are institutions, interests, and ideas. Vivoda argues that energy policy is dominated by “a genuine iron triangle of politics, bureaucracy, and industry” (18). In this arrangement—which has remained remarkably stable for nearly four decades—the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is the “energy policy-making hub,” while ten regional utility monopolies along with their nuclear- and fossil fuel-friendly corporate allies speak for the private sector (13). The almost perpetually ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is linked by ties of mutual self-interest to METI and the private-sector powerbrokers, completes the triadic elite. With a vice-like grip on the levers of power, these “vested interests” that lord over Japan’s energy policy making are in a position to deny anything more than a sidelines role to citizens’ groups, experts, local governments, and the mass media. In response to those who believe that 3.11 will dictate dramatic changes in policy, Vivoda maintains that energy transitions are protracted affairs that represent another source of path dependency (13). Yet, just a few pages later, he leaves readers scratching their heads in observing that “the discovery of superior sources of energy has sometimes resulted in a relatively rapid transition to a new energy source, as in the case of coal and oil” (21).
The book’s greatest contribution is found in six core chapters that trace the historical evolution, current challenges and future prospects of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, renewables, and electricity generation in the country’s energy supply. For empirical support, Vivoda draws upon the scholarly secondary literature, media reports, and interviews with policy experts, most of which seem to have been conducted during a 12-day Japan Foundation-sponsored study tour during May 2011. These case studies are full of information. For example, readers are reminded that Japan ranks in the top three of the world’s largest importers of liquefied natural gas, coal, and oil. And, despite increased reliance on LNG and nuclear energy following the 1973 OPEC embargo, continued reliance on petroleum has led policy makers to repeatedly try—but fail—to achieve targets for increasing the supply of self-developed “equity oil.” Although Vivoda is keen to point out that Japan’s hefty thirst for imported fossil fuels is at the heart of an expanding resource rivalry with China, he neglects to factor in South Korea, another regional competitor with a similar addiction to energy imports. He explains how Japanese policy makers have portrayed nuclear power as a carbon-neutral, semi-indigenous form of energy supply, and predicts that the “revitalization of Japan’s nuclear power industry is likely once public sensitivities over the Fukushima crisis have died down” (142). Even though renewables represent a potentially sustainable, disaster-proof energy source, Vivoda is convinced that, barring a technological breakthrough that drastically reduces the cost of renewable energy, this option will continue to play a marginal role in the energy mix.
Energy Security in Japan aims to enhance our understanding of the country’s energy security, energy policy, and mode of crisis response. While Vivoda invokes “neo-institutionalist” concepts (e.g., Douglass North’s approach to institutions), he does not devote much effort to vanquishing rival theories, testing hypotheses, or solving a central “puzzle.” It would be useful to know, for example, how Vivoda’s argument squares with those of other major contributors such as Richard Samuels, Kent Calder, Laura Hein, and Raymond Vernon. Also, in employing a broad-mouthed analytic framework that seeks to discern the path dependence-inducing effects of institutions and interests and ideas—each of which derive from an expansive literature—Vivoda runs the risk of violating Occam’s razor. Vivoda’s thesis would be clearer and more compelling had he chosen to access the shaping effect of whichever one of this triad of elements would appear to offer the greatest analytic yield. Furthermore, while Vivoda argues for the primary importance of domestic factors, he concedes that the global energy system also plays a role. Yet he does not seize the opportunity to explain when, why and how domestic and international forces interact to shape Japanese energy policy. Finally, despite arguing that Japanese policy makers must restart the country’s idled nuclear reactors to avert economic crisis, Vivoda suggests that the “control of public discourse and policy and regulatory processes” by an iron triangle of bureaucrats, business leaders, and politicians “suggests that Japan is not a true liberal democracy” (190). This is a rather apocalyptic conclusion to draw from a narrowly focused study of Japan’s post-3.11 energy challenges.
Despite some blemishes, Energy Security in Japan is worthwhile reading for those interested in an assessment of the country’s changing energy mix. While the book is generally well written, readers should be forewarned of a number of misspelled words, grammatical errors, and at least one fugitive bibliographic reference. Nevertheless, it could serve as a textbook in a course on comparative energy policy or as a primer on Japanese energy security.
Brian Woodall, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA
Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan
CAPTURING CONTEMPORARY JAPAN: Differentiation and Uncertainty. Edited by Satsuki Kawano, Glenda S. Roberts, Susan Orpett Long. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. viii, 360 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3869-0.
Capturing Contemporary Japan consists of thirteen papers by prominent anthropologists of Japan. While fully “capturing” any contemporary society as a whole may be an improbable task, the volume comes close by offering a range of distinct ethnographic studies of contemporary life. The volume wrestles with the social ramifications of a host of destabilizing forces that Japan encountered as it entered the new millennium. Some of these dynamics include a slow recovery from the economic recession in the 1990s, the Lehman shock of 2008, the triple disaster in 2011, growing economic inequalities, a restructured labour market, and demographic decline. The editors suggest that these influences have had the effect of creating “differentiation” and “uncertainty.” They have organized the chapters into a remarkably coherent narrative that speaks to many of the key challenges facing the nation.
The volume has five sections. The first part has two articles that explore long-term changes. In the first, Glenda Roberts presents an extended case study of a blue-collar family’s working experiences over three decades. She contrasts the experiences of the parents, who benefitted by coming of age in a period of strong economic growth, with the challenges their children face in seeking financial independence. The second chapter, by Gordon Matthews, investigates how masculinities have transformed through the experiences of a group of middle-aged and retired men. Men who once fulfilled their gender roles by contributing financially to their families now feel pressure to contribute emotionally, in part because they have lost their sole breadwinner role as their primary means of constructing their identities within the family.
The second section consists of three articles that focus on the conditions and experiences of work in the 2000s. Sawa Kurotani provides a chapter describing some of the pressures on full-time female workers who entered the workforce during the bubble economy. Nancy Rosenberger addresses alternative lifestyles through organic farmers. Gavin Hamilton Whitelaw delves into the challenges convenience-store franchise owners face in relation to waste and low profit margins.
The third section investigates roles and identities that have received minimal attention in Japan. Lynne Nakano recounts how single women adapt to the pressures of competing in marriage and employment markets. Susan Orpett Long examines how the meaning of grandchildren has changed for grandparents, given longer lifespans and lower birthrates. Karen Nakamura’s article draws attention to public debates and different forms of advocacy around the recognition of the sexual rights of the disabled.
The fourth section provides two examples of the reinforcement of social ties. Satsuki Kawano offers a study of children’s drop-in play centres in Tokyo as a space for mothers with small children to build relationships and share information with other women in their urban neighbourhoods. Laura Miller studies the popularity of the divination arts among schoolgirls and women as a means of both entertainment and social bonding.
The fifth section surveys some enduring patterns that have persisted despite pressures to transform. Peter Cave addresses efforts to reform public education over the last quarter century as a means to enhance “internationalization” and foster autonomous and creative learning. Joshua Hotaka Roth scrutinizes the enduring gender discrepancies evident in the marketing and consumption practices of small compact “K-cars” aimed at women drivers. Satsuki Kawano investigates changing mortuary customs.
Each anthropologist included in the volume provides a solid ethnographic study, taking the reader into a wide variety of contemporary areas of Japanese life. They all situate their individual studies vis-à-vis the anthropology of Japan and the more broadly defined area of Japanese Studies. Each highlights how historical, social and cultural influences intersect within their field sites. Japan specialists will find this volume rich in ethnographic depth and detail.
If the volume has a deficiency, it’s that it lacks anchoring in broader theoretical debates animating the field of anthropology at large. The subtitle refers to“differentiation” and “uncertainty”: these two terms pervade the volume and accurately capture the mood of contemporary Japan, providing an effective through line for the volume. But they are more descriptive than theoretical, here. Non-Japan specialists will lack a shared theoretical language with which to engage with the book.
Nonetheless, the volume is an excellence resource and significant contribution to the anthropology of Japan. I am using the collection in my undergraduate seminar in Japanese society with great success. Instructors might assign chapters individually in conjunction with any number of thematic topics to undergraduate and graduate-level students. In fact, the editors provide a list of key terms for each chapter for precisely this purpose (19–20). Instructors will find the collection’s broad selection of fresh ethnographic examples particularly valuable for courses on contemporary Japanese society and culture. Moreover, the ethnographic depth of each chapter will certainly spark lively debate and discussion among more senior graduate students and scholars as we all grapple with how best to interpret and explain the differentiation and uncertainty we all encounter in our own research.
Robin O’Day, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan
NEW POLICIES FOR NEW RESIDENTS: Immigrants, Advocacy, and Governance in Japan and Beyond. By Deborah J. Milly. Ithaca, NY; London: Cornell University Press, 2014. xvi, 260 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-5222-2.
Daily headlines from around the world highlight tension and misunderstanding between immigrants and their host communities. Clearly, the challenges faced by the addition of linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious “others” call for policy responses that at least facilitate peaceful coexistence between groups and at best foster meaningful inclusion of immigrants. Deborah J. Milly’s New Policies for New Residents: Immigrants, Advocacy, and Governance in Japan and Beyond is an important contribution to the literature on immigrant integration, providing a new framework for considering the interplay between civil society groups and different levels of government in responding to the challenges created by the reality of immigrant communities.
While the book is focused on the particular case of Japan, it uses a comparative framework to highlight the processes at work in the making of immigrant policy. Milly compares the cases of Japan, Korea, Spain, and Italy to examine how multilevel governance affects the pathways to achieving immigrant policies. The choice of these four cases is inspired; all four countries have relatively recently switched from being emigration countries to “countries of immigration” while experiencing decentralizing trends in governance. In another refreshing departure from much of the work in this field, Milly breaks free from the regional limitations that characterize much of the comparative work on immigration.
Milly is interested in the interaction between advocacy and governance, allowing her to look at the issue from a different perspective than is normally seen in the literature. She categorizes Spain and Japan as examples of “advocacy-promoting governance” models, while considering Italy and Korea as characteristic of “advocacy-reinforcing governance” and “advocacy-integrated governance,” respectively. This conceptual framework, though interesting and instructive, is also a bit unwieldy; is there a more elegant way to conceptualize the role of civil society groups in setting and shaping policy?
While chapter 1 focuses on setting up this conceptual framework, Milly quickly moves on to the meat of the book: the comparative examination of immigrant advocacy and policy making in these four countries. Chapters 2 through 6 offer an in-depth look at how immigrant policy is made in light of different governance models, various stages of devolution, and different strategies used by civil society groups. For example, in Spain, regional governments, like Catalonia’s, have been the primary locus for immigrant support programs and policies in areas like education and housing, generating policy ideas while securing the input of civil society advocates. Milly’s primary case of Japan highlights the ways that local governments in immigrant-receiving regions worked around the significant challenges of national party division, bureaucratic segmentation, and lack of comprehensive immigration reform to respond to housing, education, and health care challenges in their communities. Italy and Korea prove to follow a different path due in part to the existence of national frameworks that include the possibility for lower levels of government (and civil society groups) to play a role in immigrant integration solutions. In areas like housing and healthcare, Italian localities have responded to local challenges of immigrant integration with creative and collaborative solutions that operate within the parameters set by national policy. Likewise, in Korea, the interaction between new laws facilitating collaboration between non-governmental organizations and local governments to respond to immigrant integration needs led to the emergence of support services for foreign workers run by NGOs with government funding. The case studies are the key to illustrating the argument of the book, bringing to life the complex interplay between governance and advocacy that make up the crux of this book’s argument.
The last two chapters of the book contain Milly’s analysis and conclusions about the impact of economic crises on the creation of immigrant policy in these four cases and the implications of these findings for immigrant-receiving communities and countries around the globe. Milly finds that in Japan, as in the other three cases, a downturn in economic conditions does not significantly affect immigrant integration policy, though shifts in public opinion about immigrants may occur. Spain and Japan, the advocacy-reinforcing governance models in Milly’s framework, continued with pre-crisis plans for immigrant support programs while also instituting “assisted return” policies for newly unemployed immigrants. The economic crisis did not result in “assisted return” programs in the Korea and Italy, but was less of a factor than the political changes that had preceded the crisis in those countries.
The implications of this research are interesting for immigrants, immigrant advocacy groups and local governments in immigrant-receiving communities, suggesting that there are ways to use the tools of democracy at both the national and local level to promote inclusion of immigrants in local decision making. While this research demonstrates that there is an opening for civil society groups to play a role in (especially) local government decision making on immigrant policies, one area that is not explored fully here is the possibility that anti-immigrant groups could exploit the same governance structures and pathways to craft policies that move in the opposite direction.
The conclusions presented in this book have potentially far-reaching implications that can help civil society groups to best craft their strategies for promoting conflict-reducing policies and paths for foreign residents’ meaningful inclusion in national communities.
Betsy Brody, Collin College, Plano, USA
EMBRACING DIFFERENCES: Transnational Cultural Flows between Japan and the United States. Culture & Theory. By Iris-Aya Laemmerhirt. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript Verlag; New York: Columbia University Press [distributor], 2013. 261 pp. US$50.00, paper. ISBN 978-3-8376-2600-1.
On January 5, 2015, the American film production company DreamWorks announced that it had cast Scarlett Johansson in the leading role of a live-action blockbuster adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. The movie is slated for release in 2017. Ghost in the Shell, a globally recognized multimedia franchise originating with a Japanese manga series of the same name by Masamune Shirow, focuses on the action-packed adventures of Motoko Kusanagi, cyborg member of a counterterrorist government agency in a futuristic, alternate-universe Japan. Although rumours of a Hollywood remake have been circulating since 2008, the revelation that a white, fair-haired American woman would be playing the part of a notionally Japanese-ethnic protagonist was, unsurprisingly, controversial. Indeed, it could easily be taken as but the latest in a long history of complicated—and potentially troubling—transnational cultural flows between Japan and the United States.
Enter Iris-Aya Laemmerhirt, currently a lecturer in American Studies and British Studies at Technische Universität Dortmund in Germany. According to her university’s staff profile, she is interested in researching literary and popular culture and transnational cultural flows between Japan and the United States and Japan and Germany. Embracing Differences: Transnational Cultural Flows between Japan and the United States is her first monograph, based upon a PhD thesis completed in 2008 at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and published, in English, by the German academic press Transcript Verlag in 2013.
In Embracing Differences, Laemmerhirt challenges the view that cases such as Scarlett Johansson’s forthcoming star turn as Ghost in the Shell’s Motoko Kusanagi ought to be interpreted as the latest example of American cultural imperialism and argues instead for a more measured, transnational approach: “while globalizing processes may lead to the availability of cultural products outside their original national spheres, a homogenization of cultures is not necessarily implied by these processes. Instead, differences can be emphasized and/or goods can be localized in their new surroundings and through these processes new versions of an original are developed” (29–30). Furthermore, she writes, “different cultures should be granted agency in the way they deal with cultural imports” (30). In other words, cultural export does not necessarily imply cultural power of, or domination by, the sending country, and ultimately, consumers have the authority to accept, reject, or demand modification of cultural goods.
Drawing upon anthropologist Arjun Appadurai’s theory of “scapes” in Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (University of Minnesota Press, 1996), the book analyzes cultural flows between Japan and the United States across the fantasyscape, the foodscape, and the mediascape. After an overview chapter of the history of cultural contact and exchange between the two countries, one chapter is devoted to case studies for each of these scapes in turn. The first is a cultural analysis of Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea; the second explores the development and popularization of sushi in America. The third and final empirical chapter provides close readings of three recent Hollywood films set in Japan, The Last Samurai, Lost in Translation, and Letters from Iwo Jima.
As implied by the range of cultural content analyzed, the great strength of this book is its thoroughness and breadth. One of the requirements of any PhD is to demonstrate mastery of previously published literature in one’s field of expertise, and Embracing Differences provides an excellent overview of relevant theoretical frameworks related to cultural imperialism, Orientalism, globalization, and hybridity, along with careful, exhaustive reviews of the literature on Japanese-US cultural exchange, particularly as these relate to Disney products, food, and film. I was particularly impressed by the chapter on Disney in Japan; in the acknowledgements Laemmerhirt confesses to dragging her Japanese aunts on numerous occasions to Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, and this extensive fieldwork shows in the vivid richness of her description of the parks.
Unfortunately, this impressive descriptive detail is not paired with any new major finding or theoretical contribution. The book’s method is to read culture and its attendant practices as if it were a text, but it would be a logical fallacy for researchers to infer from their own personal cultural readings about the lived meanings and practices collectively experienced by others. Arguing against the durable power of cultural producers and for the authority and autonomy of cultural consumers cannot work without studying the people themselves, and that this book does not do. The overarching thesis is not, therefore, particularly convincing. After all, just because a Japanese person eats at McDonalds does not mean that people who choose to eat there have complete freedom to choose any one cuisine over another; sometimes McDonalds may just be the least-worst option.
In sum, then, Embracing Differences cannot be considered a particularly good research monograph. It is, however, a superb introductory textbook to its subject, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to undergraduate students and any other scholars seeking a comprehensive overview of the considerable body of literature on transnational cultural flows between the United States and Japan.
Casey Brienza, City University London, London, United Kingdom
LOST AND FOUND: Recovering Regional Identity in Imperial Japan. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 364. By Hiraku Shimoda. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2014. viii, 159 pp. (Illustration, map.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-49201-1.
The cover photograph on the jacket of Lost and Found: Recovering Regional Identity in Imperial Japan is of Tsuruga Castle, headquarters of Aizu domain and daimyō Matsudaira Katamori, soon after the “pro-imperial” forces of Satsuma and Choshu defeated the rebellious domain that stubbornly refused to surrender even after the Tokugawa regime capitulated. Tsuruga Castle was torn down soon afterwards. Ninety years later, a concrete replica of the main structure of the castle was built on the site and serves as a museum to Aizu’s proud warrior tradition. Hiraku Shimoda’s monograph demonstrates that it did not take as long to rebuild, revise, and incorporate a replica of Aizu’s historical identity in Japan’s national consciousness.
The connection between Aizu domain and the Tokugawa regime began in the early seventeenth century when Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun, appointed his half-brother Hoshina Masayuki as daimyō of Aizu in 1643. Hoshina proved to be a very capable leader of the domain and was later appointed guardian to the youthful shogun Ietsuna upon Iemitsu’s death. When serious difficulties, both internal and foreign, weakened the Tokugawa shogunate in the 1850s and early 1860s, there was little doubt that Matsudaira Katamori and his Aizu warriors would support their ally in the battles against the “pro-imperial” forces led by Choshu, soon to be joined by Satsuma. But when Satsuma, Choshu, and their allies defeated the Tokugawa regime and then defeated Aizu in the Boshin War, Matsudaira Katamori and Aizu lost their identity as loyal servants of shogun and became rebels and traitors to the new imperial Meiji government.
Using government documents, memoirs and local histories, Shimoda narrates and analyzes a gradual progression of Aizu leaders convincing officials of the Meiji government to understand and have respect for Aizu, starting with the handling and burial of Aizu’s warriors who died on the field of battle. Aizu warriors and families who were sent to begin an agricultural community in Tonami, which proved to be a disaster and led to many deaths due to starvation and malnutrition, were allowed to return to Aizu. Moreover, Aizu’s people convinced themselves they had fought the Boshin War not against the Emperor and not necessarily for the Tokugawa regime, but for the defense of their lord and their land. They exemplified the loyal and dutiful qualities of Aizuppo, or “sons of Aizu,” combined with the psychic unity of martial valour and historical traditions of “the Aizu spirit.” The tragic and melodramatic story of sixteen, then nineteen teenage boys of the Byakkotai (White Tiger) Brigade committing suicide by seppuku on Mount Iimori during the Boshin War became emblematic of this refashioned “Aizu spirit.” In this way, Aizu revised and recovered its distinct regional identity, while the Meiji government simultaneously sought to incorporate the provinces and domains into one united country of Imperial Japan. Aizu’s recovery and revision of its regional identity and incorporation into the imperial polity was completed even before Matsudaira Katamori’s granddaughter, Setsuko, married Prince Chichibu, Emperor Meiji’s grandson and younger brother of Emperor Showa, in 1928.
Lost and Found: Recovering Regional Identity in Imperial Japan is a well-written and well-researched study of how Aizu, a major “loser” of the overthrow of the Tokugawa regime, recovered its identity and became incorporated into the national polity during the Meiji era. Nevertheless, I believe there are a couple of topics that should have been included in this study. Although the discovery of letters from Emperor Komei (Emperor Meiji’s father) thanking Matsudaira Katamori played a role in Aizu’s incorporation into the national polity, the author could have included more description and analysis of the years Matsudaira and some of his Aizu warriors served as the Tokugawa regime’s handpicked police force in the imperial capital of Kyoto. While Shimoda discusses the issue of proper burial for Aizu’s warriors in Aizu, there is no mention of the Aizu warriors who died at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and are buried on the grounds of Kurodani Temple in Kyoto. Did the burials of these Aizu (and Kuwana) warriors become an issue that was negotiated by the new Meiji leaders, as did the burials of the warriors who died fighting a few months later in Aizu? Saigo Takamori’s pardon and rehabilitation into the imperial polity after his battles against the new Meiji government in 1876–77 is noted in Lost and Found, but it seems to this reviewer there is more potential comparison and connection to Aizu’s rehabilitation than is indicated in this study. Finally, neither the title nor subtitle of the book indicates that this informative and, again, well-researched study is specifically about Aizu.
Despite the concerns about omissions in the previous paragraph, Hiraku Shimoda’s Lost and Found: Recovering Regional Identity in Imperial Japan is an important study of a major region of Japan that suffered the indignity of being known as “rebellious” with the defeat of the Tokugawa regime, but gradually recovered and revised its identity to fit with the new polity of imperial Japan. Scholars of Meiji-era Japan will find Lost and Found especially useful, while scholars of regional and national identity formation will find this to be a valuable case study.
John E. Van Sant, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, USA
JAPANESE EDUCATION IN AN ERA OF GLOBALIZATION: Culture, Politics, and Equity. Edited by Gary DeCoker, Christopher Bjork; foreword by James J. Shields. New York: Teachers College Press, 2013. xiv, 206 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$49.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8077-5423-8.
Nearly forty years ago the world began taking notice of the Japanese education system, asking questions about its role in the spectacular success of the Japanese economy, which at the time was poised to take over the world. Or so it seemed. We all know now in retrospect that this was an incomplete picture, missing key elements at work in both Japanese society, which was far more complex than the characterizations of the 1980s, and the world economy, on the verge then of what we have loosely come to call “globalization.” The latter of course ironically replaced Japan as a target of fear-mongering after the 1980s. The reality for both the Japanese education system and for globalization has turned out to be something more prosaic. And, in fact, more interesting.
Gary DeCoker and Christopher Bjork, long scholars of Japanese society and Japanese education, have been among a range of contributors to our understanding of the intricate workings of a system that makes a good deal of sense on its own terms and that has had its ups and downs but, in the end, is still consistently one of the highest achieving educational societies in the world. They have assembled a stellar cast of sixteen scholars of Japanese education for this volume: Japanese, American, women and men. All are critical researchers with long histories of engagement with Japan and its educational system. Many of them are provocative, original thinkers whom policy makers would do well to listen to during their deliberations on this key institution for global societies.
The book is divided into four sections, revealing an important agenda for the editors and their authors: progressive education and equality/inequality in a global context. As such, the book can be a mirror for researchers working with other national school systems. This is critical in an era of parochialism and an ever-narrowing trend toward metrics, which threaten to undermine the deeply complex value of comparative education for all of us: the discovery and understanding of how others do education well or badly, the promises and possibilities from other educational efforts as examples for our own educational system, and the question of which ideas and practices might best be adopted or avoided.
A short but hard-hitting volume of 206 pages, the book begins with a dedication to Thomas Rohlen, followed by a foreword by James J. Shields titled “Genesis and Goals,” which touches on Herbert Passin, Isaac Kandel, and John Dewey, all influential early comparative educators, and an eloquent testimonial to a passing of the torch. The first section of the book frames the discussion, as the section title announces, with Gary DeCoker arguing for enduring historical issues in new contexts, and Diane Hoffman speaking in counterpoint for enduring tensions and emerging challenges. DeCoker speaks of five themes that emerged from the work of the team of authors and editors: global interactions, changing societal context, the diminishing role of the Ministry of Education and grassroots change, equity, and minorities. Hoffman brings her anthropological expertise to a series of binary observations on cultural versus structural effects, the individual versus the collective, education for belonging or transformation, and homogeneity/diversity, all reflections of “culture, power, and difference in reading Japanese education” (26).
There have been many descriptions of Japanese education “on-the-ground” over the years, but the three chapters in the second section of the book shed new light on preschools (Akiko Hayashi and Joseph Tobin), school guidance in middle schools (Christopher Bjork and Rebecca Erwin Fukuzawa), and student-teacher relationships in the context of ijime, bullying (Motoko Akiba and Kazuhiko Shimizu). The subtitle of this section alludes to context, change, and global perceptions, although I am not sure the last was really covered and wondered about this description.
In the third section of the book, Kaori Okano, Christopher Frey and June Gordon concern themselves with stories that have largely been invisible, at least to mainstream Japanese, North Americans, Europeans, and others. Okano shares observations on ethnic schools, with a larger comment on multiculturalism in Japan. Christopher Frey examines an unusual topic, Ainu schooling, and its relation to what he terms “self-determination and globalization.” June Gordon discusses Japan’s “enduring cultural inequalities” through the lens of the Nikkei, those Brazilians who came to Japan from the 1990s, many of them of ethnic Japanese origin. Gordon draws on a strong research base, which enhances her presentation.
The fourth section, “The Outcome of Educational Reform,” might have been titled in the plural, yet the subtitle, “Evaluating policies introduced to mitigate inequality and expand opportunity,” puts a hopeful gloss on what is certainly read differently by sociologists of Japan, notably in the substantive reviews of Kariya Takehiko. The four authors make a case, as has Kariya in other contexts, for the increase of both inequality and privilege. It is not a pretty picture. Hyunjoon Park and Yeon-Jin Lee argue for the increase of educational inequality, a front-page topic in Japanese media in the 2000s, while Tomoaki Nomi gives us a clearer picture of the relationship of government spending and socioeconomic background to academic achievement in the capital city, Tokyo, where much of what is best and worst about the system appears most clearly. Finally, Ryoko Tsuneyoshi, an incisive commentator on Japan in comparative perspective, caustically evaluates “the advantages and cost of privilege” through the examination system.
The book closes with the remarks of one of the deans of Japanese education, Victor Kobayashi, in his afterword, “Change upon Change: Whither Japan, Whither Japanese Education?” In his closing remarks, Kobayashi provides not only an insightful review of each previous chapter but a thoughtful meditation on the state of Japan following the horrific disasters of 3–11. He ends on a note of hope, emphasizing Japan’s resiliency and how education conserves and advances “the best of world traditions.” A strong text for Japan Studies and Comparative Education classrooms, DeCoker and Bjork’s Japanese Education in an Era of Globalization addresses critical cultural, national, and international issues for Japan and indeed for the world.
David Blake Willis, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, USA
Soai University, Osaka, Japan
THE POLITICS OF WAR MEMORY IN JAPAN: Progressive Civil Society Groups and the Contestation of Memory of the Asia- Pacific War. Sheffield Centre for Japanese Studies/Routledge Series, 49. By Kamila Szczepanska. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xvi, 233 pp. US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-70771-8.
Who are the main grass-root champions of progressive memory politics in Japan today? How are they organized? What are their goals? What is their relationship with the public, the state, and overseas actors? And finally how effective have they been in influencing the Japanese national memory landscape? This book offers answers to these questions. It is original in that it covers five civil society groups that have not yet been examined. It is also timely. It focuses on the latest period of 1990 to 2012 and updates the thus far published literature on this subject.
The five organizations under study—The Center of Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility, Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21, Violence Against Women in War Network Japan, Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace, and POW Research Network Japan—are highly diverse in their structure, size, and focus area. What they share, however, is a desire to educate the public and push the Japanese state to assume greater responsibility for the Japanese wartime past. How successful have they been? Not too successful. As the author acknowledges, they have neither been able to stop the conservative onslaught on the positive policies of the early 1990s, nor have they brought any changes to Japan’s redress practices. Nevertheless the author’s overall evaluation seems to be positive. The existence of the groups and their activities are proof to Szczepanska that Japanese civil society is neither bereft of “civil advocates,” nor politically apathetic or dominated by historical revisionism.
Reading the book, however, one might reach a different conclusion. As is shown, the combined membership of the five associations reaches 7,750. Rival organizations such as the Nihon Izokukai list 1 million members and the Japanese radical right lists approximately 100,000. Anticipating this charge, Szczepanska stresses twice that not numbers but political clout matters in civil activism. Yet, later we learn that none of the five groups have had regular access to Japanese mainstream media or influential political elites (whereas their right-wing opponents do). Moreover, some of the greatest accomplishments of these groups—such as the staging of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal or the pressure put on the Japanese government through the UN to address the issue of comfort women—were largely ignored in Japan. The same applies to the establishment of the WAM museum, which has so far attracted 2,000 visitors per year (hardly comparable to its rivals such as the Yasukuni’s Yūshūkan Museum with 250,000 visitors annually). In short, more than a vigorous progressive civil society, the evidence presented in this book points to a trend many have been observing since the mid-1990s: a drastic decline in the strength, organizational capability and political relevance of the Japanese Left and its progressive movement.
The book also documents another problem that is often discussed in the literature on Japan: the relative amateurishness with which its civil society actors approach political activism. Here it especially applies to the use of the Internet. The five groups’ websites are inexpert and fragmentary; updates are irregular and mostly in Japanese; English content is limited and Korean and Chinese translations non-existent. Szczepanska explains that this is mainly due to the age of the organizations’ members and their lack of funding and staff. But, it is precisely for this reason that the Internet needs to be their priority. A relatively small effort can significantly improve the groups’ communicative capabilities and help them reach critical target audiences that have thus far eluded them: the Japanese youth and overseas actors. In fact, the Chinese and Koreans (also great potential sources for funding) have shown considerable interest in such contacts in the past but were hampered by a lack of appropriate communication channels. Szczepanska does not discuss this in the book.
Neither is she too critical of the five groups’ unwillingness (or inability?) to seek greater support from Japanese policy makers. In her chapter on the relationship between the two, the scholar mostly analyzes their antagonistic relationship with the Liberal Democratic Party. As for potential partners—the Democratic Party of Japan, Social Democratic Party or the Japanese Communist Party—the activists seem to prefer interdependence over closer endorsement by these parties. They do not display a strong will to spread their message or expand their membership, either. An introduction by existing members is necessary for entry into some of these associations. And much of the groups’ communications remain internal while their publications are for sale only. As such, the citizen groups appear to operate as self-contained units within the limits of what is comfortable. Or, as Szczepanska seems to argue, they are civil advocates doing their best in an increasingly difficult conservative environment. Such a lenient evaluation, however, fails to explain why they have attracted so little attention from the Japanese public—a public which largely agrees with their message as the author herself suggests.
The lack of a more critical analysis of the groups’ activities and achievements is a major shortcoming of this work. It is likely linked to the Szczepanska’s over-reliance on the main sources of this research: the organizations’ publications and interviews with their members. Too often the book simply reads as a report based on the self-reporting of the groups themselves. Moreover, there are many passages, such as chapter 2, that add very little to the overall argument and should have been left out. The book’s coherence and utility would have also greatly improved if each group received a separate chapter treatment rather than being treated in a lump. Last but not least, the author explores civil society activism without ever properly introducing its main protagonists. This is a serious flaw as the reader is not allowed to fully understand the many personal linkages that exist between the groups’ leaders and the fact that their circle is fairly limited. One can also not assess their social position in the larger Japanese society and hence the import of the organizations they represent.
In sum, this is the most up-to-date research on Japanese progressive activism in the area of memory politics in the last decade. Those who are seriously interested in this subject might find useful information in this book. Overall, though, the publication leaves much room for improvement.
Ivo Plsek, University of California, Berkeley, USA
THE GREAT KANTŌ EARTHQUAKE AND THE CHIMERA OF NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION IN JAPAN. Contemporary Asia in the World. By J. Charles Schencking. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xxii, 374 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16218-0.
Do putatively natural catastrophes, like the 2011 tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan or the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923, possess the power to spur a fundamental transformation of the societies that experience them? Or do disasters simply reveal—without necessarily altering—the underlying structures of these affected communities? These are overarching questions raised by Charles Schencking’s new book about the 1923 earthquake and the discourses it activated. The Great Kantō Earthquake, which claimed six times as many lives as 3.11 and struck the very heart of a nation, was at the time accorded the status of a civilization up-ending, epoch-making event. Attempting to engage with the fractured terrain of interwar Japan without grappling with this singular seismic calamity might be likened to discussing Europe in the same period but not mentioning the Great War. Yet, it seems that the Kantō quake is only now receiving the sustained critical attention outside of Japan that it deserves, in the form of groundbreaking work, including Gennifer Weisenfeld’s recent Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923 (University of California Press, 2012) and Alex Bates’ forthcoming The Culture of the Quake: The Great Kantō Earthquake and Taishō Japan (University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies Press, 2015). Remarkably, Schencking’s study represents the first comprehensive, monograph-length historical examination of the Great Kantō Earthquake and post-quake reconstruction in English. This is an important and necessary book that was well worth the wait.
A central theme of Schencking’s book is that while the earthquake and fires of September 1923 were unquestionably calamitous for the region and its inhabitants, the Great Kantō Earthquake first had to be constructed (interpreted, packaged, and communicated) as a national catastrophe and turning point through the mediated process of imbuing the event with meaning and making it serve grander national purposes. The key players in this process were those political, bureaucratic, and cultural elites whom the author dubs “disaster opportunists” (7), who saw the earthquake as a “golden opportunity” to rebuild a truly modern Tokyo and reconstruct the nation according to their preferred visions. Despite their high hopes that the earthquake could serve as an animating force to unite the country and compel the people to change suspect social behaviours, however, Schencking emphasizes that progress toward physical reconstruction and spiritual regeneration was limited by contestation and resistance among elites with competing visions and from a populace hoping to quickly return to pre-quake normalcy.
Yet, before prescriptions for the physical and moral reconstruction of the nation, there was the cataclysm itself. The author begins by synthesizing an extraordinarily vivid and compelling account of the earthquake and fires, which shifts smoothly between bird’s-eye overview of the disaster, complete with hard numbers for casualties and damages, and street-level views of “hell on earth,” reflecting the lived, human experience of those days. Although focused primarily on elite perspectives on the earthquake and aftermath, in documenting how the event was experienced and constructed Schencking assembles a veritable orchestra of disparate voices including government officials, religious leaders, novelists and pop song writers, progressive social reformers, and the ordinary residents affected by the disaster and land readjustment. Horror and mourning quickly gave way to opportunism-tinged optimism for the future that would be built atop the rubble, but what is truly striking is how many of Schencking’s earthquake commentators found common ground in identifying a pernicious rot at the heart of Japanese modernity. Reflections on the disaster can read like a catalogue of largely negative national self-images: the Japanese people are varyingly characterized by commentators as undisciplined, easily panicked (a “national defect” exposed by the murderous, rumour-driven Korean panic of early September), weak, corrupt, materialistic, and hedonistic. It may be surprising that the earthquake inspired so few of the kind of comforting affirmations of national strength and resilience seen after 3.11, but the author suggests that “the seismic waves of destruction amplified the sense of anxiety, foreboding, and dislocation” (11) that long predated the quake. Anxieties about the national condition come through most powerfully in the chapter “Admonishment,” which examines the emerging consensus among both religious and non-religious observers that the disaster was “divine punishment” sent as a moral wake-up call for the people to change their decadent ways. Schencking teases out the divide between ideologues who selectively argued that the root sin of 1920s Japan was greed and materialism—and looked approvingly to the destruction of the high-class Ginza neighbourhood as proof—and those who insisted that the problem was the hedonism and frivolity embodied by the decimated Asakusa entertainment district. What might be missing from this discussion are the perspectives of interlocutors who, like satirist Miyatake Gaikotsu, contested the heavenly punishment rhetoric entirely as insulting to the tragedy’s actual victims, or even voices willing to speak in defense of “hedonism.”
One of this book’s key points of interest is the fraught saga of Tokyo’s reconstruction, from 1923 to 1930. Schencking demonstrates how former colonial official Gotō Shinpei’s grandiose and expensive plans to remake the capital along authoritarian high modernist lines were pared down to practical size through the fractious process of determining the national budget. It is significant that the first serious challenges to the very premise that the earthquake represented a “national” (rather than merely regional) disaster emerged amidst competition for finite resources that would demand actual sacrifice. Other cabinet ministers and Imperial Diet representatives were quick to remind the earthquake opportunists that there was more to the nation than its capital—and sectors such as rural Japan and the military also required resources and attention. Earthquake visionaries may, as the author suggests, have been “blinded by desolation” (184–86) to see a blank slate upon which they could project their dreams, where in fact there remained deeply rooted, very local constellations of interests and behaviours resisting radical change. In the end, the transformations attributable to the disaster were modest. Overall, this meticulously researched monograph not only provides a rare picture of how Taishō Japan worked and saw itself, but also casts a sobering light on contemporary expectations that 3.11 will necessarily transform Japan into a stronger, greener, and denuclearized country.
Andre Haag, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, USA
THE JOY OF NOH: Embodied Learning and Discipline in Urban Japan. By Katrina L. Moore. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2014. xv, 124 pp. (Figures.) US$75.00 cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-5059-9.
By the end of 2014, 26 percent of Japan’s population was sixty-five or older, making it the oldest of any country in the world. Japanese women have had the unique distinction of holding the record for longest life expectancy for nearly thirty consecutive years; on average a Japanese woman who reaches sixty will live an additional thirty years. This is not the longevity once found in the countryside, where physical work, close social ties, and traditional diet were keys to long life. Today, longevity in Japan is increasingly urban, middle-class, and marked by a life course break between retirement and pursuits of leisure. Anthropologist Katrina Moore’s ethnography of leisure and learning in Tokyo beautifully captures the rich life stories and “serious play” (7) of older Japanese women engaged in what Thomas Rohlen referred to as the “promise of adulthood” found in creativity, personal growth, and acceptance (“The Promise of Adulthood in Japanese Spiritualism,” in Adulthood, ed. Erik H. Erikson, W.W. Norton and Company, 1978). By approaching questions of what it means to grow older in Japan from the perspective of this relatively new leisure life stage, Moore’s book moves us beyond simple descriptions (or prescriptions) for “successful aging,” and provides a fresh look at some perennial topics in anthropology (gender, embodiment, community, and generation) as well as broader questions of existential meaning, well-being, and identity. We have a lot to learn from the women in Moore’s book.
In the first two chapters, Moore introduces us to the setting, including a very brief introduction to the history, aesthetics and pedagogical traditions of Noh. Noh, an ancient form of Japanese theatre revitalized in the early twentieth century through its popularization among women, is the perfect vehicle for drawing together themes of aging, embodiment, and identity. Moore’s central argument is that women who take up Noh in their later leisure years are cultivating a new self-awareness, a new sense of the possibilities of the body and of personhood in old age. While John W. Traphagan’s ethnography of gateball clubs in rural Japan examined similar dynamics (Taming Oblivion: Aging Bodies and the Fear of Senility in Japan, State University of New York Press, 2000), Moore’s work is the first ethnography to focus on leisure activities among urban Japanese women (certainly a very large and growing section of the aging population and worthy of attention in their own right). By focusing in on a small group of older amateur Noh practitioners, Moore takes readers inside the processes of dissolution and transformation of selfhood that these women refer to as polishing one’s gei, or “art” (103), into old age.
Chapters 3 and 4 focus on embodiment, discipline, and the transformation of the self. As Moore practices alongside the other novices, the reader acquires a deep sense of the tense, warm, vibrating body as it is shaped and reshaped in the able command of the formidable instructor. Like Liza Dalby’s (University of California Press, 2008) descriptions of intense arts training in Geisha, Moore illustrates the cultural complexity of Noh practice: novices are embodying tradition and transcending it; cultivating femininity and transgressing norms; achieving a means of individual expression; and performing bonds between cohorts and generations. Sometimes these women were more like monks than geisha, describing Noh as a means of achieving “no-mind,” or a non-attached, selfless connection to a deeper sense of being that Moore compares to psychologist Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” (77).
It is notable here that Moore focuses throughout on the specificity of the ethnographic setting, keeping her phenomenological and psychological discussions grounded in her empirical observations and extensive interviews. The stories of the performers become interwoven with those of the plays themselves. These are often stories of other kinds of transformations, of lifting up into a spiritual layer of experience, one full of emotion and aspiration. Just as these women have played several roles during their lifetimes, they are not reducible to those roles. There is power in this ability to put on and take off these identities, a power shared in the group like a kind of effervescence (63), and Moore treats this with sensitivity and grace.
Although Moore develops her argument about women’s self-development in later life in contrast to theories of leisure as politics (6,104), a thread of empowerment and even resistance runs throughout the book. This empowerment is less about individual agency and self-reliance than it is relational, constituted in the interactions between teacher and novice and the comradery felt between fellow novices. Older women’s dedication to this community and to the traditions it maintains, forms the basis for reassessing wider circles of relationships, especially in the family. Moore beautifully describes both the dissolution of former identities as mothers and housewives, and aspirations for independence, self-satisfaction and even joy. This process of developing transformational relationships is one that takes time, something these older women were keenly aware of. While some conflict (internal and social) was not absent from the narratives, most women seemed to embrace change with determination and grace. Fittingly, the book ends with a sublime, reflective chapter on acceptance, maturity and the capacity to “be with” others; these are poignant lessons not only about age, or fieldwork, but about the tone and texture of the spirit.
The Joy of Noh is an ideal text for instructors looking for a case study exploring aging, selfhood and the arts in contemporary Japan. The book itself is slim, and the chapters are relatively short, clearly written, well-organized and full of memorable ethnographic vignettes well suited to further discussion. Moore avoids burdening the reader with lengthy theoretical discussions or specialist jargon, making this accessible to a variety of readers.
Jason Danely, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom
MEIJI RESTORATION LOSERS: Memory and Tokugawa Supporters in Modern Japan. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 358. By Michael Wert. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. viii, 225 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-72670-3.
In his 1951 farewell address to Congress, Douglas MacArthur famously remarked that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” As Michael Wert’s Meiji Restoration Losers: Memory and Tokugawa Supporters in Modern Japan shows, the same could not be said of many of the men who fought on the side of the doomed Tokugawa shogunate during the 1868 Meiji Restoration. Like Oguri Tadamasa, the shogunal official at the centre of this study, many Tokugawa loyalists both died—often quite brutally—and faded from popular attention. Whether and on what terms the resurrection of their memories took place often depended on the interplay of politics, historical writing and local activism particular to each case.
Wert’s book follows the narrative fortunes of “Meiji Restoration losers” from the earliest accounts of the Restoration, written in the 1870s, through to twenty-first-century manga. Although Wert touches upon the tumultuous legacies of several of the erstwhile villains of Bakumatsu history, including Ii Naosuke, the Shinsengumi and the northeastern domain of Aizu, the primary focus of this study is the “tortured posthumous history” (1) of Oguri. By choosing a lesser-known figure than Katsu Kaishū or Ii Naosuke, Wert is able to turn Oguri’s relative obscurity into an advantage by using him as the point of entry for a new appraisal of the commemoration of the Meiji Restoration.
Meiji Restoration Losers argues that “local commemorative efforts by memory activists have, over time, changed regional … and national interpretations of the Meiji Restoration” (4). Wert is not merely aiming at the reclamation of a particular silenced memory, but rather at the middle ground of memory, where national narratives and local efforts to commemorate the past shape one another. The analysis is carefully grounded in both scholarship on the Restoration era as well as the wider scholarly literature on memory studies. Wert’s treatment of his primary sources is also impressive, drawing on a wide range of materials that includes documentary sources, histories and biographies, local publications and popular media. His close readings of both the historical and fictionalized narratives of Oguri’s life—such as Ibuse Masuji’s The Priest of Fumon’in Temple (114–118)—are among the book’s highlights.
Wert’s first chapter provides historical background on Oguri’s life, with two main aims: to underline the moments in his career that became reference points for later commentators; and to elucidate Oguri’s relationship with the villagers on his lands, some of whom—inhabitants of Gonda village and their descendants—would go on to become the memory activists behind efforts to rehabilitate his legacy. Chapter 2 explores the treatment of Oguri in the years immediately following the Restoration. Here, Wert focuses on two levels of memory: the national historical discourse, in which critics of the new regime challenged official narratives of the Restoration that painted Oguri as a villain; and in rural Gunma, where Oguri existed primarily in the realm of rumour, and not at all as an object of veneration. The next chapter, which examines commemorations of Oguri between the 1890s and 1940s, is the strongest in the book. Here, Wert shows how efforts to rehabilitate Oguri and other Tokugawa loyalists (particularly Ii Naosuke) required the coordination of a variety of actors. He focuses his analysis on two commemorations: the erection of a bust of Oguri at the Yokosuka Naval Yard—which he had helped build—and the ultimately failed effort to elevate Oguri to court rank. Both of these efforts involved the combined intervention of local activists, local and national politicians, and senior military officers. It is in the detailed accounts of these initiatives that one gets the clearest sense of Wert’s argument in action. Chapter 4 shows how the changed political environment of postwar Japan created new possibilities for the makers of memory to shape narratives of the Meiji Restoration. Here, Wert’s analysis of Marxist historiography, historical fiction (especially the novels of Shiba Ryōtarō), and period films (jidaigeki) is of tremendous value in understanding the roots of many enduring popular narratives of the Restoration era. The final chapter focuses on Oguri’s modest apotheosis in the Heisei (1989–present) era, when he and other Tokugawa loyalists gained a measure of rehabilitation.
Meiji Restoration Losers achieves its aim of revealing the complex processes of commemoration behind the enduring narratives of the Restoration era. Wert makes good use of his primary sources and his analysis is firmly grounded in the relevant scholarship. One minor shortcoming stems from Wert’s decision to structure his analysis around Oguri and incorporate the cases of other Tokugawa loyalists—such as Ii, the Shinsengumi, and the warriors of Aizu—in supplementary fashion. Although this scalpel-sharp focus on a single figure leads to penetrating insights into the way that the processes of commemoration work on the ground, a more sustained treatment of the other “losers” might have given readers a better sense of whether the trajectory of Oguri’s legacy was representative or exceptional. But this rather minor issue does nothing to detract from an otherwise excellent book. Meiji Restoration Losers is essential reading for historians of the Bakumatsu or Restoration eras, and highly recommended for any scholars with an interest in modern Japanese historiography.
D. Colin Jaundrill, Providence College, Providence, USA
JAPAN’S RELATIONS WITH NORTH KOREA AND THE RECALIBRATION OF RISK. Sheffield Centre for Japanese Studies/Routledge Series, 48. By Ra Mason. Abingdon, UK; New York: Routledge, 2014. xx, 196 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-72883-6.
Since the early 1990s, a growing body of scholarship has disputed the robustness and trajectory of Japan’s postwar security institutions. Japan’s deadlocked relationship with North Korea has been a recurrent theme in this analysis. Here, North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, and the past kidnapping of Japanese citizens are deemed critical in explaining Japan’s introduction of new military technology, or the strengthening of the US-Japan security alliance. However, many studies stop short of illustrating the causal pathway which links Japan’s exposure to new security challenges and Tokyo’s alleged departure from its postwar pacifism. Thus, providing fresh empirical and theoretical knowledge, Ra Mason’s Japan’s Relations with North Korea and the Recalibration of Risk disentangles the complex dynamics by which these policy changes have unfolded.
As Mason states, the aim of this book is not to show “positivist causal relations or indisputable conclusions” (xv), but to overcome crude explanations of Japan’s response to North Korea which often relinquish policy change to either external (that is, US-induced) pressure or domestic factors. Rooted in a constructivist view on foreign policy, this book employs a risk perspective and untwists the complexity which surrounds concepts of risk, threat, or harm in the field of international relations. Applying the sociological literature on risk most prominently articulated by the late Ulrich Beck’s “risk society,” Mason’s case study of Japan-North Korea relations illustrates how specific challenges at the international level are framed (or recalibrated) in order to create new domestic discourses and thus to open pathways for policy change. He thus offers a perspective that links political, economic, and societal actors as they attempt to influence the framing of North Korea-related public perceptions in Japan.
Theoretical discussion of the risk concept in international relations (chapter 1) is followed by an outline of Japan’s North Korea policy in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War (chapter 2). During this period, Tokyo’s “conciliatory and all-embracing” (49) response to North Korea’s 1993 Nodong missile launch reveals a low-risk calibration of North Korean threats in Japan. While the Nodong missile was capable of targeting Japan, North Korea did not function as a “source of almost absolute evil […] but was painted more as unknown” (53). This changed dramatically with the North’s launch of the long-range Taepodong 1 missile in 1998 which unleashed a new framing of North Korea illustrated in an outflow in media coverage and Diet statements. As such, the events of 1998 have propelled a shift towards a high-risk calibration of North Korea in Japan. Mason argues that the negative framing of North Korea has served as the background for the diffusion of an “anti-North Koreanism” norm (82), adding to the portfolio of norms affecting Japan’s foreign policy such as constitutional pacifism in the form of Article 9 and US-focused security bilateralism. This norm surfaces in the form of a nationalism which targets North Korea-related ethnic Koreans and their organizations in Japan (most prominently Chongryon) and has propelled security policy change. The norm consolidated as a result of North Korean “spy-boat” intrusions in 1999 and 2001, the unfolding of the abduction issue in 2002 (discussed in chapter 4), and the North’s missile and nuclear tests in 2006 as outlined in chapter 5. Japan has introduced new military technology such as satellite surveillance and the US-sponsored ballistic missile defense system in response. As North Korea has gained high-profile media coverage, Tokyo’s risk calibration in response to events such as the 2009 nuclear test has remained stable at a high level as a hawkish policy coalition—most prominently represented by the rise of Abe Shinzō—accumulated influence and the resolution of the abduction issue became a bipartisan policy objective (as discussed in chapters 6 and 7). In this form, even the change in government in 2009 did not result in a new framing of North Korea but instead in the application of a “fixed framing” (146), which resulted in a continuation of Japan’s hardline policy approach towards North Korea, including the continuation of economic sanctions. Thus, the interaction of market, political, and societal actors in Japan has created an “equilibrium” (163) which has not only resulted in diplomatic deadlock between Tokyo and Pyongyang but in which Japan’s responses to North Korea’s military campaigns such as the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island, or the long-range missile test in 2012 (chapter 8) are “standardised” (170) and thus predicable.
This book employs a mix-method approach combining quantitative and qualitative sources. Thus, in-depth interviews with stakeholders in Japan’s North Korea policy community and contents analysis of Diet minutes are paired with public opinion surveys. In addition, Mason extensively draws on newspaper coverage mainly derived from the liberal Asahi Shimbun, which serves as a feasible litmus test to plot the emergence of a new risk calibration vis-à-vis North Korea which has shifted from a low-risk framing in the early 1990s to a high-risk narrative since 1998. However, several problems remain: first, the attempt to trace the process of risk recalibration as the result of the complex interaction between state, market, and societal actors requires further investigation of the strategic calculations based upon which these actors operate. As constructivist scholars have pointed out, the emergence of new norms is often the result of strategic choices. Second, further debate on the conditions under which new risk framings are likely to generate policy change is required. Thus, how have new forms of media communication and factors such as prolonged economic recession and perceptions of social insecurity since the 1990s, institutional change in the form of a reformed electoral system and bureaucracy, and the decline of the political left affected Japan’s recalibration of risk vis-à-vis North Korea? Avoiding think-theory, an analysis of policy change that extends the focus to other cases such as Japan’s response to risks affiliated with China’s rise or the public’s perception of the safety of nuclear energy in post-Fukushima Japan, may further help to distill critical conditions under which processes of risk recalibration generate policy change. Thus, while this book is required reading for those interested in Japan’s North Korea policy, these critical remarks illustrate how Mason’s risk analysis offers itself to a broader audience willing to apply this innovative approach beyond the field of Japanese studies and national security.
Sebastian Maslow, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan
KOREAN POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Crisis, Security, and Institutional Rebalancing. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 362. By Jongryn Mo and Barry R. Weingast. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. xi, 218 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-72674-1.
In this fascinating and engaging book, the authors, Jongryn Mo and Barry Weingast, seek to explain the transitional process of Korean political and economic development by utilizing main concepts such as limited access order, open access order and double balance. This book offers a new perspective on the development by shedding light on the problem of violence. The authors argue that even Max Weber, not to mention theorists backed by standard economic approaches, tends to ignore the effect of violence on the process of development. Many theorists are under the wrong assumption that the state naturally has monopoly on violence. But the reality is much closer to the fact that the satisfaction of the Weberian monopoly of violence is fulfilled at the ending stage of the development process. Thus, previous development studies, whether they attend to the problem of violence or not, cannot offer a comprehensive explanation on the origins of the state and its role in developing countries, where monopoly of violence is understood as a given rather than something that can be formed in a process.
Based upon this insight, the authors divide social orders into limited access and open access order. In the limited access order, where violence potential is distributed and the state’s monopoly on violence does not hold practice, the problem of violence is solved through limited access to rights, privileges, and organization in politics, economics, and society. The limited access and privileges given to specific groups with potential for violence tend to motivate them into cooperation while also deterring them from violence through the provision of valuable rents. That is, in the limited access order, rents and privileges solve the problem of distributive violence. On the other hand, the open access order is a social order where the problem of violence is completely eradicated, fostering competition and impersonal exchange with the widely accessible form of rights and rule of law. They are critical components in achieving economic and political development.
It is important to note that the transitional process from limited access to open access order may be explained by the mechanism of double balance. A stable society demonstrates a balance between economic and political openness. An imbalance between these ignites a natural tendency to seek equilibrium. A higher degree of political openness relative to economic openness may lead either to increased economic openness or reduced political openness. Conversely, too much economic openness in relation to political openness could lead to either greater political openness or to a reaction that limits economic openness.
This reexamination of the theoretical framework and concepts is immensely important in correctly analyzing the Korean development process. Among late-developed countries, the development of South Korea is viewed as a successful case demonstrating a process of transformation from a limited access to an open access order. The authors detail three significant turning points experienced in South Korea. First, Korea’s authoritarian government, which took power during the 1961 military coup, expanded economic access and gave big business groups, known as chaebol, excessive privileges and rents as a way of arranging the problem of violence. However, direct opposition to the limited access order, by both the persistent communists and the threatening Americans holding the power to withdraw economic and political support, led to Korea’s decision to provide political officials with incentives to trade off short-term rents for long-term economic growth. Second, with this tradeoff, economic growth accompanied by political repression gave rise to an imbalance between economic and political openness. Thus, together with democratization in 1987, the second turning point, the political openness had to be heightened to provide balance. However, at the time, a newly introduced democracy had changed the outlook on incentives for political officials; that is, in order to win an election, politicians sought out campaign funds usually offered by the chaebol and this cozy relationship between politicians and conglomerates debased the government’s ability to monitor and discipline the chaebol. In the end, the failure to accomplish double balance and open access order triggered the financial crisis of 1997. Third, the financial crisis in 1997 was critical to the progress towards an open access order both economically and politically, setting off a series of economic and political reforms. However, whether these reforms have succeeded in creating a stable double balance or were sufficient to counterbalance the chaebol remains to be discussed.
During the 1960s and 1970s, modernization or political development theory struggled to identify general grounds for political development, but failed to explain diverging paths of development in the real world. Since the 1980s, many researchers have focused their research on East Asian development. For instance, the economist approach implemented by the World Bank succeeded in uncovering policies that enabled long-term economic growth in East Asia. The developmental state study was advantageous in explaining why and how political officials in East Asia could choose and sustain those policies. However, previous studies did not provide any insight to the transitional dynamics behind the development process. This book by Mo and Weingast is exceptional in that it provides valuable complexity to this discussion, explaining how the transitional process from limited access to open access order was able to take place and why the dominant coalition had incentives to successfully introduce open access order incrementally in South Korea.
Although the argument is appealing and persuasive, there still remain unclear points that may need development. As shown in the Korean case, the single most important factor to explain development seems to rest on whether a country can effectively sacrifice short-term natural rents to seek out long-term economic gains. But the theoretical framework of this book implies that the provision of rents and privileges is central to overcoming the problem of violence and open access order is fundamentally free from this issue. It still remains unclear whether a developing country should provide rents and privileges to the groups with potential for violence or whether it should bypass this stage for the sake of economic development. Despite this weakness, however, this book with its timely and profound analysis must be included as essential reading for researchers who are interested either in the development issue in general or in the Korean case in particular.
Hyun-Chin Lim, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
MOBILE SUBJECTS: Boundaries and Identities in the Modern Korean Diaspora. Korean Research Monograph, 36. Edited by Wen-hsin Yeh. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2013. 231 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-104-2
The research articles published in Mobile Subjects present historically grounded and theoretically sophisticated accounts of transnational mobility in modern Korea over the long twentieth century. This collection demonstrates how Korean encounters with people, laws and institutions of other nations within and beyond the Korean Peninsula shaped modern ideas of nation and identity. While recognizing the centrality of discourses of Korean ethnic nationalism, the essays detail how ideas of national belonging have been shaped and contested in the context of movement, migration, and hierarchies of power between nations. The forces of global capitalism and the managerial state are ever present in detailed accounts of Koreans negotiating Japanese colonialism, maneuvering within United States occupation, and migrating to China for economic opportunities. Koreans are presented as central agents in the radical changes that transformed the nation through accounts that reveal the strategic and at times contradictory actions that took place in borderlands of language, ideology and behaviour.
Koreans were “the most mobile subjects in East Asia” at the beginning of the twentieth century (4) notes editor Wen-hsin Yeh. Yeh situates Korean mobility within the context of modern foreign encounters and the construction of a powerful territorial ideology of ethnic nationalism based on the myth that the Korean Peninsula was the place of origin and natural homeland for a homogenous race of people. While many scholars have examined the strategic uses of territoriality, the essays in this volume foreground the processes of cultural interaction, dislocation and dispossession as critically important to understanding the actual experiences of Koreans and to shaping understandings of the modern nation. The text sets itself apart from other collections on the Korean diaspora by refusing to define diaspora against nation as a solid reference point, but rather demonstrates how Korean modernity itself has been shaped by experiences of transnational movement and foreign encounter.
The individual research articles focus on migrations and engagements between Korea and China, Japan and the United States. The chapters regarding relations with China are primarily concerned with the Korean economic migration within the Sino-Korean border region. Kwangmin Kim’s chapter on Korean migration to Manchuria in the nineteenth century offers a rich account of the negotiated, contentious, and shifting relationship between Korean agricultural labourers with local and regional Chinese officials. While Kim’s work focuses on the political contexts that enabled Korean labourers to eventually settle on a long-term basis, Yishi Liu traces the lives of Korean workers in the Yanbian region and their position vis-à-vis the Chinese state through detailed analyses of Korean vernacular architecture. Liu’s descriptions span over a century of vernacular architecture detailing how Korean homes in the region reveal the lifestyles and the status of the Korean population. The border region received a great number of North Korean economic refugees after the fall of the Soviet Union and a series of natural disasters. While many predicted that the regime would fall given its economic collapse and the subsequent mass emigration, Ivo Plsek explains that the government retained its power through the crisis as refugees functioned as a kind of safety valve for the regime.
Rather than focus strictly on experiences of colonial displacement and dispossession, the essays on Korean experiences of Japanese colonialism highlight the contradictory and differential experiences shaped within colonial institutions and ideologies. As Yeh states, the essays “draw attention to disparities in the hierarchical spatial positions of Korea in nationalistic and colonial discourses” (6). In an essay on Japan’s lucrative opium economy, Miriam Kingsberg details the role of Koreans in distributing and selling opium to Chinese people in Manchuria. Koreans acted as imperial agents who enabled Japanese authorities to avoid the cultural contamination associated with Chinese opium users while enriching themselves through their presumed racial proximity to the Japanese. On the Korean Peninsula, the institution of Japanese family law radically altered the legal interpretations of household claims to inheritance, creating new opportunities for women to claim their rights to divorce and inheritance. Sungyun Lim notes that the figure of the “moving woman” who left her married family to selfishly pursue her own desires became a symbol of anxieties around changing family dynamics and the increased power of some women.
Taejin Hwang and Jane Cho bring rich archival detail to accounts of the United States occupation, revealing how the presence of the United States in Korea shaped Korean institutions, cultural practices, and ideologies. Hwang presents American military camptowns as “‘borderlands’ between two sovereign states” that shaped South Korean modernity in the postwar era of the 1950s and 1960s (88). The essay details the essential role of camptowns in shaping economic policy, domestic laws, foreign policy, and immigration patterns between South Korea and the United States. Cho focuses on how study abroad in the United States defined an elite class by tracking the institutional and ideological support for such studies. In the postwar years, cultural discourses considered an American education the pinnacle of academic achievement and praised those who succeeded in obtaining advanced degrees in the United States as national heroes.
This collection operates as a source book for those looking to engage in research on cross-border movements, colonial modernities, and diaspora in Korea and the Northeast Asian region. As the product of a multi-year project at the University of California Berkeley, this volume demonstrates the generative potential of intensive and extended engagement on a central research question. The essays present a number of approaches to the question of mobility and offer important methodological insights into effective inter-disciplinary engagement. Given the quality of original research presented in this volume, it is clear that the authors will have a lasting impact in the field of Korean Studies.
Rachael M. Joo, Middlebury College, Middlebury, USA
EASTERN LEARNING AND THE HEAVENLY WAY: The Tonghak and Ch’ŏndogyo Movements and the Twilight of Korean Independence. Hawai‘i Studies on Korea. By Carl F. Young. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. xxiii, 271 pp. (Figures, Table, B&W photos.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3888-1.
The 1894 Tonghak Rebellion and the 1919 March First Movement are widely recognized as significant moments in Korea’s modern history. Carl Young’s Eastern Learning and the Heavenly Way seeks to fill in some gaps between these two events by tracing the organizational and ideological changes that transformed the Tonghak (Eastern Learning) movement into Ch’ŏndogyo (Teaching of the Heavenly Way), a group whose members were significant leaders of the March First Movement.
The story that Young tells is one of change and transformation. There is change in leadership: from the founder of the Tonghak religion, the “Great Divine Teacher” Ch’oe Che-u (1824–1864), to the “Divine Teacher” Ch’oe Si-hyŏng (1827–1898), to the “Leader of the Great Way” Son Pyŏng-hŭi (1861–1922). Son functions as the chief protagonist in Young’s story.
There is change in geography. Tonghak began in the southeast, the home of its founder. Later, a greater number of adherents were found in central and southwestern Korea, which led to the Chŏlla region being the locus for the 1894 Tonghak Rebellion. Still later, the greatest number of adherents were located in the northern provinces of Hwanghae and P’yŏngan.
There is change in doctrinal emphasis and organizational structure. The folk traditions and “superstitions” of Ch’oe Che-u gradually gave way to more codified and sophisticated doctrines and liturgical practices designed to appeal to a more “modern” audience. It was only in this later period that the doctrine of in nae ch’ŏn (humans are heaven) was fully articulated despite the claims of some that it originated with Ch’oe Che-u, if not earlier.
Most remarkable is the change in core focus and political orientation of the group. What began as an amalgamation of Korean folk tradition and Confucian, Buddhist, and even Christian elements took on political and social overtones as Tonghak rebels fought against local corruption and foreign, particularly Japanese, imperialism in Korea. However, when Son Pyŏng-hŭi fled Korea for Japan in 1901, he began to refocus Tonghak away from Korean exclusivism and toward a universal religion with worldwide application. Moreover, as Son mingled with other Korean exiles, he also began to adopt what can only be called a pro-Japanese orientation. Not only did he see Japan as an exemplar of “reform and progress,” but he openly supported Japan in the Russo-Japanese War (going so far as to donate ten thousand yen to the war effort in 1904).
This dramatic shift led to Tonghak becoming increasingly enmeshed in Korean politics, first with the sponsorship of the Chinbohoe (Progress Society) in 1904 and then with the merger of the Chinbohoe with the pro-Japanese Ilchinhoe (Advancement Society) later that same year. However, when the Ilchinhoe supported a Japanese protectorate, Son broke with the group, renamed Tonghak Ch’ŏndogyo, and sought to distance his organization from political affairs. This cost the group in resources and membership but ultimately proved vital for Ch’ŏndogyo’s continued existence, as any organization deemed political in nature (including the pro-Japanese Ilchinhoe) was abolished by the Japanese, but religious groups were allowed to continue.
Ch’ŏndogyo generally steered clear of politics from that time forward although some leading figures in the organization participated in educational and political activities. But it was this general focus on religion and the decision of Son and other Ch’ŏndogyo leaders to eschew advocacy of revolution or independence that allowed the organization to continue. Paradoxically this is why Ch’ŏndogyo still existed in 1919 when its leaders changed course once again and openly advocated independence from the Japanese.
Those interested in late-Chosŏn religious and political movements have much to learn from Eastern Learning and the Heavenly Way. Young definitely succeeds in his stated goal of filling in large gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the period between 1894 and 1919. Unfortunately, Young’s account ends in 1910, leaving the reader wondering what additional shifts and transformations might have taken place between 1910 and 1919.
In addition, Young’s seeming reluctance to fully utilize primary and secondary sources above and beyond those directly related to Tonghak/Ch’ŏndogyo makes for some frustrating omissions. For example, Young mentions meetings between Tonghak leaders and a “General Tamura” in which they plotted to jointly overthrow the Korean government. But Young seems remarkably uncurious regarding who this “General Tamura” really was (mostly likely, he was Lieutenant General Tamura Iyozo; 田村怡与造), how serious these plans were, etc.
More generally, Young does an excellent job of bringing in secondary literature from further afield, such as his invocation of Benedict Anderson’s “imagined communities,” Timothy Brook’s notion of “collaborationist nationalism,” or the idea of “Protestant Buddhism” in Sri Lanka. These help illuminate themes and trends that Young sees taking place in Korea. However, the book might have benefitted from engaging with a host of secondary literature a bit closer to home. Acknowledging the sizable and growing body of literature on Kwangmu-era Korea (1897–1907) would have probably resulted in a more nuanced depiction of the Korean government rather than Young’s repeated characterization of it simply as “conservative.” “The Japanese,” too, generally come across as static and monolithic, a view that even a cursory examination of classics in the field such as Hilary Conroy’s The Japanese Seizure of Korea (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960) and Peter Duus’s The Abacus and the Sword (University of California Press, 1995) would serve to dispel.
Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that the timing of the book’s publication means that it was likely in the final stages of production when two other works that have much to say about Young’s chosen topic were published: George Kallander’s Salvation Through Dissent (University of Hawaii Press, 2013) and Yumi Moon’s Populist Collaborators (Cornell University Press, 2013). Young does mention both authors’ dissertations but a more robust engagement with the actual monographs, their arguments, and sources would likely have greatly enhanced the persuasive power and significance of Young’s work. But Young can hardly be faulted for waiting for these other works to see the light of day. Those interested in late-Chosŏn religion and politics will likely be discussing all three works for some time to come.
Kirk W. Larsen, Brigham Young University, Provo, USA
WHEN THE FUTURE DISAPPEARS: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Janet Poole. New York: Columbia University Press, 2014. xi, 286 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16518-1.
When the Future Disappears: The Modernist Imagination in Late Colonial Korea by Janet Poole is a contemplative and immersive piece of scholarship. In it, Poole demands that we approach the fiction of the late colonial period with eyes and ears that are attuned to the shifts in language policies and concepts of time, and that we remain mindful of the dramatic changes in the social and political fabric that structured late colonial narratives. Her book urges us to better attend to and appreciate the kind of choices writers faced as Korea became increasingly implicated in Japan’s oppressive mobilization policies of the 1930s and 1940s.
As the title indicates, the interrogative impulse in each chapter is driven by Poole’s main argument: that late 1930s modernist fiction and philosophical writing was shaped by the sense of a disappearing future, borne out of the disheartening conviction that Japan’s imperialization, war mobilization, and language policies had sealed the fate of the Korean language and nation. Her purpose, then, is to map out the varied responses of writers to this crisis, and to better understand the significance of their work—not with the advantage of hindsight but on their own terms, as heartfelt responses to what would have been a profound apprehension of a foreclosed future.
According to Poole, this sense of a disappearing future originates partly in the reordering of temporal concepts. She finds that the idea of progressive time, so endemic to modernity, to be one of the more egregious symptoms of the late colonial period. In her reading, the walls of time were closing in; Korea was being launched forward, but was facing a future that was at best unclear, at worst an unambiguous finale marked by Korea’s full absorption into Japan, not just territorially but also culturally and linguistically. She identifies two main responses to this crisis in fiction: a focus on the “unruly detail” of the everyday (Ch’oe Myŏngik, Kim Namchŏn); and the turn toward a private sphere or liminal space (Yi T’aejun, Sŏ Insik, Pak T’aewŏn, Ch’oe Chaesŏ) whose in-between nature produced an effect of “double exposure” that, by capturing multiple temporal layers, also challenged the seemingly inevitable momentum underwritten by colonial fascism.
This engrossing monograph is all the more fascinating when put in conversation with recent publications in the field of colonial literature by Chris Hanscom and Sunyoung Park. These scholars have written about the same time frame and authors, and each has come up with a different explanation for the responses of colonial fiction and non-fiction to the crises of assimilation, wartime mobilization and censorship. Productive questions arise from reading them side-by-side, such as: can modernist writing be best explained through the understanding of the period as a crisis of representation symbolized by the colonial “double bind” (Chris Hanscom, The Real Modern : Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea, Harvard University Asia Center, 2013) or by a disappearing future (Poole)? Was Kim Namch’ŏn’s focus on the mundane objects and routines of the everyday driven by his desire to “resist the excesses of dogmatic socialism and the utopian visions of the pan-Asianist ideology” (863) with the purpose of illuminating the totality of the everyday (Sunyoung Park, “Everyday Life as Critique in Late Colonial Korea: Kim Namch’ŏn’s Literary Experiments, 1934–43,” Journal of Asian Studies 68.03, 2009: 861–893)? Or was Kim Namch’ŏn and Ch’oe Myŏngik’s focus on the everyday an impulse that served to privilege a scientific, objective gaze that could give unmediated access to the world and thus intervene in the “contentious realm of colonial representation” (29) and conjure up a heterogeneous time that allowed for a personal negotiation of the experiences of modernity?
Poole’s overriding argument—that the sense of a foreclosed future is what shaped the fiction and non-fiction of the wartime mobilization period—is compelling, all the more because it demands that the contemporary reader consider the choices that writers who wished to continue their creative lives faced in this period. She pleads that we bear in mind that these writers did not have the privilege of knowing that everything would change after August 15, 1945, and that we remember that “what was believed possible at one moment also matters” (207). Yet while the idea that the future was disappearing is captivating, one wonders if the sense of a disappearing future was the only driving force of creative writing in this period. For example, Hyŏn Tŏk (1909–?) published a series of linked stories in 1938–39 in the Sonyŏn Chosŏn Ilbo that explores the way a society of children navigate the world around them, first by imitating adults and then by inventing creative solutions to issues of economic inequality and gender discrimination in a delightful and optimistic manner. Indeed, the very persistence of children’s fiction written in Korean up until 1940 suggests that not all writers had given up on the impulse to reflect, anticipate, and shape the experience of the future generation with what was a decidedly forward-looking gaze.
Ultimately, however, Poole’s book is arresting and deeply thought-provoking. She crafts her narrative in a lyrical style that is very moving, and she offers a model of close reading with an attentiveness to language, content, and form that serves as a reminder that the ultimate satisfaction from reading can only emerge with painstaking re-reading. Another strength of Poole’s lies in the manner in which she finds sympathetic resonance to her argument in a range of scholarship on colonial literatures and modernities; she invites the reader familiar with Korea to consider the ways in which the conundrum of the colonized as been worked out in other contexts. Lastly, her inclusion of Korean literature in the Japanese language revisits the perennial question of collaboration, and her ability to discuss these works sheds light in the darkest corners of the canon and begs a consideration of how literary histories of Korean may expand through a consideration of Korea’s excised and excluded voices.
Dafna Zur, Stanford University, Stanford, USA
ASSIMILATING SEOUL: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945. Asia Pacific Modern, 12. By Todd A. Henry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. xviii, 299 pp. (Figures.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-27655-0.
Assimilating Seoul is an example of what Prasenjit Duara called “rescuing history from the nation.” Instead of the commonplace story of Korea under Japanese colonialism—the original annexation, the cruelties of military rule, the 1919 uprising, and the emergence of the Korean left and right—Todd Henry gives us a cityscape full of interactions between residents of neighbourhoods, varieties of acceptance of Japanese influence, and arenas in which ambitious Japanese programs met, and were altered by, Korean resistance. What emerges is a detailed study of Korean and Japanese identity and adaptability in the colonial setting between 1910 and 1945, followed by an insightful epilogue about the long-term influence of the experience on the city and its people ever since.
In Assimilating Seoul, Henry offers studies of different types of engagement: spiritual, civic, and material. He discusses “contact zones,” areas of the city where Koreans and Japanese mixed and affected each other. Always in the background is the hypocrisy of the Japanese intention to assimilate Koreans by declaring them Japanese subjects without ever actually allowing them status as full citizens. Their program in Seoul enables Henry to show how this was done in civic life: for example, via the conversion of Korean palaces into public spaces—a zoo, assorted museums, exhibition halls, and fairgrounds—and the invitation to Koreans to interact with Japanese spirits at Shintō shrines.
The effects of Japan’s geographical reorganization of Seoul—the major streets, the imposing new buildings, the transportation system and much else—remain visible today. They were permanent changes, and Henry’s epilogue will delight anyone familiar with what has happened, for example, to the Kyŏngbok Palace, City Hall, and the main railroad station. It is still visible in Seoul’s “north-town” (Pukch’on, the district housing Korea’s former elites) and the still-extant landmarks of what once was Japantown (around Honmachi, now renamed Ch’ungmuro), Koganemachi (Ŭlchiro), Meijimachi (Myŏngdong), and Nandaimondori (now the Bank of Korea and Shinsegye Department Store, originally the Mitsukoshi Department Store). Beginning with the Japanese planners, the main north-south avenue was widened and straightened from the colonial headquarters/Kyŏngbok Palace all the way past City Hall, South Gate, and up to the Korea Shrine, the headquarters of Japanese spirituality in Korea. This avenue has been enlarged many times and now encompasses a space reminiscent of Tiananmen Square or the Washington Mall. In this way the Japanese purpose of creating great spaces for civic engagement continues as a goal of successive South Korean governments.
Though the details in Assimilating Seoul are fascinating for anyone who knows the city, Todd Henry is interested in mapping the overlapping lives of Koreans and Japanese. He emphasizes the role of Japanese settlers, a population easily neglected in favour of studies about the Japanese regime. Many common Japanese were living in Korea before it became a colony in 1910, and the character of Seoul was much affected by their conflicts and accommodations with Koreans at all levels of colonial society—in markets, schools, the police force, neighbourhoods, and even intermarriages.
One of Henry’s major discussions is of Shintō in Korea, namely the construction of the Korea Shrine (Chōsen Jinja) on the slope of Namsan (South Mountain) in 1925. This was a symbol of state Shintō across the city’s central valley from the massive Government-General building, the colonial headquarters occupying the front precincts of the Kyŏngbok Palace. Since 1898 there had been a smaller Seoul Shrine for the use of Japanese residents. The opening of the Korea Shrine on higher ground created a controversy within the Japanese resident community, since its purpose was to bring in and include Koreans who, as imperial subjects, were now meant to worship there. Analyses of the critical problem of Shintō in Korea have always turned on how it affected Koreans and on the distinction between “sect Shintō,” which was religious, and “state Shintō.” The colonial authorities tried to sell Koreans on the idea that paying respects at Shintō shrines was a civil, not religious, rite: a civic duty. Henry’s point is an interesting one: that Japanese in Korea themselves were conflicted about whether Koreans belonged, or could possibly participate in, Shintō. His chapter on this problem is an important addition to our understanding of the shrine controversy as a political problem in the colony.
The epilogue brings the Shintō problem forward into the postwar era by detailing the near-instantaneous disestablishment of the Seoul and Korea Shrines by both Japanese (seeking to remove them before they could be desecrated by Koreans) and Koreans who then tried to re-sacralize their locations by erecting statues of patriotic Korean figures including An Chung-gŭn and even Syngman Rhee. The main shrine buildings on Namsan, for example, were used by Presbyterians for their theological seminary in the 1950s, and there were massive outdoor Easter sunrise services on the site for several years.
Civic reorganization of Koreans by Japanese included public health measures aimed at reducing the amount of disease rampant in Seoul’s back alleyways and neighbourhoods. Henry refers to the myriad narrow passages that still honeycomb the blocks of the old central city of Seoul as “capillaries,” noting the failure of Japanese efforts to develop the city in the inner neighbourhoods. Hygiene was a laudable goal for the regime as it tried to “civilize” the Koreans. However, apart from the force majeure employed by the government to appropriate private land as it cut fine new thoroughfares through Seoul’s huge city blocks, the effects of Japanese planning were scarcely felt in the back alleys.
Todd Henry’s Assimilating Seoul will be required reading for anyone studying the Japanese colonial period in Korea, for scholars of colonialism in general, and for students wanting to look beyond purely nationalist narratives for understandings of the past.
Donald N. Clark, Trinity University, San Antonio, USA
North Korea remains somewhat of an enigma in international relations, and observers of its foreign policy often try to make sense of its decision-making process. Some view North Korea’s foreign policy making as a mystery, in which Pyongyang’s motivations are inscrutable and its behaviour unpredictable. Others argue that North Korea’s foreign policy is in fact guided by rationality and its actions are geared towards achieving specific objectives that the regime deems important for its survival. While these two perspectives are not mutually exclusive, North Korea-US Relations under Kim Jong Il could arguably fall within the category of the latter group. Using organizational learning theory, author Ramon Pacheco Pardo provides a fresh perspective and a comprehensive account of North Korea’s considerations in its bargaining with the United States under the leadership of Kim Jong Il. This time period spans the US administrations of presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and the first term of Barack Obama.
Pardo establishes the context for his study succinctly in the first chapter. Despite being a nuclear state and possessing one of the largest armies in the world, North Korea is justifiably a weak power—in both military and economic terms—when compared to its Northeast Asian neighbours and the United States. Given North Korea’s status as a weak state, Pardo identifies three tactics it could use in bargaining with stronger powers: alignment, brinkmanship, and participation in international regimes. North Korea selects its tactics based on its learning, which Pardo (7–8) defines as “an active process whereby an actor analyzes its experiences and reconceptualizes its understanding of the world accordingly.” He addresses two types of learning in the book: simple and complex. The former reflects no change in the state’s goals, but an adjustment of the tactics used to achieve the goals. The latter, on the other hand, indicates changes in both the goals and tactics of the state.
North Korea’s fundamental objective in its relations with the United States is to normalize bilateral ties. Pardo highlights that this goal has generally remained constant under the Kim regime, with North Korea adjusting its bargaining tactics based on its understanding of international developments, its past experiences, as well as the actions of other states. Pyongyang’s simple learning is reflected in its decisions on whether or not to align with its Northeast Asian neighbours; whether or not to carry out brinkmanship; and whether or not to participate in international regimes such as the Agreed Framework, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and the Six-Party Talks. Following its nuclear test in October 2006, however, North Korea turned its attention to interim goals such as peaceful coexistence with the United States and, subsequently, the conclusion of a peace treaty and the possession of a nuclear deterrent against the United States. The emergence of such interim goals and the consequent change in tactics, Pardo contends, are proof of Pyongyang’s complex learning.
The book’s structure helps to reinforce the clarity of Pardo’s argument. The discussion is organized according to consecutive time periods, in which the start/end point of each time period is marked by a significant event in North Korea-US relations. Within each section, Pardo assesses Pyongyang’s objective(s) and examines in relative detail its employment of the three tactics mentioned above. Overall, Pardo has presented a convincing argument. It is indeed conceivable that North Korea’s bargaining with the United States is affected by what it has learnt from past experiences, and Pardo presents credible evidence for his case.
Two clarifications might help to enhance the book’s strengths. First, in discussing North Korea’s brinkmanship during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, Pardo on occasion mentions different types of brinkmanship, such as verbal, diplomatic, or nuclear. At least one account of verbal brinkmanship was considered by the author “routine” (115) and thus of little importance in the study of North Korea’s foreign policy. It would be good if these different types of brinkmanship and their significance had been briefly explained at the beginning of the book. This would help readers to understand what Pardo considers brinkmanship by North Korea, as well as which types he views as significant for North Korea-US relations. Second, Pardo identifies two instances where North Korea failed to learn from experience—from January 2001 to March 2003, and from January to May 2009—resulting in its employment of unsuitable tactics. In both cases, North Korea’s learning was said to be limited by the leadership’s “cognitive structures” and “competency traps” (122). However, it could also be argued that in these two instances North Korea was acting in a way that reflected learning from past experience—for example, its brinkmanship in late 2002/early 2003 could be due to the fact that past brinkmanship had eventually led to engagement with the United States. Perhaps, then, one could consider the distinction between the intentions and outcomes of the bargaining tactics.
Nevertheless, the book undoubtedly makes an important contribution to the literature on North Korea-US relations. Pardo’s utilization of organizational learning theory offers a unique analytical lens through which to understand Pyongyang’s foreign policy making with regard to the United States. Significantly, the book has helped to shed light on the considerations of North Korea in its bargaining with the United States. The book’s rich content and the insights it provides into the North Korean and American decision-making processes makes it valuable to anyone seeking to understand the drivers in North Korea-US relations during Kim Jong Il’s leadership. Pardo’s approach could also suggest useful implications for North Korea’s policy towards the United States following Kim’s passing. Ultimately, North Korea wants to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations. It remains to be seen if Kim’s successor, Kim Jong Un, will be able to achieve this goal.
Sarah Teo, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR OPERATIONALITY: Regional Security & Nonproliferation. Edited by Gregory J. Moore; foreword by Graham T. Allison. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. x, 302 pp. (Figures.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4214-1094-4.
Based on this book’s title, its contents would seem to be an argument on the degree of operationality of North Korean nuclear weapons, but since, as the editor clearly writes in the introduction, North Korea “has not achieved nuclear operationality,” the focal point is in fact not the degree of operationality. Rather, the primary question the book poses is: What is at stake for Northeast Asian regional security and for the international nuclear nonproliferation regime if North Korea were to successfully develop nuclear weapons capability and marry this to its missile technology or another potential delivery system, thus achieving nuclear operationality? To this, the authors try to provide answers from political, security, economic and international relations perspectives.
This book consists of an introduction and three parts, each comprising several chapters, and a conclusion. In the Introduction, the editor addresses North Korea’s present operational status, provides an overview of U.S. policy toward North Korea and describes the path Pyongyang has taken toward nuclear weaponization.
Part 1 is titled “The North Korean Nuclear Dilemma.” In chapter 1, “Translating North Korea’s Nuclear Threats into Constrained Operational Reality,” Peter Hayes and Scott Bruce point out that North Korea has a number of strategic uses for the nuclear capabilities it already possesses, and they further propose establishing a regional nuclear-free zone.
In chapter 2, “North Korean Nuclear Weaponization: A U.S. Policy Failure,” Gregory J. Moore (who is also the volume’s editor) states that the U.S. policy since the first North Korean nuclear crisis in 1994 has been a failure, and suggests that the only way to a solution is preemptive recognition and better relations between the two countries.
Part 2, “What’s at Stake for Northeast Asia?” consists of surveys on the reactions of North Korea’s neighbours—South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia—to the potential of North Korean nuclear operationality and its regional security implications.
In chapter 3, “The Implications for Seoul of an Operationally Nuclear North Korea,” Jong Kun Choi and Jong-yun Bae argue that since the threat from North Korea’s conventional weapons statically exists for Seoul, North Korean nuclear operationality has limited influence on Seoul as seen in public opinion polls and the South Korean stock price index. They also suggest that if North Korea were to move to operationalize its nuclear capabilities the only option for South Korea would be to engage with North Korea while following a policy of containment.
In chapter 4, “Beijing’s Problem with an Operationally Nuclear North Korea,” Gregory J. Moore points out that though China is clearly against North Korea’s nuclear policy, it supports the country economically to prevent its collapse, because the collapse would affect China both politically and economically.
In chapter 5, “Japan’s Response to North Korea’s Nuclear and Missile Tests,” Katsuhisa Furukawa and Hajime Izumi explain why North Korea’s nuclear programs have not pushed Japan toward acquiring its own nuclear weapons, and state that the abduction issue is more important for the Japanese than the nuclear one.
In chapter 6, “Russia’s De Facto Nuclear Neighbor,” Georgy Toloraya argues that Russia is concerned about its security in the case North Korean nuclear know-how or weapons were to make their way into the hands of terrorists or separatists, and so expects the U.S. to start a new approach rooted in engagement with economic incentives.
In chapter 7, “Washington’s Response to an Operationally Nuclear North Korea,” David Kang suggests that since China will not put further pressure on Pyongyang, and the military option is not realistic, Washington should pursue economic engagement with Pyongyang.
In chapter 8, “North Korea’s Nuclear Blackmail,” Andrei Lankov concludes that North Korea will not give up its nuclear program, for it is necessary not only to blackmail the outside world, but also to demonstrate the legitimacy of the “Kim Family Regime” to both the military and civilian population of North Korea. Thus, the world will have to learn how to live with a nuclear North Korea.
Part 3 is titled, “What’s at Stake for the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime?” and deals with the implications of an operationally nuclear North Korea for the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
In chapter 9, “India’s Nuclear Exceptionalism and the North Korean Nuclear Case,” Daniel Twining explains why the U.S. gave its blessing to India’s nuclear operationality in contrast to the North Korean case, and points out two reasons: India never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and India has acceded to the key parts of the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
In chapter 10, “Global Consequences of an Operationally Nuclear North Korea,” Maria Rost Rublee points out that since different standards are applied to India and Israel, North Korea and Iran do not take nuclear norms seriously, and warns that if North Korea achieves nuclear operationalization without paying any cost for its transgressions, the nuclear nonproliferation regime will be devastated.
In chapter 11, “DPRK Nuclear Challenges and the Politics of Nonproliferation,” Jing-dong Yuan also warns that the unchallenged operationalization of North Korea’s nuclear capability would seriously harm the Nonproliferation regime, while pointing out North Korea is the first country to have acceded to and then withdrawn from the NPT.
In the conclusion, the editor summarizes the findings of the book and their implications for the security and the nonproliferation regime, and discusses international relations theory, its implications for the North Korean nuclear issue, and insights into the North Korean nuclear issue that international relations theory offers.
This book was published in early 2014, so it covers the period up until the third North Korean nuclear test of February 13, 2013. There have been no notable developments in the North Korean nuclear issue since then, so the circumstances described in this book have not changed much.
As the editor writes in the book’s conclusion, this study aids at a better understanding of the seriousness of the issue of a nuclear operational North Korea, and offers some fresh thinking on methods for its resolution.
Tomohiko Kawaguchi, Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan
The Korean demilitarized zone is one of the most heavily armed borders in the world and the most well-known vestige of a war that never officially ended. Despite this (hyper)visibility, as well as a number of popular explorations of its status as a “dangerous” tourist destination and “accidental paradise” teeming with rare species, the DMZ has largely evaded a focused and comprehensive scholarly inquiry. When mentioned, the Korean borderland is usually reduced to a dramatic hook for historical or political investigations of the peninsula that it divides, as if the DMZ were not a dynamic microcosm of these same historical and political forces. Indeed, these blurbs reinforce the popular Cold War imaginary of the DMZ as an impassable borderland frozen in time, obscuring the DMZ’s complexity as a fluid, permeable and multifaceted border that not only exists in its designated location near the thirty-eighth parallel, but also extends into the hearts, minds and bodies of both Koreas as an interpellative force. This idea of the DMZ as both a contained physical space and an uncontainable imaginary lies at the centre of Suk-Young Kim’s necessary, illuminating, and moving interdisciplinary book, DMZ Crossing: Performing Emotional Citizenship Along the Korean Border. By reframing the DMZ as a discursive constellation of separations, reunions, prohibitions, longings, warnings, remembrances, erasures, pain, pleasure, boundary-making and boundary-undoing, Kim expands and deepens the significance of what it means to cross a border that is not meant to be crossed.
Kim, a professor of theater and East Asian studies at the UC Santa Barbara and a noted expert on North Korean cultural production, draws on an impressive range of sources from both Koreas, including documentary and narrative films, theatrical productions, and museum exhibitions, to trace the ideological heft, mis/alignments, and effects of such mis/alignments in the crosser and audiences for the crossing. What these multiple border-crossings produce, suggests Kim in her introduction, is “an alternative type of citizenship based on emotional affiliation rather than a constitutional delineation” (4), or “emotional citizenship.” As a transgressive and intimate form of belonging, emotional citizenship “resists the state’s conventional right to define citizenship”—significant since both states have long mobilized their respective citizens’ bodies and emotions to see each other as a perpetual enemy—by articulating an unwieldy and embodied affective grammar. Thus, emotional citizenship carries the potential to dislodge Cold War ideological conditioning and foster shared, rather than segregated, historical and cultural affinities.
Indeed, Kim’s close reading of cultural productions seems to follow a kind of methodology of reunification, of “sameness and difference” (3). Kim threads these principles throughout the following chapters, often comparing cultural productions of the same genre from both Koreas, and noting differences in context and content while emphasizing their similar emotional registers. For example, in the first chapter, Kim offers a close reading of two plays written in 1958—Thus Flows the Han River by South Korean playwright Yu Chi-jin and Ten Years by North Korean playwright Sin Go-song—that stresses the ways in which both plays, despite the oppositional ideological contexts of their emergence, stage similar feelings of danger and frustration of crossing, or the inability to cross, physical and imaginary borders. The second chapter compares two feature films—South Korea’s The DMZ (1965) and North Korea’s The Fates of Geumhui and Eunhui (1975)—in which Kim emphasizes their shared narrative trajectory of familial sameness over a warring difference. The third chapter compares two documentaries, North Korea’s Hail to Lim Su-kyung, the Flower of Unification (1989) and South Korea’s Repatriation (2003). In the former, Kim offers a sharp gendered analysis of the ways in which the documentary, through its elevation of South Korean college student Lim Su-kyung to the status of a revolutionary hero for daring to cross into the North, rendered visible both her Christian identity and her “uninhibited” gender presentation that countered dominant North Korean notions of the ideal body. In the latter, Kim notes the film’s humble tone and first-person perspective of the director, creating an intimate relationship of kinship between himself and the viewer, and between himself and his subjects—long-time unconverted North Korean political prisoners. The fourth chapter compares the 2010 DMZ Special Exhibition at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul and the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang. Kim argues that both employ new technologies of seeing that enhance performative embodiments of memory that forge an emotional affiliation with objects on display, and thus, a transcendent kinesthetic empathy. The last chapter focuses on the odd co-existence of recreational activities, consumptive practices and indelible reminders of national trauma at Imjingak Pavilion Peace Park. Kim convincingly argues that leisure, pleasure and consumption can be understood as meaningful emotional transactions that index a history of loss within a space of limited mobility and seeing.
While impressive in its interdisciplinary acumen, archival scope, and analytical depth, certain analytical moments did not go as far as they could have, and certain claims were not as convincing as others. For example, Kim’s claim that the use of a religious framework to immortalize Lim Su-kyung “backfired” on the North Korean government because it elicited a rethinking of South Korea, disrupted the North Korean government’s grip on its people, and inspired North Koreans to defect to the South lacks substantial supporting evidence and is thus an overreach. The book also could have benefited from a thorough historicization of the DMZ’s establishment and development, which was largely absent. I wonder how a deeper consideration of the DMZ’s materiality could have enriched its cultural analyses. I also felt like the book missed an opportunity to more thoroughly think through the relationships between neoliberalism, war and tourism in her chapter on DMZ tourism. Despite these momentary gaps and generalizations, the book’s nuanced readings of a multitude of cultural productions from both Koreas, interviews with a number of officials and activists, and moving autoethnographic passages sheds enormous insight into a divided peninsula. Hopefully the book will encourage more scholars to consider the DMZ as a worthy object of analysis in its own right.
Terry K. Park, Miami University, Oxford, USA
DEATH, MOURNING, AND THE AFTERLIFE IN KOREA: From Ancient to Contemporary Times. Hawai‘i Studies on Korea. Edited by Charlotte Horlyck and Michael J. Pettid. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press; Center for Korean Studies, University of Hawai‘i, 2014. xi, 265 pp. (Figures.) US$48.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3968-0.
Although it may not be a topic we prefer to dwell on, death is an integral part of human life; beliefs and practices related to death and the dead are an important part of any culture. Consequently a rounded view of a culture is impossible if views of mortality and the afterlife are ignored. Yet in spite of this, the editors of this volume note, for Korea there has been no focused treatment of the matter in English, even if the subject inevitably comes up in accounts of Korea’s religions. They aim to rectify this situation and “provide insight into how death was dealt with on the peninsula” and to “offer a comparative platform from which East Asian approaches to death and disposal [of the dead] can be viewed” (2) by presenting nine chapters that deal with historical, anthropological, archaeological and literary aspects of mortuary culture from the seventh century to the present.
The book is not organized by period, but thematically, in four parts. The first part is entitled “The Body” and contains two chapters, “Death and Burial in Medieval Korea, The Buddhist Legacy” by Sem Vermeersch and “Making Death ‘Modern’” by John DiMoia. Vermeersch concludes, unexpectedly, that the introduction of Buddhism did not necessarily result in cremation instead of burial for Buddhist monks. DiMoia examines how in the 1950s American doctors working in Korea contributed to a reappraisal of the body “as a valuable tool for medical learning”(63). He also devotes attention to the emergence in the 1960s of mortuaries at hospitals, which mourners would come to visit, a modernized form of an older tradition. The second part, which might very well have included the chapter by Vermeersch, is about the disposal of the dead body. Here Charlotte Horlyck, on the basis of archeological discoveries, surveys the amazingly varied ways to dispose of a body between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. A completely different approach characterizes the following chapter by Guy Podoler, who analyzes a narrative about the nation in the National Cemetery in present-day Seoul, which by its inclusion of some persons and exclusion of others presents a thinly veiled political statement. In part 3, Michael Pettid examines shamanic rituals in the Chosŏn period (1392–1910), a time when these rituals, which arguably represent the indigenous religion of the peninsula, were heavily criticized by the Confucian elite. Nevertheless they continued to play a role even in the lives of the ruling class, particularly when premature or violent death needed to be dealt with. In a chapter that is rather brief but full of curious detail from Chosŏn sources like a sixteenth-century diary or the obituary of a noble lady, Milan Hejtmanek shows how the Confucian demand that descendants of the elite yangban class perform frequent and laborious rituals for the ancestors of up to four generations and ideally spend three years at the graveside of their parents substantially changed the lives of the yangban. He also points out, however, that enforced idleness during periods of mourning, when men had to withdraw from all official positions, offered opportunities for affirming social ties. Part 4 deals in three chapters with conceptions of the afterlife. The first chapter in this section, again by Michael Pettid, examines representations of ghosts in the Koryŏ (918–1392) and Chosŏn periods, drawing from a variety of sources, including works of fiction. Pettid makes the valid point that the existence of ghosts was recognized by Confucians and Buddhists as well as shamans, but is less attentive to differences in the views that various groups had of those who resided on the other side, with Confucians, for instance, less inclined to believe in a permanent existence after death. Some attention to the theories of Korean Neo-Confucians about the unstable nature of ghosts would have been welcome here. The next chapter, by Gregory Evon, examines Buddhist ideas about death and rebirth in the novel Kuunmong (The Nine Cloud Dream) by Kim Manjung (1637–1692), who as a proper yangban had enjoyed a sound Confucian education, which might have predisposed him negatively toward Buddhism. Recent research has made clear that Kim’s interest in Buddhism was somewhat less unusual among yangban than Evon suggests, but the chapter is an excellent reminder that where attitudes to death in the actual practice of Korean life were concerned one should not strictly compartmentalize Confucianism, Buddhism and shamanism. The final chapter by Franklin Rausch addresses a newcomer on the religious scene, Catholicism, introduced in the Chosŏn period through contacts with missionaries in Beijing, and examines views on heaven and martyrdom of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century converts. Rausch concludes that a “distinctly Catholic vision of the afterlife” emerged that inspired believers to choose to die rather than deny their faith when the government tried to suppress the new religion. (227)
The contributions to the volume are all of high quality and it presents several new insights. As it is the first work in English on the topic, covers a vast time span, and also is rather short, it should not come as a surprise that certain aspects may seem underrepresented. In its totality the book is biased toward the pre-modern period, with only two chapters about the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, offering two radically different approaches and a rather narrow focus. Podoler’s chapter, for instance, might have been accompanied by a chapter on self-immolation as a gesture of protest, of which the most famous example is Chŏn T’aeil’s setting fire to himself in 1970 to draw attention to the miserable conditions in the sweatshops of the Seoul garment industry, a gesture that galvanized an entire generation of dissidents. For the pre-modern period, the extremely popular belief in the Buddhist paradise of Amitābha (which may have facilitated belief in a Christian paradise) is mentioned only tangentially (and the words “rebirth” and “reincarnation” are missing from the index). But that does not detract from the value of the book as a stimulating investigation of an area of human life that is of undeniable salience.
Boudewijn Walraven, Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea
The rapid growth of Korean cultural industries and their exports of cultural products are not new developments in the Asian markets. From television dramas to films and online games, Korea has become one of the most significant local forces in producing and disseminating its own cultural products to not only Asia but also North America and Western Europe. In the 2010s, one particular cultural form, known as K-pop (Korea’s contemporary popular music), has contributed to the global penetration of Korea’s popular culture. Slightly before Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012, which became a global hit with the help of social media, the Korean music industry had been identified as one of the most successful youth cultures, both nationally and globally. K-Pop: Popular Music, Cultural Amnesia, and Economic Innovation provides a timely and valuable confirmation of this new trend by using storytelling to examine the emergence of K-pop in the context of broader political, economic, and cultural milieus. It aptly historicizes and documents the evolution of K-pop, including its origin, the symptoms of cultural amnesia, and the convoluted reasons for the rise of K-pop.
This book consists of six chapters, and it primarily raises and answers three questions. By historicizing the origin of K-pop, the first chapter grounds the reader in the past: traditional Korean music, colonial and postcolonial Japanese influence, and the growing impact of US popular music. The chapter carefully argues that K-pop constitutes a break not just with the traditional Korean music of the past but also with earlier Korean popular music. After discussing several significant historical music genres, it explains how popular music entered people’s everyday life in urban Korea in the mid-1920s as yuhaengga (popular songs). The chapter also tactfully analyzes trot, which many Koreans have enjoyed as Korean popular music since the 1960s, followed by a discussion of the ways in which So Tae-ji wa Aidul (So Tae-ji and the Boys) challenged and ultimately destroyed many conventions of Korean popular music, while introducing American soundscapes in the mid-1990s.
The second chapter, “Interlude,” stresses the etiology and symptoms of cultural amnesia. It identifies several sociocultural changes that have swept through South Korea, which has resulted in the rise of K-pop, such as the decline of Confucian ethics, the South Korean elite’s embrace of American culture, the shift of Korean main culture from the tears of departure and the tacit expressions of han to dynamic urban youth culture and the 1997 financial crisis, which have deepened Korea’s penchant for growth and innovation. It also emphasizes K-pop’s dependence on its external orientation, which embodies South Korea’s innovative spirit.
The third chapter, “Seoul Calling,” discusses how K-pop became popular by analyzing K-pop’s aesthetic appeal. The main topics are the confluence of social change, economic culture, and industrial transformation that sustains the export imperative, and its production and consumption inside and outside South Korea. It classifies K-pop as a conceptual invention that substituted a “K” for the “J” in the term “J-pop,” which in turn was coined in 1998 to identify a new style of music. Therefore, it argues that K-pop is not only chronologically but also musically a post-So Tae-ji wa Aidul phenomenon. The chapter continues to explore the extramusical realm of political economy and global culture in order to explain how K-pop came to be produced for export and why non-Koreans began to consume it.
This book is easily accessible, with rich information and solid discussions. While there are many significant contributions, a few elements highlight the value in understanding the emergence of K-pop in the global soundscape. On the one hand, it is unique in its writing style because the author selects a narrative storytelling technique instead of a formal academic analysis, although it eventually provides some analysis. Due to the large amount of information involved, such as the names of Korean musicians, traditional music genres, and several historical events, the author addresses several key findings in the broader socio-cultural context based on his personal experience and studies, which makes the book readable. On the other hand, the book’s structure deserves readers’ appreciation. This book avoids a formal chapter order by following the form of an orchestral piece, which starts with the prelude and ends with the coda. This stylish structure not only proves the author’s mastery of popular music, but also his dexterity in delving into K-pop—one of the most significant local cultural forms.
While admiring the book’s extensive musical discourse, I also admit to noting a few shortfalls, which perhaps occurred in the process of the generalization and/or the shortage of enough space. The most significant issue is the lack of discussion of the Korean Wave, given that the current boom of K-pop is a consequence of the growth of the Korean Wave itself. For example, while the book briefly notes that K-pop is a part of Korean Wave 2.0 it does not analyze the new factors driving the rise of K-pop in the context of the Korean Wave 2.0, such as the roles of global fans, transnational production, and social media.
In addition, the author makes a hugely controversial argument by identifying the rise of K-pop with the post-So Tae-ji revolution. So Tae-ji wa Aidul certainly symbolizes the change in Korean popular music; however, the group itself is a primary actor in developing contemporary Korean popular music. K-pop technically began ahead of the Korean Wave phenomenon that started in 1997 with the surge of American popular music, and therefore, we cannot separate K-pop from previous musicians who contributed to the emergence of K-pop in the mid-1990s.
In general, this book investigates one of the most compelling issues in current transnational cultural flow and production driven by domestic factors. It provides insights into global pop culture by offering rich empirical detail and useful historical milieus surrounding the emergence of K-pop. It is presented as a convincing contribution to a growing body of literature on popular music, the Korean cultural industries, and cultural politics. It is highly recommended for a wide range of readers who are interested in K-pop, the Korean Wave, and popular culture.
Dal Yong Jin, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
TRANSFORMING INDIA: Challenges to the World’s Largest Democracy. By Sumantra Bose. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 337 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-05066-2
There is an old adage that “a week is a long time in politics,” and scholars are understandably rather cautious about predicting future political trends. At the time that this book was written, however, the strong statement made by Sumantra Bose, that “Coalition governments in New Delhi are a certainty for the foreseeable future” (109), would have seemed unexceptional to most observers of Indian politics. The Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance government was mired in corruption scandals, and seemed to lack decisive leadership, but the principal alternative party at the national level, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with leadership problems of its own, had failed to offer convincing opposition. So, looking forward from early-mid 2013 to the general elections of the following year, it appeared more or less certain that the post-election alignments of strongly supported regional political parties would determine the character of the next central government of India, as they had done since the mid-1990s. Bose and others could not have anticipated the dramatic consequences of the BJP’s decision in September 2013 that Narendra Modi would be its candidate for the position of prime minister. Modi led an extraordinary, presidential-style campaign, backed with massive financial resources, and the BJP won an absolute majority in May 2014. Bose’s further strong statement, that “the era of nationwide leaders is definitively in the past” (293) has also been falsified, for Modi continues to dominate Indian national politics in a way matched by no other leader since the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. The general election that followed her death was also the last time that the electorate delivered an absolute majority to a single party.
But does the apparent falsification of his analysis of the political trends that are shaping India today mean that Bose’s book is now of little value? Almost certainly not, because the regionally based political parties that he believes to underlie the transformation of India’s democracy—the subject of the book—have not gone away as a result of Modi’s great victory. It is not at all unlikely that regional political leaders will once again hold the balance of power at the national level. Bose’s central argument, which draws some inspiration, explicitly and implicitly, from the work of Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph, is that India has become a “decentred democracy.” In his words: “The bottom-up federalization of India’s politics in the post-Congress era—an evolution rooted in the nation’s diversity and driven by the will of its people [through their support for regional parties]—means that the lives of the vast majority of Indians will be shaped by the dominant feature of India’s decentred democracy in the early twenty-first century: regionalization and regionalisms” (109). The argument is developed through an engagingly written account, in the first two chapters of the book, of the history of Indian politics since Independence, focusing especially on the significance of what was going on at the state level. This is followed by three chapters, each one of which stands more or less on its own, taking up specific themes: the history of democracy in the state of West Bengal; the story of the challenge posed to Indian democracy by the Maoists, who are organized in “a loose, possibly unstable federation of regional movements” (222) across a swathe of territory in the centre and east of the country; and finally a chapter on the “Kashmir Question” (on which Bose wrote a fine earlier book, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003]). A short conclusion looks to the future of India’s democracy as a “full-blooded federation of state-based polities” (296), in which much will depend on how regional leaders perform. Can they provide competent governance? Can they adopt a national perspective when it is needed? Can they together forge consensual decision making (or in a term familiar from Spain and Latin America, realize concertacion)? These are indeed critically important questions for India’s future. The auguries are decidedly mixed. Regional leaders have not so far shown much inclination for concertacion or for taking a national perspective. On the other hand, as Bose says, “the most intelligent of the state-based elected leaders” (293), like Mr. Modi in his earlier avatar as the long-term chief minister of Gujarat, have shown an increasing concern for demonstrating their performance in implementing strategic programs, instead of ruling through patronage.
Transforming India is neither a contemporary history comparable with Ramachandra Guha’s India After Gandhi (London: Pan Macmillan, 2007), nor a thorough-going work of political science such as Atul Kohli’s Poverty Amid Plenty in the New India (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012). It runs the risk, therefore, of falling between two stools. The core argument is an important one, though it seems to this reader, at least, to be somewhat one-sided, paying too little attention to questions of political economy. In this regard Indian federalism remains quite strongly centralized. The “federation of state-based polities” that India is becoming is perhaps less “full-blooded” than Bose suggests. His book is, nonetheless, a stimulating and distinctive addition to the wave of publications about the “new India.”
John Harriss, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada
The Righteous Republic is an ambitious book. Through an exploration of the category of swaraj (commonly translated as self-rule), it seeks to understand what constitutes the “self” for five “founders” of India. That four of the five founders are Mohandas Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Bhim Rao Ambedkar is not surprising. The fifth—artist Abanindranath Tagore—is a somewhat surprising inclusion. Vajpeyi argues that each of the founders experienced a “crisis in the self” (xiv) and that each of them turned to Indian or Indic traditions to overcome it. Vajpeyi’s aim is to tell the story of the “quest of the five founders for an Indian selfhood hitherto obscured by foreign domination” (10). She also refers to “Muslim traditions of inquiry into self and sovereignty in the making of India” (33), but admits that she does not have the wherewithal to understand the intellectual antecedents of thinkers like Sayyid Ahmed Khan, Mohammed Iqbal, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Maulana Azad.
While swaraj is the “master category” of the book, Vajpeyi’s major innovation is to isolate one category to frame the thoughts of each of the five founders. So for Gandhi the relevant category is ahimsa (non-violence), for Rabindranath viraha (longing), for Abanindranath samvega (shock), for Nehru dharma (law/order) and for Ambedkar duhkha (suffering). She explicates each category by interrogating the relationship between the founders and key texts in their lives. While no one can doubt that ahimsa defined Gandhi’s thinking and action, the other categories do not have the same kind of resonance for the other founders. It then becomes a box in which Vajpeyi is forced to categorize each founder’s thinking. It also seems that the founders, except for Gandhi, themselves rarely used the categories employed by Vajpeyi.
This is particularly true for Ambedkar and the category of duhkha. Vajpeyi points out in the chapter on Ambedkar that he repudiated the “Four Noble Truths” of the Buddha, which included duhkha, duhkha samudaya, duhkha nirodha and nirvana. The centrepiece of the chapter is an interesting analysis of Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism along with nearly 400,000 of his followers in 1956, which remains a bit of a puzzle to this day. But the analysis—which among other things rightly says that Ambedkar “attempted to disassociate himself and his people from the humiliating roles assigned to them in the narratives so dear to the Hindus” (225)—does not convincingly establish the centrality of duhkha in Ambedkar’s thought.
The analysis of Tagore’s thought through his engagement with the fifth-century Sanskrit poet Kalidasa’s long poem, Meghaduta (The Cloud Messenger), is unusual. While it could plausibly be argued that Rabindranath develops the category of viraha in his Meghaduta corpus (five poems written over fifty years), whether viraha defines the entire body of his work could be contested. The same could be said for the centrality of samvega in Abanindranath’s paintings. But Vajpeyi is right when she says, “The Tagores sought more than India’s liberation from British rule. They sought self-knowledge in the harness of poetry, in the protocols of painting, in the strains of music, in the intimations of a tradition that for thousands of years had pursued nothing if not to know that, the very One that knows” (167).
Vajpeyi is on surer ground in her analysis of Gandhi, partly because Gandhi himself had much to say on ahimsa. Vajpeyi makes the Bhagavad Gita central to Gandhi’s conception of ahimsa. She argues that Gandhi understood the Gita very differently from his contemporaries, reading it as a “text of ahimsa.” She writes that for Gandhi, “the Gita was the best possible guide to self-knowledge, ethical action, psychic discipline, and transcendental freedom in any circumstance, every single day throughout one’s life, and not just a dramatization of moral crisis and its resolution within a political framework” (75–76).
In her chapter on Nehru, Vajpeyi captures the inherent tensions in Nehru’s thought through the binary of dharma and artha. She does this by examining Nehru’s The Discovery of India, his adoption of Buddhist symbols for the Indian state and, as India’s first prime minister, his Letters to Chief Ministers. She describes Nehru’s dilemma eloquently: “The Janus-faced modern state provides a key to the split between Nehru’s dharma-oriented and artha-oriented tendencies: on the one hand, a massively popular freedom writer—passionate, ardent, eloquent, and principled—and on the other, a beleaguered elected administrator—scientific, systematic, deliberative, and compromising” (172).
The Righteous Republic is an impressive intellectual history of modern India. Vajpeyi seeks to correct the neglect of Indian intellectual traditions in constructing the lives and ideologies of India’s founders. As Vajpeyi points out, the founders drew their understandings of selfhood from “Hindu and Buddhist texts, from Buddhist and Mughal artifacts, from traditions that were classical and vernacular, living and dying, ancient and recent” (xxiii). She successfully excavates some of these intellectual traditions though at the cost of positing what seems too rigid a dichotomy between Indian and Western traditions and the imposition of one category to frame the thought of each of her five founders of India.
Ronojoy Sen, National University of Singapore, Singapore
NATION AND FAMILY: Personal Law, Cultural Pluralism, and Gendered Citizenship in India. By Narendra Subramanian. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. xvii, 377 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8878-6.
The making of modern India has been defined by a tension between a vision of a secular Indian republic based on the equal rights of individuals as citizens, and claims for recognition of group rights based on custom, tradition and religion. Key sites of contestation have been personal law, family, and gender. This has been the case since the early nineteenth century, which marked not just the beginnings of modern ideas of nationhood, individual rights, and development, but also that of reinvented tradition and recasting of women. This contestation continues into the second decade of the twenty-first-century India, visible in the 2014 General Elections and their aftermath. Personal law remains a contentious issue and is seen as a marker dividing religious communities rather than being about women’s rights. This has been grounds for misunderstandings between different social groups in India and between the state and community leaders, as is clearly seen in the Shah Bano and Deorala Sati cases in the 1980s, or more recently in the Khap Panchayats’ statements regarding honour killings and demands for change in the Hindu law. Personal laws are often posited as necessarily backward vis a vis more liberal codified laws. The Hindus are likewise deemed as more modern than the Muslims. The history of codification of law and reforms within communities is more complex.
Narendra Subramanian’s book is important in such a context. It is a scholarly, painstakingly researched work that delves into the complex ways that state-society relations and discourses of community have developed through interaction leading to a particular kind of nation formation, recognition and family law (46). The six chapters that constitute the book begin with a focus on Indian personal law in chapter 1, but importantly with a comparative perspective that provides an excellent overview of the varied experiences of many colonial states in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands in negotiating the tension between recognition, equality, and liberty. The focus on diverse state policies in such countries as Tunisia and Turkey, which prioritized “the promotion of their visions of modernity,” the pursuit of traditions that “upheld lineage authority” in Lebanon, Algeria, and Syria and a mix of the modern and traditional in South Asia where “ruling elites were allied with modernist urban elites, as well as with traditionalist religious, ethnic and kin leaders,” allows the reader to locate the Indian story in a broader framework. Chapter 2 develops the comparison forward within a theoretical framework that looks at the way nations are imagined and at approaches to family life. The analysis breaks from the dominant postcolonial understanding in western academia of the persistence of colonial forms of knowledge and poststructuralist emphasis on how discursive practices shape state projects. As someone whose early work was on a related area, I am in complete agreement that such conclusions are based on lack of empirical investigation coupled with a theoretical failure to pay attention to the dynamics of state strategies and social movements that did offer and push alternative models (Maitrayee Chaudhuri, The Indian Women’s Movement: Reform and Revival, Radiant, Delhi, 1993)
Chapter 3, with its focus on official nationalism and majoritarian citizen-making, explores the changes in Hindu law since the 1960s. These are further detailed in chapter 4 on recasting the normative national family, while chapter 5 discusses the experiences pertaining to the laws governing India’s two largest religious minorities, the Muslims and Christians before moving on to the concluding chapter 6 which returns to the core theme of nationalism, multiculturalism and personal law.
A comparative perspective allows the author to push an important argument that the traditions of many cultural and religious groups provide for extensive reforms that enhance women’s rights and individual liberties (286). But states have used this to a very limited extent. An important comparison that the book draws upon here is that between reforms in India and Indonesia. Many religious scholars and policy elites in Indonesia incorporated in their construction of indigenous Islam certain customs that were shared by the members of different religious communities. Unlike in India, personal laws of minorities in Indonesia therefore saw greater reforms. For India this is a significant point. The decline of syncretic tradition and consolidation of what is deemed ‘pure’ Hindu’ and ‘classical’ Islam has been extensively documented. Importantly, this was in part linked to colonial state policy. The book concludes with the important observation that although culturally grounded initiatives for personal reform were present among both Muslims and Hindus, the focus after independence shifted to Hindu law. In the author’s words, the story may have been different “if governing elites had operated with different understandings of the nation and its traditions” (275). A curious absence in the book is the tragic and violent outcome of Partition that may have had long-term implications for postcolonial legal reform of personal law.
This book stands out for a couple of reasons. For one, its scholarship and empirical details and the body of literature and archival sources that it marshals which will be of immense use to students; second, its historical perspective and comparative analysis opens up the issue in a very different manner than has played out in India’s dominant public discourse; third, it deploys key social science categories such as institutions, ideas, interests, and social movements to understand the detours that personal law debates take. In doing so, this study breaks from the theoretical trend that has dominated academia in the last two decades or more, namely one that has paid disproportionate attention to textual analysis with a focus on specific texts and discourses to the neglect of empirical study of how groups of people act in resistance or domination, negotiation and alliance.
Maitrayee Chaudhuri, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
BIRTH IN THE AGE OF AIDS: Women, Reproduction, and HIV/AIDS in India. By Cecilia Van Hollen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013. xii, 274 pp. (Illustrations.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-8423-8.
This book is a ground-breaking investigation into the reproductive lives of HIV-positive women. The ethnographic setting, the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is moreover a very illuminating one for global health. In terms of numbers of people living with HIV, India is second only to South Africa and Nigeria. In Tamil Nadu, the epidemic seems to have escaped its confinement within “high risk groups” and been transmitted to the general population. When Van Hollen began her research in 2004, HIV prevalence in Tamil Nadu was estimated to be 1.1 percent, but in four districts of the state HIV prevalence was at or above 3 percent. Responding quickly to the epidemic, Tamil Nadu became a pioneer state for HIV/AIDS prevention and care, and was reputedly successful in bringing the epidemic down by 50 percent between 2003 and 2007. As part of its battery of interventions, in 2000, Tamil Nadu initiated India’s national program of PPTCT (Prevention of Parent To Child Transmission), offering prenatal testing and a dose of nevirapine at the time of delivery to reduce HIV transmission to the child, from 15 to 40 percent to 8 to 10 percent. Van Hollen’s fieldwork, between 2004 and 2008, was embedded within this PPTCT program. It involved interviews with 70 HIV-positive women whom she recruited through HIV care networks, as well as interviews and ethnographic fieldwork within the hospitals involved in the program. Each chapter of the book tells an important story about the ways in which global health standards and practices are refracted by the state, kinship, and gender in Tamil Nadu.
Chapter 3 investigates the institutionalization of prenatal HIV testing and the ways in which the global standards of informed consent and confidentiality were put into place. Pretest counselling was not uniform; many of the women Van Hollen interviewed had been tested unaware. To satisfy health funders’ demands for increased uptake of testing, counsellors tried to make the test more palatable by describing it as “like an immunization,” emphasizing the positive effects on conjugal trust in the event of a negative result, but failing to explore the devastation of a positive result. Chapter 4 shows that the counsellors’ emphasis on married women as the “innocent” victims of the sexual transgressions of their husbands was accepted by the women in the study. Interestingly, the counsellors’ encouragement that the women discuss the test with their husbands, part of an attempt to increase testing among spouses, was interpreted as a request for their husbands’ “permission”—which the women asserted that they did not need. In accepting the HIV test without their husbands’ permission, then, Van Hollen argues that the women were exerting agency. Yet ironically, this led them to being tested before their husbands, allowing their husbands and in-laws to scapegoat them. In chapter 5, she discusses the devastation of a positive HIV test result and the stigma that became the defining characteristic of their lives. Against the anthropological consensus about sexual double standards leading to a greater stigmatization of HIV-positive women than men, Van Hollen shows that gendered processes of stigmatization are highly differentiated. In public discourse, men are condemned more than women, who are cast as the “innocent” victims. In private negotiations, the women narrate being outcast by their in-laws, gossiped about or accused of sexual immorality, whilst their husbands were quietly condoned. Yet Van Hollen unpicks these responses, showing that they derive not only from sexist ideology but also, crucially, stem from economic motivations. The blame was most intense after the death of the husband, when the in-laws were faced with the combined tragedy of losing a son and the thorny question of inheritance to the widow and her children. Further complicating matters are cultural understandings of the female reproductive body, which cast women as harbours of the HIV “worm” (kirumi). Chapter 6 examines women’s decision to keep or abort the pregnancy after a positive HIV test result. Van Hollen stresses here the centrality of motherhood within Tamil constructions of femininity, but within patrilineal and patriarchal kinship structures that pressured women to keep the babies to meet the expectations of their husband or his family. Chapter 7 highlights economic constraints and appalling stigmatization in determining where the women could give birth. Chapter 8 discusses the counselling the women receive about infant feeding, showing it to be highly situational, depending on the counsellors’ understandings of whether the women would be financially capable of replacement feeding with formula milk. She explores the women’s positive understandings of the “immune strength” (ethirppu sakti) carried in their breastmilk and the benefits for their children. From this they derive a related term, “resistance strength” (resistance sakti), to talk about their own empowerment as HIV-positive mothers. Finally, in chapter 9, she shows that HIV activist networks have succeeded in empowering HIV-positive women in two key respects: encouraging them to overcome the taboo against widow remarriage, and encouraging them to claim their inheritance.
The book shows convincingly that HIV in Tamil Nadu “runs along the grooves of kinship and marriage relations that serve at times to protect the dignity and health of these women, and at other times to expose them to public indignities” (168). Van Hollen contributes significantly to debates about the authoritarianism of reproductive medicine and the state in South Asia, and women’s gendered agency in negotiating these structures, as well as the ambivalence and destructive guises of kinship. I would have liked to know more about the caste dynamics involved, given that the majority of her informants were lower-class Dalit women. Were there any interactions between the interpretation of HIV through the lens of sexual immorality, and local discourses about the sexual availability of Dalit women’s bodies? But this is an important and accessible book, and an essential teaching resource for reading lists in medical anthropology and sociology, and global health.
Kaveri Qureshi, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
PROSTITUTION AND THE ENDS OF EMPIRE: Scale, Govern-mentalities, and Interwar India. By Stephen Legg. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2014. xi, 281 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$25.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5773-5.
Stephen Legg’s book, Prostitution and the Ends of Empire: Scale, Governmentalities, and Interwar India, is a smart and original contribution to the expansive literature on colonialism and prostitution. Focused on Delhi, Legg seeks to explain why the regulation of prostitution shifted from segregation to suppression between the two world wars. The innovation of his book lies in its methodological orientations, particularly his emphasis on scale. Centering scale allows Legg to foreground the inter-spatial politics of prostitution as it unfolded at the local, national, imperial, and global levels and through the struggles of state/non-state actors and international organizations. Placing scale at the “heart of its methodology,” the book reveals “how the most intimate spaces of desire and intercourse were forever enframed in broader scales of politics, terminology, and movement” (3).
As a geographer interested in scale, Legg is concerned with near and distant geographies and their concatenation. “Rather than taking a body or event and moving back through time” he begins with “a place (Delhi) and moves out through space” (7). In so doing, he considers the effects of forces outside of the city on the governance of prostitution within it. The regulation of prostitution in Delhi, he argues, was shaped by developments in India and elsewhere. The enactment of the Suppression of Moral Traffic Acts (SITAs) in Rangoon, Bombay, and Bengal were especially important, as were the activities of imperial feminists, including Meliscent Shephard.
It is in his discussion of SITAs that Legg’s aptitude to read across scales—the local and the national, the specificities of India and the weight of the global—becomes apparent. “Swathed in the patriarchal language of protection and guardianship,” the SITAs “reinforced the state’s powers over women who chose to satisfy the sexual desires of men and to craft their own space within a masculine, political economy” (95). At the surface, this seems no different than what was occurring in other cities in the British Empire. While the SITAs were directly influenced by efforts to regulate prostitution internationally, Legg shows that in India they drew additional potency through Hindu mythology, most notably the Ramayana. The “acronym ‘SITA’ also presented a gift to legislators and campaigners,” Legg argues. “Sita is one of the most revered Hindu goddesses, abducted by the demon King Ravan, and rescued by Ram, an incarnation of Vishnu. Her rescue thus represents the ideal of the anti-traffickers: the passive and victimized woman, returned to the safety of male trusteeship” (96). Legg reads Sita’s exile in the forest as mirroring “the civil abandonment of prostitutes to an urban existence beyond the center of towns, beyond medical care, and beyond social understanding on the basis of a normative judgment regarding their sexuality” (96). Though SITAs were part of a longer global history of legislative interventions aimed at suppressing the trafficking of women and girls and restricting the sexual desires of women, Legg shows how they gained local and national traction through dominant religious and gendered meanings of sexual chastity and purity.
Legg’s book draws effectively on scale as methodology. He also uses scale to organize the book and to introduce its theoretical stakes and engagements. First, each of the three chapters focuses on the brothel, demonstrating how it became a site of intervention that centered on the body, the city, and the empire. Second, Legg draws from an array of archival sources from Delhi, London and Cambridge, producing a detailed and nuanced account of the politics of prostitution. Finally, the book presents a lively theoretical engagement with Michel Foucault on governmentality and Giorgio Agamben on abandonment. But it is here that his archival and historical narrative begins to separate from the intellectual discussion he introduces at the outset.
Building from his previous book and aware of the critiques made by postcolonial scholars, Legg’s interest is in evaluating “the applicability of Foucault’s concepts and observations to the colonial world” (5). He seeks to expand the governmentality literature in two ways: by focusing on scale and the social and by fusing apparatus and assemblage. For Legg, apparatuses are “those governing networks with a strategic function and ordering intent.” Assemblages are “their gatherings, heterogeneous groupings, and emergences” (6). He combines the two skillfully, revealing how the shift from segregation to abolition was influenced by the ongoing political dynamics in the city, the Raj, and the empire. A reevaluation of governmentality, Legg argues, continues “the critical dialogue with Foucault and his Eurocentric blind spots” (4).
Legg’s efforts to interweave archival and theoretical insights—to write across scales—makes Prostitution and the Ends of Empire a bold, exciting and ambitious project. But as I read his book, I wanted to hear more on the significance of Foucault and Agamben for the work at hand. I was left wondering how a study such as this—on the colonial state and the suppression of prostitution in interwar India—might encourage a rethinking and reworking of Foucault and Agamben, not for colonial contexts but through colonial contexts. In other words, how might we revise and extend their respective insights on governmentality and abandonment through the specific dynamics of the Indian colonial rule in India, including the governance of prostitution? As I approached the end of the book, I anticipated a return to these larger theoretical questions. Instead, Legg concludes with the methodological promise of scale, the “new ways of thinking” it generates in the study of “late colonialism, early internationalism, and the persistent civil abandonment of women who work with sex” (246). These are important considerations. Foucault and Agamben will just have to wait.
Renisa Mawani, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
THE ALL-INDIA MUSLIM LEAGUE, 1906–1947: A Study of Leadership in the Evolution of a Nation. By Mary Louise Becker. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2013. xlii, 295 pp. US$27.95, cloth . ISBN 978-0-19-906014-6.
Mary Louise Becker was an American scholar-diplomat who, it appears, dedicated much of her life, and a vast amount of intellectual energy, to enhancing the understanding of what Pakistan was, or indeed is, about. Her interest in what has at times been called “the most bizarre country in the world” led her to an intense examination of the concepts of nationalism and of leadership, and how these interacted with each other, finding fruition in the creation of one of the world’s largest nation-states. The book is actually meant to be a study of the Muslim League in the first four decades of its existence, but this leads naturally into an analysis of the leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam (meaning “the great leader”) Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the intensity of whose ideas, the depth of whose commitments, and the persistence of whose unrelenting endeavours changed the map and the politics of the region and the world. By 1940, when the Muslim League adopted what is called the Pakistan Resolution in Lahore, Jinnah was the party’s undisputed leader.
Born Mahomedali Jinnahbhai in Karachi in 1876, he changed it to a simpler and more anglicized Mohammed Ali Jinnah while in England. Jinnah lived just over seven decades, and died in 1948, not far from where he was born, in Pakistan, in a country he did more than most others to create. Discussing his life, Becker quotes Professor Stanley Wolpert’s slightly hagiographic summary: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation state. Mohammed Ali Jinnah did all three”(xxii). Intensely secular in lifestyle, habits and behaviour, and deeply fond of most things English, Jinnah used the Western political idiom of the nation-state, and carried forward with incredible passion and against great odds, that the Muslims of India were a separate nation. He gave ideological battle to towering personalities like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, shrugged off the unfriendliness of the British Viceroy Lord Mountbatten, often rode roughshod over opposition in his own camp, and managed to carve out a new country, one for his co-religionists, the Muslims of India. Becker attributes “incorruptibility” and “bravery” to him, and writes that he was a “lone figure,” he also had “an air of mystery around him”(192). In her words, he was also a “superb showman,” a quality essential to moving masses.
But Jinnah also made mistakes, serious ones, which came to light only two and a half decades following his death; their seeds, however, were sown in his lifetime. One of those was his failure to gauge the sentiments of a large segment of the subcontinental Muslim population, the East Bengali Muslims, who ironically were the great champions of his goal of the creation of Pakistan. Jinnah was unable to foresee the power of language, in addition to religion, as a force of nationalism, and his preference for Urdu over Bengali as the national lingua franca of Pakistan deeply offended the Bengalis, who constituted the majority of the nation’s citizenry. Secondly, his tendency to concentrate all powers in himself failed to lay the foundations of a democratic tradition in Pakistan, which not only led to the bloody separation of Bangladesh in 1971, but to a huge political instability that marks that country’s politics today. These fall outside the purview of the scope of Becker’s work, but nonetheless merit mention, as the causes of these upheavals were to be found in the time-period that the author covered, i.e., 1906 to 1947.
The book is an interesting study of nationalism, which Becker describes as “an infinitely complex, dynamic and emotional phenomenon most accurately considered by subjective rather than objective criteria”(xiv). She goes on to define a nation as being “not based upon what outsiders determine, but upon what a specific group of people feels and believes itself to be”(xiv). The author also discusses how three principal and necessary ingredients were present during the rise of Pakistan: “an integrated community possessing distinctive and group characteristics; a particular set of circumstances under which the community would respond to the call of nationalism; and the national leadership which has coordinated the first two to produce a self-conscious nation seeking an independent political existence in a national state”(vii). The book tells the story of how all these conditions were brought together.
The author narrates the tale in a manner reflecting deep research. Becker recounts the gradual rise in Muslim consciousness through the “Muslim Renaissance in India” (leading personalities were Nawab Abdul Latif, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan of the Aligarh Movement fame, Chirag Ali, Nawab Mohsinul Mulk, and the poet Shibli Nomani); the establishment of the All India Muslim League on 30 December 1906 in Dhaka (present-day Bangladesh) under the stewardship of Nawab Sir Salimullah, the Aga Khan et al.; the conflict between the League and the Indian National Congress; Jinnah’s shift in role from the “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” to being the champion of Muslim separatism, cheered on by the philosopher Sir Mohammed Iqbal and leading to the nascence of the “promised land” (Pakistan) for the Muslims. Certain minor errors, however, seem to have crept into the volume. On page 41 for instance, Pherozeshah Mehta, a Congress leader, is described as a “moderate Hindu,” when in reality he was a Parsi, a distinctly different religious persuasion. Another issue that editorial tightening should have addressed is the confusing impression an unwary reader may face in thinking that “the Honourable Syed Amir Ali” (69) and Amir Ali (53) are two different persons, when actually, they are the same (author of The Spirit of Islam).
In contemporary times, great interest should be expected in a work such as this, for the following reason: The creation of Pakistan was the product of the Westphalian logic of sovereign states for separate nations, albeit in a non-Western milieu; this can be perceived as an acceptable counter-narrative to the current Islamist notion, espoused by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of a single Islamic ‘caliphate’ spanning across many nation-states with Muslim-majority populations.The author, Mary Louise Becker is sadly no longer with us, having passed on in 2012 at the age of 84, but her scholarship marks an important and still relevant contribution to the literature on nationalism.
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, National University of Singapore, Singapore
PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR POLICY: A Minimum Credible Deterrence. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 84. By Zafar Khan. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xix, 178 pp. (Figures, tables.), US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-877879-5.
This book gives an overview of the conceptual logic presumed to underlie Pakistan’s military nuclear doctrines, though it has less to say about a possible logic of deployment and practice. It has little to say about how the nuclear program is embedded in the dominant Pakistan army.
Zafar Khan based this book on his PhD dissertation at the University of Hull, UK. If this book is to add to the substantial writing on this subject by H. Nizamani (2000 and onward), B. Chakma (2009), Z.I. Cheema (2010), H.F. Khan (2012), M.V. Ramana (2013), P. Hoodbhoy (2013) and others, then Zafar Khan has to penetrate the nuke-speak and logic of people who populate the agencies and ministries to which he had access. He accomplished this, collegially enough, through numerous strategic studies institutes in Pakistan and he was enabled by the government’s own Strategic Plans Division in Rawalpindi.
Khan provides a short review of the standard Pakistan narrative going back to Bhutto’s 1965 signal remark about a nuclear bomb, “even if we have to eat grass,” and the famed nuclear meeting in Multan, attended by noted physicist Abdus Salam, after the collapse of the Pakistan forces in Bangladesh in 1971. He describes briefly the notorious metallurgist A.Q. Khan’s activities in quietly transferring nuclear technologies to other countries, mentioning how foreign payments for those technologies and services were used to supplement the budgets of the nuclear agencies in Pakistan. What is new is Khan’s account of interviews during 2012–13 (and before) with a number of very well-placed nuclear experts both within and outside government circles.
What is the use-value of nuclear weapons to a divided state like Pakistan? No neighbour has ever really threatened it since 1971, though India and Pakistan have occasionally fought for weeks on their highland borders. Pakistan has basically been a military-guided system since 1947, punctuated occasionally by the outbreak of party-politics and elections. In contrast to India, Pakistan’s nuclear program has usually been supervised by senior military officers.
This book charts a shift in official nuclear posture after the 1998 bomb tests by India and Pakistan from an objective of “minimum deterrence” to “minimum credible deterrence.” These nuclear experts in Pakistan can only guess at how credible their opponents think the deterrence is. Behind these questions lie accountants who have been asking “what amount can we spend which will be just sufficient to deter India, and not a rupee more than necessary?” Pakistan’s public answer has always been “we don’t really know [what the amount is], but we have to build up our costly systems, and watch our opponent like a hawk.” So there are perhaps two senses of “minimum,” one of which is minimum cost.
Pakistan must try to determine whether its assertion of the right to a first strike (which Khan says is now well-established) is having an impact in India. Is the projection of a nuclear force profile the right one for the opponent? As one Pakistani analyst told Khan in a classic understatement, the nuclear posture “is not very static.” How could it be?
This work has a careful tone, as if the text was to be read not just read by a publisher’s editor, but also by someone else with an official eye. It should be essential reading for advanced administrative staff, as it describes in an orderly fashion the structures and flows of command and control. What such trainees might make of the uncertainty at the heart of Pakistan’s language of “strategic ambiguity” Khan does not say. He does however repeat that ambiguity is at the heart of the posture, and that perhaps saves him from examining what a “credible” deterrent really means.
But we the readers long for Khan’s evidence of disagreements among these experts and decision makers, revealing who in Pakistan interprets what ambiguity means, and when do those interpretations really matter. Such disagreements might explain why a small weapons state like Pakistan thinks it nevertheless needs a number of interpretations by closely available officials in agencies and experts in institutes, all focused on the same question: is Pakistan maintaining a minimum deterrence that is credible? And how do we measure credibility?
Pakistan’s nuclear posture and the use of the first strike option is a very important subject for Pakistan and all its neighbours, although Iran is not even mentioned here. Pakistan wanted to appear more modern in the 1970s, to resemble other militarizing states, and to enjoy a prestigious counter-balance to its otherwise growing yet unfortunately dysfunctional reputation. It also had the advantage of occupying a location for which more powerful states were prepared to pay heavily over the decades, in order to have a strong ally at that very location, and with the same strategic goals.
Khan makes no reference to nuclear energy and reactors, and none to the technologies which must be assembled and well-operated if weapons are to be built, maintained and continuously upgraded for readiness to delivery. But he also explains that a number of positive agreements have been negotiated which are intended to build confidence between Pakistan and India, such as agreement to forewarn each other of military exercises, not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities, etc. The nuclear establishment would be worried if the top leaders found a less expensive method by which to minimize the risk of a nuclear attack in South Asia. Without this risk-perception it is hard to see why the cost is sustained, unless it is also essential for prestige and self-confidence. But so far no less expensive method, except these limited types of agreement, has appeared.
This interesting book thus unintentionally gives a rather good picture of the slightly sealed-off quality of nuclear strategy thinking in Pakistan. It is left to the reader to fit this secluded enclave into the military organization and wider socio-economic structure.
Robert Anderson, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
THE POLITICS OF RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA: Transnational Commitments to Social Change. Routledge/Edinburgh South Asian Studies Series. By Eva Gerharz. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xi, 188 pp. US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-58229-2.
The Politics of Reconstruction and Development in Sri Lanka provides a perceptive and astute insight into the fascinating universe of Jaffna peninsula during the 2002 to 2006 interlude of the island’s ethno-separatist war. The ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) opened up the long-besieged and isolated peninsula, and cleared the way for some innovative development brokerage. It is indeed a well-chosen site for studying the politics of development.
Gerharz uses the German government aid agency German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) as an initial vantage point. This is in itself worthwhile, given that this significant and somewhat atypical development actor is largely invisible in the English-language literature. I hasten to add, though, that Gerharz’s book is not the umpteenth upgraded policy report that managed to turn itself into a book. The author managed to release herself from the institutional and discursive trappings of the aid industry. Her interviews, observations, and anecdotes will provide readers unfamiliar with war-time Sri Lanka with a well-illustrated insight into the absurdities and normalities of everyday life during crisis. Those with first-hand experience will probably nod, sigh, or chuckle in recognition of some of Gerharz’s observations.
Following two contextual chapters—one on the ethno-political conflict, the other specifically on Jaffna—the empirical core of the book comprises four loosely structured chapters. Chapter 4 discusses the intended and unintended outcomes of GTZ’s repositioning after the 2002 ceasefire. Gerharz places these in the context of the convoluted political order, where Sri Lankan state institutions and the LTTE’s attempt at de facto sovereign rule elbow for legitimacy. She carefully navigates the ambivalent stance of her respondents with regard to insurgent governance. Coercion, brutality, and forced recruitment stand side by side with the preservation of order and public morale: low crime and corruption, efficient coordination, and honouring of traditions. This then sets the stage for some of the later contentions around development, order, change, and moral anxiety.
Chapter 5 introduces the red thread in Gerharz’s scholarship: transnationalism, more specifically the Tamil diaspora and its role in development efforts. She discusses diaspora projects and contrasts them with Jaffna-based religious initiatives, resulting in some critical reflections around local knowledge, ownership, and progress. Diaspora Tamils make a particularly useful contribution through their computer skills and their mastery of English-language development paradigms, we learn in chapter 6. This not only benefits Jaffna’s somewhat archaic NGO scene, but the LTTE as well. Gerharz sheds light on the conundrums around the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), a registered international NGO, but effectively an LTTE outreach mechanism. Chapter 7 engages with some of the cultural clashes and moral panic associated with diaspora return to Jaffna. Grandmothers find themselves astounded at the lifestyle of their family members from Western countries, the girls in particular. The book usefully juxtaposes contentions around governance and development with wider anxieties about cultural purity and tradition. This yields a nuanced multi-layered analysis of community, moral order, gender, and othering in a society undergoing rapid transition.
The final two chapters seek to transform this fascinating narrative into some conclusions about the politics of development and reconstruction. The author introduces four conceptual takes on development (external service delivery, spirituality and secularism, social (in)equality, and autonomy) and discusses knowledge struggles over development. The final chapter comprises a postwar epilogue, with a nutshell overview of the resumption of war, the defeat of the LTTE, and the militarized postwar developments. Gerharz concludes that the international peace-building agenda disintegrated as Sri Lanka’s new government embraced the war on terror and “home-grown solutions.”
The book’s strengths do not lie in the overall argument. Gerharz aspires to unravel how development is negotiated between local communities, aid workers, state agencies, rebels, and diaspora groups. And she does so quite well. But her observations do not result in a larger conceptual move or theoretical claim, other than underlining the complicated, multi-layered, contextualized nature of development. Gerharz adopts an actor-oriented approach to take issue with simplistic policy paradigms: overly instrumental perspectives on the migration-development nexus (diaspora are not one homogeneous actor that can be deployed), the so-called “global peace-building consensus” (peace and development do not simply go hand in hand) and its Sri Lankan variant, the “Kilinochchi consensus” (the idea that development efforts and peace dividends will transform the LTTE is ill-founded). In itself, these are valid points, but they are well established and could have been better embedded in existing scholarship. Engagement with authors such as Mark Duffield, Oliver Richmond, Rajesh Venugopal, and Benedikt Korf, to name some authors that remain uncited, would have made sense.
Moreover, the book’s criticism of wider policy agendas lacks the nuance and insight that characterizes the empirical parts of the book. The eye for detail and multiple perspectives, which allows us to see the many layers and dimensions of Jaffna society, seems to fail Gerharz when she reviews the policy landscape. After all, it is highly doubtful that there ever was much of a real consensus in Sri Lanka (or globally) about development and peace-building. Donors struggled all along to close ranks around the peace process: views, interest, and positions were rather divergent and this became abundantly clear when the going got tough. Capturing the diversity of actors and perspectives under the label of a global peace-building consensus, only to argue that this outlook is too simplistic, leaves readers with a straw-man argument.
The book’s nuanced empirical chapters deserve better, and it is these chapters that make the book worth the read. Gerharz skilfully weaves together a wide variety of interesting characters into a coherent and readable narrative without forcing them into pre-conceived roles: Christian priests, Australian Tamil idealists, and tourists, insurgent bureaucrats, puritan grandmothers, German administrators, and innovative refugees. And in doing so, she gives us a skilful glimpse of how development is brokered in the globalized socio-cultural market place that is Jaffna.
Bart Klem, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
MEDIATING THE GLOBAL: Expatria’s Forms and Consequences in Kathmandu. By Heather Hindman. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013. viii, 277 pp. (Map, B&W photos.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8651-5.
Who mediates neoliberalism, and how are those individuals’ own lives transformed in the process? Heather Hindman’s Mediating the Global: Expatria’s Forms and Consequences in Kathmandu is a poignant investigation of this question through an ethnography of expatriate lives in Nepal’s capital city in the 1990s and 2000s. In this important contribution to the anthropologies of development and work—as well as to development studies, international business, human resources and South Asian studies—Hindman offers an incisive yet sympathetic account of the intimate challenges that “global middlemen” face in their daily lives.
The book is not a kneejerk critique of international aid or global capitalism, but rather a view into the family dramas, consumption practices, and subjectivities of those who are “asked to be implementers of neoliberalism and also find themselves its objects” (217). Hindman asks us to consider how those tasked with implementing such agendas, through both governmental and non-governmental agencies, often suffer the negative consequences of their own policies at a personal level. This perspective takes us beyond the “dyad of originating site and destination site” (219) in studies of globalization to explore the crucial role of mediation and mediators.
The location of the study in Kathmandu is in some ways incidental to the author’s portrayal of “Expatria” as a deterritorialized polity that “shared many of the characteristics of a small town” (9). Expatria’s inhabitants are linked through “postings” across the globe, from Mali to Peru, Indonesia to Oman. But Hindman is clear that this is not a book written in the “simple language of flows and exchange” (219) between disparate locations. Rather, it is a sited, historically contextualized ethnography that tells us much about Nepal’s position in the current global conjuncture. Through the experiences of its expatriate inhabitants, we come to understand how Nepal has been shaped by the economic and geopolitical forces that have deposited these often unlikely residents in Kathmandu. In this way, although the book is not about Nepalis themselves—except in cameo appearances as household help or elite international women’s group members—it begins to suggest how Nepali lives are increasingly mediated by the global.
With an introduction, six chapters, and a conclusion, the book explores expatriate life from several angles. Chapter 1 considers whether contemporary expatriates in Nepal can be compared with British colonials elsewhere. The answer is “not really.” This is both because Nepal was never formally colonized and so the postcolonial optic that shapes much scholarship on South Asia does not fully apply, but perhaps more importantly because “the widespread aspiration to the status of ‘being global’” (40) is a recent phenomenon, dating to the late twentieth century.
Chapters 2 and 3, “Families that Fail” and “Market Basket Economics,” constitute the ethnographic heart of the book. Here we meet several expat couples and families in the 1990s, whose experiences either exemplify corporate and governmental expectations of “success,” or illustrate the embarrassment of failure. Hindman shows how a heteronormative family with children that relies upon the uncompensated labour of a (usually female) spouse was long the unquestioned kinship model at the heart of expatriate “packages” used to compensate international employees. Of course many real families deviated in some way, but the pressure to conform could tear them apart.
In one of the book’s most poignant ethnographic moments, Hindman describes how a group of expat women forego serving rice at a planned party because the foreigner-oriented supermarket is out of boxed Uncle Ben’s rice, without even considering the possibility of buying rice in bulk from a local shop (100). This example shows how expats must negotiate between consumption practices intended to replicate “home,” as dictated by idealized compensation categories promoted by their home governments and companies, and the reality of Nepali markets and their fluctuations. For Hindman, this day-to-day “labor of producing normalcy” (79) is an often misrecognized element of expat livelihoods that demands better analysis—rather than derision—from anthropologists.
The remaining three chapters take us further behind the scenes to show how structural transformations began to render the “package expatriates” described in chapters 2 and 3 obsolete by the early 2000s. Corporate investment in “cross-cultural training” (chapter 5) gave way to new communication technologies (chapter 6) and an emergent ideal of the flexible, unattached single worker (chapter 4). These changes were driven by economic downturns in the “Global North” as well as new corporate paradigms of “flexibility” that transformed “displacement from a source of concern to a job benefit” (134). At the same time, Nepal’s Maoist-state civil conflict (1996–2006) accelerated, making it seem a less than ideal posting for families with children. Single, short-term contractors began to take their place, in turn shaping the commodities and services—and therefore employment—available in Kathmandu.
This confluence between global labour paradigms and national political scenarios takes us to the heart of Kathmandu’s ongoing transformation. The scaling back of expatriate consumption has been paralleled by the entry of ever greater numbers of Nepalis onto the city’s increasingly conspicuous landscape of consumption. Fuelled by remittances earned by the approximately 25 percent of Nepal’s workforce employed outside the country—many of whom left directly or indirectly due to the conflict—it is now primarily Nepalis who populate the restaurants and supermarkets that Hindman describes as the province of expatriates in decades past. The iconic landmark that was once Mike’s Breakfast—the restaurant pictured on Hindman’s cover—has now become a bar catering to young Nepalis. Their experiences as construction workers in the Gulf, university students in North America, or hotel receptionists in Korea, and the ways their earnings and shifts in consciousness are changing Kathmandu demand new research. Heather Hindman is already ahead of the curve, with recent articles focusing on Nepali experiences of the language exam required to work in Korea, and the political views of city youth returned from abroad. Understanding these eminently Nepali experiences of global mediation is a welcome next step that nicely complements Hindman’s excellent first monograph.
Sara Shneiderman, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
THE KHMER LANDS OF VIETNAM: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty. ASAA Southeast Asia Publications Series. By Philip Taylor. Singapore: NUS Press; Copenhagen: NIAS Press, in association with Asian Studies Association of Australia, 2014. xvii, 316 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$32.00, paper. ISBN 978-9971-69-778-5.
Kampuchea Krom has served for centuries as a much-contested middle-space that occupies the rich Mekong Delta area of southern Vietnam. The Khmer Krom people, who comprise a large demographic in the region, are an ethnic Khmer minority who have called this area home for centuries. Due in large part to centuries of regional rivalry, Kampuchea Krom, which is under Vietnamese territorial domain, has taken on a legendary character. Most famously, a Cambodian story told of an early seventeenth-century betrayal of Khmers by Vietnamese, one which the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) under Pol Pot revived to foment hatred among his people toward the country’s ethnic minority Vietnamese population. As the story goes, despite a treaty between the Khmer and Vietnamese parties that was bound by the marriage of Khmer prince Chey Chetha II (1618–1628) to the daughter of the King of Annam, the Vietnamese occupied the region via mass migration, thereby forcing the local Khmer peoples out as primary inhabitants and rulers. Centuries later, the CPK regarded the Khmer Krom as “Khmer bodies with Vietnamese minds” who might turn their allegiance against Cambodia due to their connections to “stolen” Khmer lands. While oral history and nationalistic narratives about the region are widespread, few scholarly efforts have been made to examine the Khmer Krom people and how they interpret and interact with their environments.
The Khmer Lands of Vietnam by Philip Taylor sheds much overdue light on the livelihoods of the Khmer Krom outside of the nationalist frameworks of Cambodia and Vietnam by exploring “locally contextualized questions about the Khmer Krom … to generate a set of comparable criteria” (6). The book consists of seven readable chapters in between a comprehensive introduction and conclusion. Taylor’s thesis argues that the Khmer Krom are “the rightful subjects of two different nations, neither of which fully accepts them as its own,” and through “recasting Buddhist and folk cosmologies and [by] improvising stories … they have imbued their diverse local ecologies, circumstances and histories with universal significance” (252–253). Each of Kampuchea Krom’s seven main sub-regions receives chapter-length attention. The first two chapters discuss the northern and southern halves of the region complex, respectively, and explore how inhabitants adapt to the ecological setting in which they live. The third chapter employs oral history interviews as well as stories about the region to cast into light various histories of displacement, settlement and flight along the central Mekong Delta. Taylor then draws from stories told by residents to frame a history of the Khmer river basin. He asserts that such tales “embody a unique form of historical consciousness and bring into view conceptions of place, morality, and authority that remain salient for the Khmers of this region of saltwater rivers” (129). He concludes that although the Vietnamese have unquestioned military power over this region, “Khmer sovereignty over the peninsula remains potent, and is made manifest in miraculous events and the telling of stories” (161).
Subsequent chapters also highlight Kampuchea Krom as a locus between two nations, shedding light on the survival, modernity, and identity of the Khmer Krom. Chapter 5 examines the lives of Khmer Krom between the mountains and floodplains of the area, which the author describes as “incorporated yet distinct” (189), while the sixth chapter analyzes the inhabitants of the northwest shoreline—their livelihoods, transformations and threats to their security in this unique locality. The final chapter discusses the uplands region, which, the author states, “is considered by Khmers in the Mekong Delta to be the oldest site of Khmer settlement in Kampuchea Krom and is said to remain home to Khmer daem, the original Khmers” (219). In the conclusion, Taylor summarizes his findings and identifies some common threads as well as some contrasts.
Taylor’s study of Kampuchea Krom places needed attention on the Khmer-speaking minority in southern Vietnam, and it satisfies as an introduction to the region, its people, and the ways in which they eke out their survival as a nation between nations. However, the book could have benefited from the inclusion of a theory, or theories, in which to locate the phenomena under analysis. The absence of any engagement with James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed seems to me an opportunity that the author missed, since Scott’s study examines statelessness and resistance in an area in Southeast Asia that he terms as Zomia. I also would have liked to see Taylor situate his analysis of the Khmer Krom within the scholarly polemics on ethnicity and nation. For instance, Rogers Brubaker’s assertion that groupness is a contextually fluctuating conceptual variable, and Thongchai Winichakul’s notion of the geo-body and his discussion of lost territories, are both salient theoretical lenses through which one can grasp the complexities that undergird Khmer Krom conceptions of identity as well as their weltanschauung. Although the author succeeds in placing primacy on ecology and cosmology as alternative scopes through which to analyze the Khmer Krom, the absence of any dialogue with these major theories leaves the reader having to navigate through the book and approach loaded terms such as nation, ethnicity, and modernity without a theoretical heading.
The Khmer Lands of Vietnam is nevertheless a thoughtful analysis of an important yet oft-overlooked ethnic group that inhabits the rich Mekong Delta. As Taylor makes clear, nationalistic narratives of the region occupy the collective consciousness of Vietnam and Cambodia, and politicians and revolutionaries alike have mobilized its loss and acquisition as a rallying cry for expansion and national legitimacy. Often lost in these narratives, however, are the inhabitants themselves, who, with a dual identity and varied livelihoods in a geographically diverse terrain, remain resilient and somewhat defiant in the faces of both ruling bodies to this very day.
Matt Galway, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
A KINGDOM IN CRISIS: Thailand’s Struggle for Democracy in the Twenty-First Century. Asian Arguments. By Andrew MacGregor Marshall. London: Zed Books, 2014. 238 pp. (Map.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-78360-057-1.
The publication of Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s A Kingdom in Crisis has been a much-awaited event among Thai scholars. Marshall, a Scottish journalist who used to work for Reuters, has been releasing large pieces of this study for a number of years now, at his “#thaistory” blog. The book adds something to this material but will not be a huge surprise to those who have read his work at the blog site.
Marshall began writing about the royalist dimensions of contemporary Thai politics in the context of the country’s devolution into military dictatorship since 2006, offering interpretations of Wikileaks cables that exposed unsavoury aspects of the coup plotters’ ideas and machinations—including those of royalist, Democrat Party, and Yellow Shirt leaders. Unable to continue working at Reuters, and unwilling to risk imprisonment under Thailand’s harsh lèse majesté laws should he return to Thailand, Marshall settled in to write a book that frames contemporary political struggles through the lens of long-standing struggles surrounding the Thai monarchy.
The take-home message of Marshall’s book is delivered early on, in four parts (3–4). First, he claims that at the elite level, “Thailand’s conflict is essentially a succession struggle over who will become monarch when King Bhumibol dies.” Second, he claims that the political upheaval elites have feared will result from the King’s passing has already begun. Third, the intensity of this upheaval “does not imply that the monarch has significant political power as an independent actor,” since Thai elites have typically used the monarchy to their own benefit. And fourth, most Thais are not so much pro-royalist as loyal supporters of the current King. He then presents an analysis designed to back these claims, including both a survey of current events and a number of historical chapters meant to place the current reign in broader perspective.
Given the relative paucity of accessible and critical English-language writing about the Thai monarchy, and the risks that such writing entails, A Kingdom in Crisis should be considered a significant accomplishment, and Zed Books should be given credit for being willing to publish it. For the many Westerners who continue to repeat outmoded and Orientalist slogans about the Kingdom, the book should prove to be a real eye-opener—not least in its discussion of the events that led to the current king taking the throne and expanding the social and political significance of the monarchy (132 ff.).
For many scholars and people fairly familiar with Thai politics, some of Marshall’s analysis will nonetheless prove fairly thin gruel. It is not only that there has actually been a string of books in recent history that raise telling issues about the monarchy and challenges of succession—for example, the works by Benedict Anderson, Paul Handley, Soren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager, William Stevenson, David Streckfuss and Thongchai Winichakul, which the author cites, as well as works by Kevin Hewison, Rayne Kruger and Somsak Jeamteerasakul, which he doesn’t cite—but Marshall’s explanation of the current crisis is somewhat one-sided.
Marshall is surely right that succession issues are significant, a claim that he backs with the Wikileaks cables and other sources. But if his own assertion that the monarchy is not independently powerful and is used by elites for their own purposes is correct, as I would say it is, then the succession issue ought to be used as a window onto the larger social struggles that consume the elites. These clearly include not only their obsessive concerns about who controls the wealth and institutional power of the Royal household and its various properties after King Bhumibol dies, but how they can continue to maintain an elite-dominated political and social order without the legitimizing imagery that has been built up around the current monarch. In many ways, it is this elite struggle against rising popular demands, poignantly expressed in various ways by the now suppressed Red Shirt movement, which is at the centre of the present political struggle. Marshall’s book unfortunately provides scant insight into this aspect of the struggle, including the transformations of rural society enabling it, or the ways it is interconnected with the intra-elite machinations around succession. Moreover, this failure to analyze popular struggles is not merely an empirical lacuna in the work since it contributes to one of the rather strained prognostications Marshall forwards when he anticipates that after Bhumibol’s death and some brief upheaval Thailand may evolve toward greater stability, the succession issue having been resolved (214).
This seems to me a highly unlikely scenario, given the intensity of popular struggle against elitist forms of rule, and the intransigence of Thai elites in trying to maintain them. I should note that the version of Marshall’s book I have read was finished before the 2014 coup, an event which announced in no uncertain terms the will of the military leadership to expunge all popular forces except those that support them, and to rule by out-and-out dictatorial or fascist means if necessary. Perhaps Marshall can be excused for not having written such acts of deep repression into his analysis, or for drawing the conclusion that such acts make near-term reconciliation seem hopeless. Yet an analysis of the popular struggle in Thailand—rather than just the intra-elite succession struggle—might have already commended such an interpretation, independently of the 2014 coup. (Strangely, the book lacks any analysis of the 2008 Yellow Shirt airport blockades, which also attest to the intransigence of elite forces and might have warned against any hopes for short-term reconciliation.)
Despite these shortcomings, A Kingdom in Crisis is a useful read, particularly for those unfamiliar with the roles of royalist-military elites (and their international allies) in shaping Thailand’s ongoing struggles for democracy. It will certainly find its place on the bookshelves of Thai democracy activists—provided they do not live in Thailand.
Jim Glassman, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
EXPLORATION AND IRONY IN STUDIES OF SIAM OVER FORTY YEARS. Southeast Asia Program Series, no. 63. By Benedict R. O’G. Anderson. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2014. viii, 166 pp. (Illustrations.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-87727-763-7.
This book by renowned scholar Benedict Anderson hardly needs a review. It has an insightful introduction (by Tamara Loos) which can pass as an excellent review. It consists of essays that remain influential, with three of them previously published in Anderson’s critically acclaimed Spectre of Comparison. The essays in Exploration and Irony were perhaps not intended to become a book-length study of Siam, as every chapter can stand alone, unique and engaging. Of course, the decision to not meddle with the original text produces some inconsistency, such as Chulalangkorn in one chapter is Julalongkon in another, and there is a missing reference in a piece designed for an edited book, which appears only as “see Chalida Uabumrungjit’s essay” (144). Also, the year of Andreas Bonifacio’s revolution is given incorrectly. Aside from this, the organization of the chapters is well conceived, with the most recent essays at the end and postscripts added for some older essays.
The collection of essays shows that Benedict Anderson responded to the call of time by writing piece by piece following a sense of endless crises in Thailand, a country he came to love (which he would rather have called Siam for a good reason) after his long passionate engagement with Indonesia. How he builds up his new love relation after the first one is perhaps what makes the book a must-read for students of Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia. Another attraction is that his work is characteristically iconoclastic. He shows the newness of what one would think of as something that is very old, and the continuity of the old (the difficulty in overcoming tradition) in the assumption of the new. He can also deconstruct his own thinking while persuasively defending the validity of his long-standing argument. It is a work that is authoritative enough to see the ups and downs of a generation of Thai intellectuals (whom he personally knew), how they rose up against domination, and how they (thirty years later) were co-opted by power. There is a quality of human drama in what is after all a biography of a nation.
For me Exploration and Irony is a haunting text for it releases the ghost of Indonesia, represented by Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia, a book that consists of Anderson’s most influential essays on Indonesia over two decades. He could have made his Indonesia essays a study of the country over forty years had he not been banned from Indonesia from 1972 until the fall of Suharto in 1998. The ban was a blessing in disguise for Thailand, for it now has a study almost equal (as first love can’t be replaced) to Language and Power. Exploration and Irony thus seems to carry a “spectre of comparison” with Language and Power. It is a “spectre” because one can better understand Indonesia through Siam and vice versa even though these two countries are very different. There is a chapter (“Radicalism after Communism”) that makes an explicit connection with Indonesia while showing how different they are, but there are many spectral moments in other chapters. For instance, the insights in the painfully argued chapter “Withdrawal Symptoms” (with footnotes as lengthy as the text), could be productively read by students of Indonesia to better understand the dynamics of the Suharto era. The tormented Thai middle class who demonstrated in Bangkok in 1973 brings to mind the relatively modest (though not less significant) students’ demonstration in Jakarta in 1974, both of which point to the impact of new class formation as a result of collaboration between American and Japanese power and national dictatorship in advancing capitalist modernization in the region. Meanwhile, the revival of royal rituals (under Marshal Sarit) recalls the invention of Javanese tradition in Suharto’s Indonesia as both countries sought to build a cultural foundation to stabilize the contradiction of “development.”
To continue, like Indonesia’s incomplete revolution under Javanese rulers (due in large measure to the power of “Javanese tradition”) the roots of Thailand’s “instability” lie in a “stunted and incomplete transition from kingdom to modern nation-state” (34). The modern Thai army resembles the Indonesian army under General Suharto, which never fought external forces. Instead it was mobilized against its own people, for internal order and stability. Thus was the state’s creation of the nation’s internal “others” through categories such as “Chinese,” “communists,” “the masses” and so on. There are episodes of killing in the spirit of public relations in both modern Siam and Indonesia. Meanwhile, “crises,” the key theme of this book on Siam, recalls Anderson’s depiction of the series of “internal” crises Java encountered since the late nineteenth century.
Exploration and Irony is a great country study much like Language and Power, though Anderson seems less tormented by Thailand. Exploration seems more distant as Thailand is analyzed through a series of “objective” historical conditions against other countries, which serves to make the country seem less unique. One gains great comparable knowledge of Siam on a variety of issues, but what makes all those issues matter is the theoretical framework that underlies the study. This theoretical framework stems from what Anderson saw as the difference between the nation and the state, and for those who have been influenced by his Imagined Communities (first published only in 1983), you immediately get a sense that Southeast Asia has long been the ground for his private reflections on nationalism. His study on Siam offered him great material to think about “official nationalism” and the state invention of tradition, and his work on Indonesia (and the Philippines) allowed him to appreciate the power of “popular nationalism,” and its subsequent death in the hands of an authoritarian state. One can already see the seeds of Imagined Communities in the series of early essays on Indonesia and Thailand.
The last part of Exploration and Irony consists of three essays and one set of “two Unsendable letters” which basically say that a true nationalist should be able to feel shame for his or her country’s misconduct. The last three essays, inspired perhaps by his earlier writing on “political communication” of New Order Indonesia, offer his most recent thoughts, with discursive materials from the media and visual environment. His meditation on films teases out a range of subjects (from gender and sexuality to class and ethnicity) that are hard to imagine by the fossilized Bangkok middle class. This cultural production, while (not always) beyond the reach of the state, offers hope for a counternarrative and different consciousness. The title of the last chapter, “Mundane History,” indicates just how much mundane materials from everyday life, which are often looked down on by the big data of the political science discipline and the regime of archival truth in history, can constitute a politically engaging scholarship. This is also a country study with a comparative dimension, as one can learn more about Indonesia through a reading of Thailand.
Abidin Kusno, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
IDENTITY AND PLEASURE: The Politics of Indonesian Screen Culture. Kyoto CSEAS Series on Asian Studies, 13. By Ariel Heryanto. Singapore: NUS Press; Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2014. xiv, 246 pp. (Col. illus.) US$32.99, paper. ISBN 978-9971-69-821-8.
In this fascinating study, Ariel Heryanto continues the line of investigation developed in one of his previous books, the edited collection, Popular Culture in Indonesia: Fluid Identities in Post-Authoritarian Politics (2008). That is, Heryanto sets out to examine the complex ways in which popular culture, especially “screen culture” (films, television, Internet), is intertwined with the production of identity and the politics connected to identity. In this case, Heryanto is most centrally concerned with Indonesian urban middle-class youth in a context of progressive “Islamization” and against a historical background of a rich and extremely varied diversity of peoples, cultures, and continuing creative ideas.
Identity and Pleasure is divided into roughly three broad sections. Following its introductory opening chapter, Heryanto devotes chapters 2 and 3 to an examination of what he, modifying Asef Bayat’s concept, terms Indonesian “post-Islamism”—both a condition and project in which some Indonesian Muslims seeking to correct the exclusions and repressions of the secularist New Order regime of President Suharto, attempt to combine Islam with individual rights, freedom, democracy, and modernity. He notes the growth of this strain of Islamic piety together with an industry devoted to Islamic women’s fashion, and dedicates much of chapter 3 to demonstrating the diversity of Islamic positions on faith and identity as represented in several Islamic-themed films, such as Hanung Bramantyo’s 2008 film version of Habiburrahman El-Shirazy’s Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), and the popular reactions to them. Heryanto sees the hero of Ayat-Ayat Cinta—devout, hard-working, well-educated in matters pertaining to Islam, conversant with Western culture, and economically comfortable—as a new icon of urban middle-class “post-Islamism.” Most striking, and complementing work by Daromir Rudnyckyj and others, Heryanto sees this hero as combining pious religious faith and practice with the ability to live a comfortable modern consumerist lifestyle. Heryanto also notes the irony of the creeping authority of political Islamism within the Indonesian political elite at the same time that the relatively more relaxed form of “post-Islamism” has taken root among young urban professionals.
A second section comes to grips with the “losers” in the pre-New Order struggle to define Indonesia’s modern national identity: those accused of being communists or communist sympathizers, many thousands of whom were massacred or imprisoned after the events of September 30, 1965. Chapters 4 and 5 are thus given over to elucidating the continuing tensions arising from this history, and describing the various attempts to give filmic voice to the victims and, in some remarkable cases, the perpetrators of some of the mass slaughters. Certainly, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2012) is one of the key films discussed, but it is only one of several, some of which were made possible by the increased availability and low costs of using new digital technologies. Heryanto points out continued resistance to reopening these old wounds and sees this resistance as a key historical evasion that has made it difficult for Indonesians to understand in a more nuanced and meaningful way current social and political conflicts.
In its final section, Identity and Pleasure explores two topics. The first is the immense popularity of Korean and Northeast Asian popular culture (music, television serials, etc.) in Indonesia, including the attraction of Korean pop (K-Pop)music idols for many young women, not a few of whom wear the Islamic jilbab (body and hair-covering garments). He views this phenomenon as empowerment for (mainly) middle-class segments of Indonesia’s female population insofar as they are able to consume and express their pleasure in dance and displays of attraction to handsome Northeast Asian male film and music idols, activities which demonstrate a desire similar to that of fans of Ayat-Ayat Cinta—to be Islamic and modern at one and the same time. Enjoyment of Taiwanese and Korean television serials, Heryanto argues, also demonstrates an appreciation for hard work as a moral good in itself, rather than as a strategy to gain material reward as in most Hollywood films. All of this also displays a somewhat mitigated feeling towards “Chinese-looking” people that would have been hard to imagine in Indonesia (where anti-Chinese feeling has run deeply at times) less than two decades ago.
The second topic, to which the book’s last chapter is devoted, is an examination of lower-class participation in Indonesian electoral politics and that group’s current fragmentation and disempowerment as elections have turned towards media-savvy entertainment-oriented styles. Ironically, the lower-class participation in elections may well have been more subversive and powerful, Heryanto concludes, when they were allowed to engage in New Order “Festival of Democracy” parades which often turned quite disorderly in an almost carnivalesque fashion.
Heryanto’s arguments are theoretically careful, nuanced, and innovative, always seeking more detailed understandings and explanations for the popularity (or lack of it) of his subjects; Islamic lifestyles and films, films about the tragic events of 1965–66, K-pop, and increasingly entertainment-oriented political campaigns. Throughout, Heryanto continues to explore the production of diverse and often conflicting identities within the Indonesian polity and its varied cultures. A key theme to which he returns several times is that cultural production of identities in what is now Indonesia has long been hybrid and international—from at least the late colonial period when cross-racial groups within Indonesia produced theatre, film, fiction and other products that constituted the forerunners of national culture. Furthermore, Heryanto argues, much of this history and creativity has been consciously erased from memory by Indonesian elites seeking to redefine and control Indonesian identity as a more exclusive preserve of non-Chinese Indonesians with minimal influence from the West.
Taken altogether, and considering the range and depth of the discussions it contains, this is a very rich and stimulating work of cultural anthropology. Identity and Pleasure deserves serious attention from both those interested in contemporary Indonesian culture and politics, and those engaging with theoretical issues of identity production.
Michael Bodden, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
IN SEARCH OF MIDDLE INDONESIA: Middle Classes in Provincial Towns. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, v. 292; Power and Place in Southeast Asia, v. 4. Edited by Gerry van Klinken, Ward Berenschot. Leiden; Boston, MA: Brill, 2014. xv, 242 pp. (Figures, map.) US$134.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-26300-0.
On the front cover of In Search of Middle Indonesia is a remarkable photograph. A man is seated upon a motorbike the colour of a green tree frog, which is parked by the side of the road. One leg is folded, his heel is in his crotch. He is pot-bellied, balding and shirtless, but his skin is taut. He is holding a cigarette in one limp hand.
The image encapsulates a number of stereotypical Indonesian masculine gestures: the cigarette, the cocked leg, the shirtlessness, but for one feature. A woman is standing by the bike, gently leaning into the man. She is also middle-aged, and looks freshly bathed. With one hand, she pinches the man’s upper arm. The man recoils slightly, but they are looking into each other’s eyes and laughing unreservedly. It is this open, contented, equal, and self-confident exchange of looks that serves as the image’s focal point, and hints at some of the findings about provincial middle-class life trajectories, political affiliations, and economic interests presented in this volume.
In Search of Middle Indonesia is the fruit of a large Dutch research project involving seventeen researchers, which commenced in 2007. Research proceeded in five sites: Pekalongan in Central Java, Cilegon in West Java, Ternate in North Maluku, Kupang in West Timor, and Pontianak in West Kalimantan. In selecting the sites, the research leaders had sought a balance of market-driven and state-driven economies.
Van Klinken’s introduction roots the collection deeply in studies of twenty-first-century Indonesian democracy, with occasional nods to studies of provincial towns in other countries. The study is deemed significant in light of most Indonesianist scholars’ focus on the national capital, the national bourgeoisie, and elite politics in mediating democracy. As a result, the important role of provincial actors has been overlooked, and the ways in which democracy is brokered and practiced in the provinces by ordinary middle-class people—teachers, small scale entrepreneurs, civil servants—is not very well understood. In Search of Middle Indonesia aims to enlighten readers as to the role of these ordinary, middle-class folk in determining how democracy is lived and how it works.
According to van Klinken, provincial middle classes do not just mediate democracy, they also aggressively shape it. This group, he argues, was an important force pushing for decentralization following the fall of Suharto. Decentralization has brought the state closer to these groups of people, and enhanced their capacity to broker a democracy that rests on new kinds of patron-client relations. Interestingly, from the point of view of the Indonesian provincial middle, in both state-oriented and market-oriented towns, the role of the state in people’s lives has by no means declined with the end of authoritarianism. Van Klinken explains that “the mutually constitutive role of the state and the middle classes is one of the most important emphases in the present set of studies” (24).
The chapters are organized into triplets under the themes class, the state, and everyday culture. In Search of Middle Indonesia is a collection of seven deep ethnographic studies of life in provincial towns, one orienting chapter by Ben White that locates the project in a broader, global scholarly lineage of studying class in provincial towns and rural areas, and an autobiographical piece by Cornelis Lay about growing up in Kupang.
My main critique pertains to the Indonesia-centrism of the volume as a whole. Most of the chapters contain solid ethnographic data and well-composed interpretations that provide a valuable and localized view of Indonesian democracy in the twenty-first century. However, more could have been done in the introduction to draw out the broader significance of these excellent case studies to the disciplines they touch on, such as human geography and political science. Barbara Harriss White’s studies of towns in India are mentioned as inspirational sources, but the content of her studies, and how Middle Indonesia extends her insights, is glossed over.
Ben White’s chapter, which falls immediately after the introduction, does much to draw the book out of an exclusive area studies focus. He links In Search of Middle Indonesia to a lineage of scholarship dating back to Lenin’s and Alexander Chayanov’s studies of pre-Bolshevik local government in the 1920s, and the studies of Middle America in the 1930s and 1940s by William Warner and Paul Lunt and Helen and Paul Lynd to situate the project’s focus on intermediate towns and classes in broader social science scholarship. White’s chapter is an entertaining read, and may have made better sense as a foreword.
Most of the ethnographies contained here, though, are drawn from lengthy studies and observation, and make for fascinating reading. Together, they provide a granular view of provincial life, democratic practice and class politics from a variety of angles.
Nicolaas Warouw’s chapter is delightful. In it, he recounts instances of lower-class people in Cilegon and Pekalongan agitating to gain access to state resources. His piece depicts local elections as a safety valve for the venting and resolution of class-based frustrations and conflicts. Sylvia Tidey’s contribution on civil servants and ethnicity in Kupang vividly evokes how life in Kupang very much revolves around people’s jobs in the civil service. Joseph Errington’s chapter on the identity negotations involved in sustaining the Kupang version of Bahasa Indonesia provides a view of class and provincial identity through the prism of language use. Wenty Marina Minza spent a year in Pontianak in order to understand the life choices and trajectories of young people in that town. Amalinda Savirani chronicles developments in Pekalongan’s construction industry, and Noorhaidi Hasan’s chapter provides a gritty account of Islamic fashion and its role in democracy at the provincial level. Many of the chapters, then, are written by Indonesian scholars, and herein lies the value of this collection: it provides a view of contemporary society and democracy as it is seen by Indonesian people. Not many people will read this whole collection front to back, but those who do will be treated to the feeling that they are on an island-hopping adventure, where life and politics do not always revolve around what is happening in Jakarta.
Emma Baulch, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
LIEM SIOE LIONG’S SALIM GROUP: The Business Pillar of Suharto’s Indonesia. By Richard Borsuk, Nancy Chng. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2014. xiv, 573 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Illustrations.) US$52.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4459-57-0.
Numerous academics and journalists have written about Liem Sioe Liong. This is because it is not possible to discuss or to understand the political and economic history of modern Indonesia without dealing with this pivotal figure. But in this book, Borsuk and Chng have drilled down deeper than others, producing an analysis that is not only forensic in its detail but rich in its picture of the life and times of Liem.
It moves from Liem’s early years in Java and then in Jakarta, tracking his beginnings as a trader and small entrepreneur and looks at how his business life was transformed in the revolution. These early chapters are evocative and read easily as we are taken into the relationships he began to develop with various generals and politicians and within the intriguing and complex world of business in Indonesia and Southeast Asia more generally. The authors paint a picture, not only of the wheeling and dealing that underpinned the rise of Liem and other Chinese Indonesian capitalists in the chaotic days following the ending of Dutch colonialism, but also of how military and political patronage and relationships with regional capitalists, including Chin Sophonpanich and Robert Kuok, became the factors of commercial success.
We are then introduced to the diverse individuals who drove Liem’s business juggernaut through the 1970s and 1980s. It is interesting that these individuals included both political and business figures and also breached the usual divisions between Chinese Indonesian and indigenous, Pribumi, business groups. And we are given the first insights into how the group began to grow beyond its early dependence on generals and politicians to a group operating more globally and which spread its wings into banking and finance, manufacturing, property, and agribusiness. The transition from a personalized operation to a more international, business-like, and complex stage is well captured by the authors in their portraits of Liem and his son, Anthony Salim.
From here, the book attempts two ambitious tasks. One is to provide a forensic analysis of the rise of Liem’s business empire. The second is to take us on a journey through the broader political and economic environment in which Liem operated. These two aspects are not only treated thoroughly but in a way that brings us close to the people, the deals and the relationships that drove the Liem story. Even though I am familiar with this terrain, the rich vein of interviews and primary sources used meant there was a lot that was new.
But the ambitious scope of the book also has its costs. On the one hand, chapters 8 to 14 are very intensive analyses of the way different companies of the group were established and run. Moving in great detail across Liem’s expanding interests in flour milling, commodity importing, cement, banking, real estate, petrochemicals, and manufacturing, the authors show how political influence, state-allocated monopolies, and credit as well as financing from international players fitted into the rise of each of the big companies.
This is an excellent assembly of data and insights that brings together an array of primary sources, interviews and other secondary material not matched elsewhere. It is a resource par excellence for researchers seeking to understand the processes of capital accumulation by Southeast Asian Chinese capitalists or for those who are familiar with the people and business groups involved. But even for someone who knows this area well, I must admit the level of detail proved exhausting.
On the other hand, the book also provides an extensive overview of the broader political and economic environment in which Liem operated. This approach is a welcome change from studies that often come out of business schools or are written by economists, where the analysis is offered in technical terms and abstracted from its broader contexts.
Borsuk and Chng show us how Liem fitted into the broader structural architecture of Indonesia’s political economy and how he had to weave his way through the crises that struck periodically, sometimes with devastating effect. We are shown how the fortunes of Liem were affected by the internal political struggles of the New Order and how he had to adjust to these. We are introduced to the threats that arose from a growing resentment of corruption and the concentration of wealth in the hands of conglomerates, which spilled over into anti-Chinese sentiment. Finally, we look at the Liem story through the devastating impact of the financial crisis and the struggle to rebuild the business and through the ultimate fall of Soeharto.
This aspect of the book brings some challenges that are the reverse of those mentioned earlier, with regard to too much detail. Here, the story often wanders away from the Liem story into a more general history. We look in much detail at Soeharto and his family and at some of the other Chinese business tycoons of the period. The financial crisis, the fall of Soeharto, and the politics of the post-Soeharto era bring with them the critical insights needed to explain the Liem story but at times tend to become stories in their own right and we sometimes lose sight of Liem.
Nevertheless, the chapters dealing with how Liem was undone by the financial crisis and how he reconstructed his empire through the complex web of asset seizures and buybacks that followed are immensely insightful. The descriptions of the chaos and violence in Jakarta and the flight of Chinese business to Singapore brought the reader into the drama.
In a sense, two books are offered here. One is a detailed explanation of the rise and transformation of a business empire. The other is a sometimes evocative story of the times of Liem.
In the latter parts of the book, the authors raise, directly or indirectly, some of the critical questions of the future that should now be the focus of scholars. To what extent has the fall of centralized authoritarian rule meant that capitalism and the capitalists of Indonesia have moved into a different phase? Is Indonesian capitalism now more thoroughly defined by the rules of global markets or have the conglomerates of modern Indonesia simply become tied into new political networks? Is the Liem experience a thing of the past?
Richard Robison, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
REGIONAL DYNAMICS IN A DECENTRALIZED INDONESIA. Indonesia Update Series. Edited by Hal Hill. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2014. xxvii, 536 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$39.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4459-84-6.
When the prodemocratic movement had successfully forced Soeharto to step down and ended the New Order regime (1967–1998) in 1998, Indonesians soon faced a daunting challenge: to come to terms with the violent legacy of the regime and to institute post-New Order political, economic, and legal reforms. Thirty-two years of an authoritarian and militaristic regime left unresolved cases of gross human rights violations and established a hegemonic, inefficient, and centralized state system. Structural reforms carried out by post-New Order governments have addressed these legacies with various degrees of success, from total failure to partial success. Among the efforts, bringing human rights violators to court has been the most difficult initiative to realize. On the other hand, reforming the governance sector has been more or less successful and has led to the creation of various state commissions and institutions to anticipate the diminishing power of the state and the emerging aspirations for more political openness and financial accountability.
This book discusses the different dynamics of institutional reform and how the reform needs to manage a shift in political authority, from a tightly controlled bureaucratic structure to a more democratic form of state governance and less influence of the military in national and local politics. Drawing on the long-term engagement by the Australian National University to study Indonesian politics and economy, the book presents a very detailed picture of the opportunities and problems encountered when Indonesia launched a broad initiative to decentralize its political system, financial accountability, legal structure and norms, and social policies. In examining the process that the Indonesian state has followed to reform the political, economic, and legal sectors, the essays in this book identify the centralized system of state governance as the main target of institutional reform in post-New Order Indonesia. In so doing, they locate the threshold that separates the authoritarian from the decentralized form of political, social, and economic control in the 1998 political crisis and the ensuing collapse of the New Order regime. As Anne Booth indicates in her contribution to the edited volume, the 1998 crisis is a political “big bang” that has released a plethora of productive and unproductive responses. The essays in this book analyze the tensions and interminglings of the productive and unproductive forces that have framed the discourses and practices of decentralization in the national and local contexts since the New Order regime collapsed.
Apart from Anne Booth’s essay, which traces the historical development of the decentralization debate prior to 1999, the essays in this volume focus more attention on the period after the 1998 political reform. The topics covered in this volume are diverse: the relationship of central and local government, fiscal decentralization, urban planning, special autonomy region (Papua and Aceh), public service, migration and urbanization, human rights politics and environmental management. Hal Hill in his introduction correctly emphasizes that the complex decentralization process has touched upon almost every dimension of state governance and sociocultural life that the edited volume wants to address.
Such a diverse topic has made this edited book an indispensable and important reference to the study of decentralization in Indonesia. In fact the book’s important contribution goes beyond the study of Indonesian politics and economy. It stands as a critical comparative contribution to the literatures on similar processes of decentralization and centre-local relationships taking place in other countries in Asia, such as in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, or India. While some of the features of the social and political dynamics of migration, election, regional development, human rights trials, or forestry policy may exhibit local concerns and specific power negotiations among local actors, some features also demonstrate similar trends and tendencies that have emerged from related colonial policies on the regional level.
Despite the important contribution it makes in terms of mapping out and analyzing the complexity of decentralization, the book lacks a long-term historical framework that could explain the emergence of a specific economic or political pattern or the interactions among stakeholders. However, Anne Booth’s essay and a few scattered remarks in Blane D. Lewis’s essay and in the essay by Cillian Nolan, Sidney Jones, and Solahudin provide all-too-rare examples of the contributors’ attempts to touch upon the historical development of the dynamics of decentralization. For a book dedicated to the late Thee Kian Wie, a leading Indonesian economic historian, the lack of such historical analysis that goes back to the period before the New Order is regrettable.
When this book was published in 2014, sixteen years after the New Order regime collapsed, four presidents had appeared on the Indonesian political stage. A very different political climate has emerged, in contrast to the thirty-two years of New Order rule, when Soeharto was re-elected every five years as president. Despite the change, the essays in the book also demonstrate that almost two decades of democratic government has hardly brought the legacy of the New Order to rest. Even though the decentralization initiative introduced in the early 2000s was expected to replace the New Order’s system of centralized government, it has failed to escape the legacy of proliferated corruption, political brokerage, and extrajudicial violence. The creation of new state bodies to fight corruption has not discouraged corrupt bureaucrats, and the establishment of a human rights commission has not resolved past human rights violations. Therefore, reading between the lines, the essays in this edited volume highlight a less optimistic, albeit realistic, fact: that no political transformation can offer a radical break with the past. What will take place after the political “big bang” is instead a complex dynamics of power negotiation which incorporate and at the same time abandon the structural elements or normative values of the previous political regime. This book has done a good job of portraying and examining this process in post-New Order Indonesia.
Fadjar I. Thufail, Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Jakarta, Indonesia
MAKING CHINESE AUSTRALIA: Urban Elites, Newspapers and the Formation of Chinese-Australian Identity, 1892–1912. The Monash Asia Series. By Mei-fen Kuo. Clayton, VIC: Monash University Publishing; Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services [distributor], 2013. xii, 308 pp. (Illustrations.) US$39.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-921867-96-5.
Chinese have been settling in Australia since the 1830s. However, from 1901 until 1975 they were officially excluded under the White Australia policy, legalized in the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 but without mentioning Asians specifically in order to avoid tensions with Britain’s friends and allies in Japan, India, or other Asian countries. This meant that Chinese-born residents steadily declined in numbers. There were only 6,404 left in 1947, compared with 38,702 in 1881 when restrictions began to be introduced. Today there are 865,000 (2011 Census) described as of Chinese descent, including many from Southeast Asia.
This interesting and highly competent study deals with the period of restriction, when Australian public policy aimed at the gradual decline of Asian and all other non-European settlers. The particular concentration is on the period from 1892 to 1912 and is based on the Chinese print media and the creation of a Chinese identity in what was not a particularly welcoming environment. Today the Chinese-language print media is one of the most significant in the varied multicultural media published in Australia
Monash University in Melbourne has been a pioneer in Asian studies since its foundation fifty years ago. A major obstacle to effective study of Asian minorities has been the lack of scholars literate in the relevant languages and with adequate personal contacts with resident Asians and access to their societies and institutions. This has changed radically in recent years and there is a considerable amount of work now published on Chinese Australian history and settlement experiences by scholars such as Eric Rolls, John Fitzgerald, Wang Gungwu, and many others, for instance through the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs. This has tended to concentrate on two areas: the period of exclusion and suppression under White Australia, or the modern political and economic development of modern China. This study makes full use of archives available in Chinese. These have rarely been worked on and include locally produced newspapers and reports. They give a unique insight into the creation of a viable Chinese Australian community within a restrictive and sometimes hostile society.
Chinese-Australian social life was sustained through a degree of assimilation, as illustrations throughout the text suggest. But as in many other ethnic minorities, there were often disputes about this as well as homeland political issues. As China moved from a traditional empire to a liberal republic during this period, this was inevitable. The author’s academic bases in Melbourne and Taiwan allow him to describe freely the tensions which this earlier division created. Most of the Chinese settling in Australia then and later have been from the Cantonese areas of southeast China, which already had extensive links with Western commerce and culture. This assisted them in coming to grips with the utterly Western lifestyle and values of British Australia at the height of the British Empire. One aspect, fully surveyed in chapter 2, was the acceptance of Christianity. This was actively being preached through such agencies as the Chinese Presbyterian Church. Another was the adoption of Western dress by the growing commercial class. The best-known example of this assimilation was Quong Tart (1850–1903), whose life has been detailed in several publications. He became an accepted business figure with a special love for Robert Burns and Scottish culture in general. Unfortunately he was killed by a stranger in the Victoria Markets in Sydney. The author glosses over this as “untimely,” mentioning suspicion in the community of a plot against such an eminent figure and the splendour of his funeral. Quong Tart had recently resigned from the Chinese Empire Reform Association amidst bitter factional disputes related to political crises in China.
Apart from cultural assimilation through religion and clothing, the major entry points to the majority society were through successful commerce, bilingualism, business community organizations, and generous donations to good causes. At the same time, the concentration of particular businesses in Chinese hands, the exclusiveness of some Chinese business organizations, and the monolingual character of the Chinese media created obstacles to total acceptance within majority society. A further obstacle was created by the Boxer Rebellion in China, which drew in British and other Western troops against this traditionalist reaction to modernization. Instability lasted until the Chinese Revolution of 1911, which led to the overthrow of the imperial system. This inspired the founding of the Sydney Young China League, which supported the revolution and generally favoured Westernization.
All of these events and developments were detailed in the Chinese media, which is the basic resource for this fascinating book. The media was not confined to Sydney. The Chinese Times took a major role in Melbourne in supporting a liberal radical approach to Chinese and Australian politics. The Chinese population had not benefitted from Australian federation in 1901. Prejudice against them had risen within the labour movement, which enthusiastically backed the new immigration restrictions. The Chinese Times argued that the government of China should take a stronger role in criticizing Australian policy. But this was not welcome either to China or to those who did business with it. The influence of the younger radicals spread through the previously conservative and assimilationist business community. Confucianism emerged within the Chinese schools which had been set up. As the story ends China is entering the long period of evolution and radicalism which was to extend for the next fifty years and lead to the reassertion of Chinese national pride. Chinese commerce in Australia was disturbed by the First World War, when its shipping line was appropriated for military use. The exclusion of Chinese and other Asian immigrants was a central task of the newly created Immigration Department in 1945. But that is another story.
There is only one satisfactory way to study the processes of integrating and assimilating new elements into society. That is to study their own, often contradictory, efforts to be accepted. The print media is a vital source, but not accessible to many who would like to understand the process of becoming a distinct but accepted element in settler societies like Australia. Mei-Fen Kuo and Monash University Publishing are to be commended for opening up new horizons for understanding how this major community was able not just to struggle but to prosper, through difficult years.
James Jupp, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
THE CAPTAIN AND “THE CANNIBAL”: An Epic Story of Exploration, Kidnapping, and the Broadway Stage. New Directions in Narrative History. By James Fairhead. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2015. xi, 377 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-19877-5.
The captain was Benjamin Morrell; the “cannibal” Dako (who was also called “Sunday” and perhaps originally something like “Terrumbumbyandarko”), a young man from Uneapa, a small islet north of West New Britain (part of Papua New Guinea today). A Yankee mariner from Stonington, Connecticut, Morrell commanded the schooner Antarctic that left New York harbour in 1829 for the South Shetland Islands. A decade of slaughter had left few seals there to kill, and Morrell next sought alternative cargo at Manila. Finding not much here that might profit himself and the voyage’s investors, he headed back into the Pacific seeking to harvest and dry beche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) that he might hawk to the Chinese. But when he set up a harvesting camp on one of the Carteret Islands and took local leaders hostage, islanders attacked and killed 14 of his crew.
After another call at Manila to restaff his ship, Morrell returned to the region to bombard his Carteret enemies. Heading back to Manila without much beche-de-mer aboard, he anchored off Uneapa, looking for more. Here, too, relations quickly soured with importunate islanders and the Antarctic’s guns again blasted a flotilla of canoes. Out from the carnage, crewmen grabbed Dako, who was hanging off the ship’s rudder pole, bound him in ropes, and named him “Sunday” after the day (14 November 1830) of the encounter. A few weeks later, Morrell would kidnap a second man, “Monday,” from the Ninigo Islands. Despite Melanesia’s linguistic complexity, Morrell thought to use Sunday and Monday to translate his future trading encounters. Back home in America, he made more profitable use of them by staging “cannibal” shows in New York City, and on the road between Albany and Washington, DC.
Fairhead follows the intertwined lives of Morrell, his wife Abby, his ghostwriter Samuel Woodworth and Woodworth’s son Selim, and Selim’s friend Thomas Jacobs (later Monroe), both of whom sailed with Morrell and Dako back to Uneapa. Monday died of consumption and was buried in New York but Dako’s story ended happily enough. In 1834, Morrell at last found new investors and a new ship, and he returned to the Bismarck Archipelago with Dako, who went home to Uneapa (although his wife had remarried during his absence). With better intelligence, Morrell’s trading endeavours improved, too. He managed to insert himself into the Bismarck Sea’s vast, traditional trading network centered largely on Aromot, a small islet off Umboi. Still, he failed to load profitable amounts of beche-de-mer, sandalwood, pearls and pearl shell, tortoise shell, or other marketable cargo. Instead, he headed to Canton for tea and silk. Returning to America, Morrell either accidentally or purposefully sank his ship off Madagascar. In 1839, in command again of a probable slave ship, Morrell either died in Mozambique or faked his death and made his way to Venezuela, avoiding his creditors.
Published as part of the New Directions in Narrative History series by Yale University Press, Fairhead has tried his hand at writing creative nonfiction. He retells Morrell’s and Dako’s stories in suitably readable form, and the book also offers reproductions of line drawings that illustrated the three contemporary accounts of Dako’s voyages. An anthropologist, Fairhead endeavours to reconstruct Dako’s own appreciation of his kidnapping, his years in America, and his return home to Uneapa. To do so, he carefully read voyage accounts, logbooks, newspaper and journal reports, memoirs and he also relied on oral histories and contemporary ethnography from Uneapa provided by anthropologist Jennifer Blythe. Those familiar with other early cross-cultural encounters in the region won’t be surprised that Dako and his community took Morrell and his crew to be spirits, and evil ones at that; and both Dako and Monday remained terrified for months that Morrell had plans to eat them. Close encounters with wax dummies and skulls in rudimentary American museum collections did little to assuage their worries.
Dako and Monday in New York City joined a succession of exotic, early-nineteenth-century visitors fetched willingly or not to the cities of Europe and America, including sundry Cherokee chiefs, Ahutoru of Tahiti, Omai of Huahine, Lee Boo of Palau, and the young girl Elau from Erromango. Such visitors were sometimes fêted and celebrated, sometimes turned over to natural scientists for close examination, and sometimes—like Dako and Monday—put on display for those willing to pay to hobnob with purported cannibals. Fairhead situates these visits in the context of current popular and scientific debates about the nature of humanity, race, Christian dogma and origin myth, and emerging geographic and other scientific disciplines, not to mention the creeping attraction of exotic displays that would lead to the circus sideshow, world’s fairs and expositions, and the natural history museum.
Dako left behind only faint traces in a forgotten original American stage play, a children’s book or two, and an essay by early American ethnographer Theodore Dwight. Dako also sedimented into American literature as a prototype for Poe’s Pym and Melville’s Queequeg. In these days of rampant globalization and population flows, it is good to know something of those Pacific Islanders who were first on the move.
Lamont Lindstrom, University of Tulsa, Tulsa, USA
AUSTRALIANS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA 1960–1975. Pacific Studies Series. Edited by Ceridwen Spark, Seumas Spark, and Christina Twomey. St. Lucia, QLD: University of Queensland Press, 2014. xii, 339 pp. (Map.) A$38.50, paper. ISBN 978-1-921902-43-7.
This volume focuses on the Australians who lived in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG) in the decade and a half preceding independence in 1975. It compiles the personal reminiscences of Australians and educated Papua New Guineans to describe social conditions in TPNG towards the end of the colonial era. It probes intercultural relationships and illuminates political circumstances during the approach to independence and its aftermath.
The volume is bracketed with contributions from authors who lived in TPNG as children. It opens with a brief foreword by Lara Giddings (premier of Tasmania 2011–2014) followed by the editors’ introduction. The central chapters are written by contributors who chose to go to TPNG as adults, and in most cases, spent many years there. These contributions are grouped into three sections. The first, Medicine and Science (6 chapters), pays homage to “the many Australian doctors and scientists who have been attracted to the country” (6). The second, Policy, Governance and Justice (4 chapters), “contains the reminiscences of public servants who played important roles in building the political, legal and administrative framework of independent PNG [Papua New Guinea]” (7). The third, Education, Race and Social Change (5 chapters), examines education and colonial life, and reflects on social change and the future of the country. The collection closes with the reflections of Jonathan Ritchie, a historian born and raised in TPNG, who specializes in PNG’s transition from colonial territory to independent nation.
A quick reading of the collection gave me an initial impression of unevenness. Some of the chapters are well written and engaging; others less so. The volume triggered many memories of my own experiences living in Port Moresby (the capital city) while employed in the public service sector. But the years I spent in the hinterland, living and working as an anthropologist, afforded a different perspective that I found lacking. The voices of the Australian kiaps (patrol officers), didimen (agricultural extension officers), missionaries, and others who worked in the rural areas together with the local people they served are mostly absent, and the volume is focused on colonial life in Port Moresby and major regional centres. However, patrol officers were the face of Australia in the bush, and I was particularly disappointed to learn that Bill Brown, the sole author representing them, was asked to focus his chapter on Bougainville and the political difficulties there, rather than recalling his decades-long service in more rural areas (7). His piece is noteworthy, providing insights into an important chapter in the run-up to independence, but having him feature the contributions of Australians who lived for long periods apart from the expatriate community life highlighted here was a missed opportunity.
In digging more deeply into the collection for the purposes of this review, strengths became more obvious than deficiencies. Inevitably, only a portion of the experiences of the Australians who worked in TPNG can be described, and the volume focuses on an especially significant segment: the “prominent and successful” (2) movers and shakers, both Australian and Papua New Guinean, who were most influential in shaping an emerging nation. The editors made a special effort to represent some of these important voices through interviews with His Excellency Mr. Charles W. Lepani, Professor Ken Inglis, Dame Meg Taylor, and Dame Carol Kidu. The advantages of a relatively light editorial hand that allows the authors to speak for themselves in their own style also became apparent. Very candid assessments of social conditions are included, and potentially sensitive topics such as relationships between Australians and Papua New Guineans are addressed very directly. Diverse attitudes are represented, from Margaret Smith’s frank statement that “we did not have contact with indigenous people in Goroka. This was not snobbery; just recognition of difference” (62) to Carol Kidu’s segregation of an opposite sort: “I never lived in the Australian community. I lived completely in the Motu society” (279), to Christine Stewart’s understated but courageous stands against racism: “I still claim to be one of the first white women to appear at an official function in a meri [indigenous woman’s] blouse” (256). Others are sometimes used as a foil to address race relations, as when Anthony Radford arrived at a plantation with an indigenous medical assistant who was not included in an invitation to come in for a “cuppa” because “[w]e’ve never had one in the house” (109). Diverse themes emerge, including safety: “we did not have to lock house doors or car doors” (62), expatriate family life and activities, the founding and development of the University of Papua New Guinea, the advent of indigenous political parties and civil leaders, the legacy of Australia’s financial aid to PNG, etc.
For the non-specialist, tabulations of select abbreviations together with a glossary of Tok Pisin (a lingua franca) terms and a map are included. These are useful but somewhat incomplete. The map is basic, with important locations mentioned in the text missing (e.g., Wahgi Valley). Likewise (for example) the glossary omits tultul (a village leader) and the select abbreviations overlook RSL (Returned and Services League, a support organization for Defense Force personnel). For specialists, a helpful index locates key people, but is superficial on main topics. The notes on contributors is a valuable addition.
In sum, the volume is a success. The editors have collected and competently organized the recollections of prominent and successful Australians and Papua New Guineans who came together at the end of the colonial era to help shape an emerging nation. Their personal perspectives illustrate both the breadth and depth of Australian engagement with PNG. What comes through most clearly in the authors’ testimonies is something that Meg Taylor noted on page 267: “PNG gets under the skin and it holds you to her.”
Richard Scaglion, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
ANCESTRAL PLACES: Understanding Kanaka Geographies. First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies. By Katrina-Ann R. Kapā‘anaokalāokeola Nākoa Oliveira. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University Press, 2014. xix, 180 pp. (Illustrations.) US$21.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-87071-673-7.
In her first book, Hawaiian linguist and geographer Katrina-Ann R. Kapā‘anaokalāokeola Nākoa Oliveira provides insight into Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) geographies and their intrinsic relation to place, time, ancestry, and history. Oliveira makes a laudable effort in bringing classic texts on Hawaiian cosmology, kinship, and kingship in conversation with each other through, as she asserts, her own original interpretation. Her meticulous unrolling of different historians’ accounts reflects the highly valued characteristic in Hawaiian language, kaona, whereupon words often have multiple, hidden meanings. This in turn also allows the reader her/his own interpretation of the material. English is interwoven with Hawaiian, for instance as recited chants and stories are bilingual, and the numerous graphics incorporate Hawaiian words with English captions. While readers unfamiliar with Hawaiian may find it cumbersome to flip between text, glossary, and endnotes, Oliveira’s intentional use of Hawaiian words signifies the central role of Hawaiian language in the linkage between people and places. The overview of Hawaiian concepts of place-making is accompanied by a focus on the author’s ancestral home Maui, from whose lands she, literally, composes this book. This writing setting allowed her to “listen to the lessons that the ‘āina [land] and my kūpuna [ancestors] were about to reveal to me” (xv).
The book approaches Kanaka geographies through five avenues, and is accordingly structured in five chapters: genealogical relations to cosmos, gods, and ancestors (cosmogony); social rank; fluidity of place; performance cartographies; and sense abilities. The first chapter “Mele Ko‘ihonua” refers to cosmogonic genealogies, including the most known Kumulipo, which trace the connections between Native Hawaiians, land, ancestors, gods, and the elements. Chapter 2, “Places to Stand,” explores how social rank shaped one’s ties to the land due to the respectively different experiences of chiefs and commoners: the former often ruled temporarily over a particular land division that the latter dwelt on more permanently. In chapter 3, the reader learns about the “Fluidity of Place” underlying the Kānaka worldview that Oliveira groups into heavenscapes, landscapes (including a discussion on the commonly used term ahupua‘a), land-sea continuum, and oceanscapes. In the past, people’s intimate relationships with their immediate surroundings resulted in the naming of particular heavens, regions, or depths of the ocean that is not captured in the common conceptions of the “environment.” In chapter 4, “Performance Cartographies,” Oliveira acknowledges the tricky category of cartographic mapping, as it was not a Hawaiian practice, and redirects our attention to the performance in performance cartography. Recited stories and proverbs, chanted songs and danced hula transport one to specific places, which is illustrated through a selection of songs and their respective background stories. Hawaiian place-making implies a conception of places not merely holding memories but allowing for the reciting of their stories. This is comprehensibly illustrated with the story of an elder, who recalls place names and stories at his last family reunion. Both these chapters also offer vivid graphics that illustrate the interconnections of place with time, and how these are reflected in Hawaiian descriptive terminologies. For instance, the book visualizes four directionals (“a‘e,” “iho,” “mai,” and “aku”) that denote both spatial and temporal proximity and distance. Finally, chapter 5, “Ancestral Sense Abilities,” details the commonly known sense abilities of sight, listening, taste, touch, and smell, which are accompanied by those of connecting to the na‘au (guts), to a place and ancestry (kulāiwi), ancestral ways of knowing (au ‘āpa‘apa‘a), such as the Hawaiian moon calendar, and lineages of insights and traditions (mo‘o).
While the first two chapters explore geography through social structure, and the subsequent two chapters deal with the performative dimensions of Hawaiian place-making, it is the final chapter that gets most crucially at epistemological foundations. The sense ability of mo‘o entails a definition of culture as “mo‘o of footsteps taken by our kūpuna” (110), which the author conceives of as a cornerstone of Hawaiian societies. In this understanding, culture is sense ability, with senses being knowledge sources and abilities being practiced knowledge. At the outset, Oliveira explains that this book is an “intensely personal view” (xvii), and that writing on her ancestral land was important for that process. Here one anticipates the book to provide accounts of how this listening and learning from the environment and ancestors play out. Oliveira hints at these sensory ways of knowing, for instance, when she describes how she noticed the change from hearing to listening during a nearby flash flood. Yet more of such ethnographic depictions and other, richer examples in addition to the elder recalling place names and events at the family reunion could have strengthened the book’s thesis, especially the described sense abilities.
In light of the growing literature that engages both Hawaiian ancestral knowledge and practice-oriented educational materials, teachers in preschool, K-12, higher education, and other learning programs will find this book very practical for their classrooms. Beyond Hawai‘i, it will be of significance to students and teachers interested in indigenous epistemologies and ontologies in the field of geography, linguistics, anthropology, regional planning, and related fields. Ancestral Places demonstrates that the European legacy of dividing matters into distinct academic disciplines is not conducive to indigenous—perhaps not even nonindigenous—epistemologies, and that instead, language is central to place making, hence to geography. It can be anticipated that this book will inspire further scholarship that offers more connections to literature on place making across the intersecting fields of ethnographic, indigenous, linguistic, sensory, and space studies.
Mascha Gugganig, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
HOW TO READ OCEANIC ART. By Eric Kjellgren. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press [distributor], 2014. 176 pp. (Coloured illustrations, maps.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-300-20429-2.
How to Read Oceanic Art is the third volume of a collection devoted to the detailed analysis of specific collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The first two volumes were devoted to Greek vases and Chinese paintings, two domains in which scholarly attention has been considerable. The present volume is an original contribution to the analysis of Pacific art and unlike the two previous volumes of the same collection that focus on a very specific aspect of their curatorial department, the third volume encompasses the whole curatorial department of Pacific art. It is written by Eric Kjellgren, curator of Oceanic art at the Metropolitan Museum. The selection features a large variety of material (wood, textile, whale ivory, shell, bark, tortoise shell, etc.), techniques (carving, painting, plaiting, weaving, dying, gold work, etc.), cultural areas (Pacific Islands including Micronesia, Melanesia, New Guinea, Australia, and Polynesia and quite surprisingly Southeast Asian islands).
The book is composed of six sections devoted to regions of the Pacific, then subdivided into forty-two chapters, each dedicated to a specific artefact. The great originality of the book, and its most attractive contribution, lies in its emphasis on individual artefacts. In this regard, it resembles previous publications devoted to the famous collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York: in 1978, Douglas Newton published an immensely popular selection of artworks from the Nelson A. Rockefeller collection (New Guinea Art in the Collection of the Museum of Primitive Art, Knopf, 1978). This book greatly contributed to the diffusion of Pacific artworks beyond the narrow sphere of amateurs of “primitive art” and specialists of the cultures of this area. Some of the same artworks are present in both Newton’s and Kjellgren’s publications.
In 2007 Eric Kjellgren published a remarkable and comprehensive publication on the collections of this department (Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007). It was conceived on the model of fine art museum catalogues, where each selected artefact is analyzed in a broad and detailed notice. The 2007 publication presented an extended version of the Douglas Newton catalogue, offering to amateurs and scholars a richly detailed and academically sound contribution on Pacific art. This current publication seems to be an abbreviated version of his last book, aimed at a slightly different audience. Both publications offer a selection of artworks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection in order to feature a global panorama on art and culture of the Pacific and Southeast Asia. This publication contrasts with other recent publications devoted to Pacific artefacts, such as those in the Tropenmuseum (David van Duuren, Oceania at the Tropenmuseum, KIT Publishers, 2011) or the British Museum (Lissant Bolton et al., eds., Melanesia: Art and Encounter, British Museum, 2013) that propose a rather reflexive attitude towards the history of ethnographic collections and displaying exoticism in the West. Kjellgren’s small book is in this regard a rather standard publication on Pacific art although it fails to mention the museum’s collection history.
The book is introduced with a few words on Pacific Islands migrations—in which the history of Southeast Asian migrations and settlement history is strangely omitted—the utilitarian and ritual/religious functions of artefacts, and a brief discussion on Pacific art iconography (decorative patterns, animal representations, and human iconography). The second half of the introduction gives insight on the roles of Pacific artists, Western influence, and the impact of the Pacific cultures on Western art and literature—themes that are not developed further in the catalogue but that are intended to assist Western readers in understanding Pacific artistry within a Western cultural environment. The catalogue itself consists of a selection of forty-two artefacts illustrating the diverse cultural and artistic traditions of this immense region. Although the selection is rather limited, Kjellgren deserves praise for including material expressions that are often neglected in the general literature on Pacific art. In particular, the catalogue includes an interesting choice of Micronesian artefacts, including a famous Marshall Island navigational chart, a Yapese meteorological charm, and a Wuvulu coconut milk container. Each artefact is thoroughly analyzed and complementary illustrations assist the readers in understanding the significance of a pattern or an iconographic configuration. Except in the introduction, there is no ethnographic photograph to illustrate the artefacts in their original context so the text alone gives an account of the ethnographic or historical conditions of production and exchange, or their daily or ritual use. Numerous references to personal fieldwork by the author and a concise general bibliography substantiate the author’s explanations and demonstrations. Some notices offer striking visual confrontations, as for example the particularly enlightening series of sitting figures from Borneo, Luzon, Cenderavasih Bay, and the Moluccas to illustrate the prevalence of a particular iconographic theme in a broad region.
How to Read Oceanic Art is a pleasant companion for a first visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art collections. It will be particularly useful to those who have only a limited knowledge of the region. Its rich iconography and its detailed notices are both engaging and attractive. However, Pacific art specialists will prefer Eric Kjellgren’s previous more scholarly volume on the same topic.
Nicolas Garnier, University of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
In writing a biography of Tosiwo Nakayama, the first president of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Pacific historian David Hanlon has, in a larger sense, written a twentieth-century history of this island nation. No other leader was as central to the conception, birth, and early years of the FSM as Tosiwo Nakayama; his story is Micronesia’s story.
Hanlon’s plot-line is mainly chronological, a birth-to-death account of Nakayama’s life, 1931–2007. Introducing his readers to the story’s setting, Nakayama’s “world of islands,” Hanlon writes against the prevailing colonial gaze that views this region as comprised of “tiny islands”—minuscule, isolated, and insignificant dots of land. He invokes the Pacific writer Epeli Hau‘ofa to describe Nakayama’s birthplace—Namonuito Atoll, west of Chuuk Lagoon, with a land area of 4.5 square kilometres—in a “more enlarged way” (17), pointing out its linkages via ancient seafaring trade-and-tribute ties to Yap 1300 km to the west, and by clan ties to Chuuk Lagoon and the Mortlock Islands 500 km to the east. Situating Nakayama within this expanded island world, Hanlon also notes the pre-colonial clan connections and oral traditions that link Chuuk with Pohnpei and Kosrae to the east, as well as the nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonial histories that provide a larger context for Nakayama’s personal connections, both through marriage and through his own paternity, to prominent Japanese traders who settled in Micronesia.
In the early chapters, readers view from the vantage point of Nakayama’s Japanese-Chuukese family how the Japanese colonial era played out in Chuuk, from the early years of the Nan’yō chō (South Seas) government when Chuuk received considerably less administrative attention than did Palau and Saipan, to the sudden transformations that accompanied the arrival of the Japanese Fourth Fleet in February 1941, when the Nakayama family was forced to move from the administrative headquarters in Toloas and take refuge on the rural island of Tol. Hanlon describes the forced repatriation to Japan of Nakayama’s father following the war, the changed fortunes of the family, and the hardships of the postwar reconstruction era. He reads into these experiences a formative political lesson for the teenaged Nakayama: “being caught in the crossfire of war ultimately taught Nakayama and others the importance of autonomy and self-government” and furthermore, that “the overall ineptitude, indifference, and aloofness of American administrators convinced Nakayama that only Micronesians could effectively and appropriately govern their islands” (60).
In the next two chapters, we see the introduction of American-style schools in the 1950s and American-style political development in the 1960s and 1970s through the frame of Nakayama’s educational experience and early career in government, which closely paralleled the trajectory of educational and political development during the Trust Territory period. Hanlon notes that “exposure to the Trust Territory government through school and employment had convinced Tosiwo Nakayama that island peoples needed to govern themselves” (91).
Hanlon gives particular attention to the dozen years of Nakayama’s life from 1975 to 1987, a period that was crucial in the life of the nation as well as the life of the man, from the first Constitutional Convention to the conclusion of Nakayama’s second four-year term as president of the FSM. Readers gain an appreciation of Nakayama as a master legislative navigator and political architect, as he and other leaders confronted the principal challenges to constituting the island nation: dealing with separatist movements by the Marianas delegation, followed by the Palauans and Marshallese—and later attempted by the people of Faichuk, the western region of Chuuk Atoll; deciding upon the role of traditional leaders in the new nation; debating the Constitution’s relationship to political status; implementing the concept of federalism and weathering the continuing clashes between the national and state governments; and managing the struggles between the executive and legislative branches of government over questions of jurisdiction, authority, and finances. Hanlon’s account of Nakayama’s eight years as FSM president (1979–1987), is an astute review of the process of nation building the FSM underwent: completing the negotiations with the US over the Compact of Free Association and haggling with US congressional committees over continuing financial support for the fledgling nation, seeking international recognition from foreign governments and regional and international organizations, resolving a plethora of political and diplomatic issues such as war reparations for Micronesia, and becoming a full participating member of crucial international bodies such as the Law of the Sea Convention and the United Nations.
Hanlon gives much less attention to the last twenty years of Nakayama’s life, when he was out of the political limelight, in declining health, and beset by the death of his wife and the legal troubles and indictments of close relatives.
Making Micronesia is a very readable, balanced, and eminently well-researched account of Tosiwo Nakayama’s contributions to the creation of the Federated States of Micronesia as a nation. It is also a compelling portrait of an island leader of exceptional modesty, honesty, and decency. This is a book that deserves a careful reading by students of Pacific Studies and especially by young Micronesians, who will appreciate Hanlon’s careful scholarship and sympathetic analysis. It is an especially timely book for citizens of the FSM; as I write this review, Chuukese voters are debating a referendum to secede from the FSM. Appreciating Nakayama’s vision and tireless work on behalf of Micronesian unity and “self-government, … self-dignity, self-respect, and self-reliance” (108) is all the more important today.
Donald Rubinstein, University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam
DOCUMENTARY FILMS REVIEWED
THE MISSING PICTURE = L’IMAGE MANQUANTE. Film written and directed by Rithy Panh; produced by Catherine Dussart; commentary written by Christophe Bataille; narrator, Jean-Baptiste Phou; original music, Marc Marder; cinematography, Prum Mésar; editing, Rithy Panh and Marie-Christine Rougerie. Boulogne, FR: Catherine Dussart Productions (CDP); Montreal: FunFilm [distributor], 2013. 1 DVD (92 min.) Personal Use: C$35.31. In English and French, with English subtitles. Url: http://funfilm.ca Url: http://filmsdistribution.com
With his sixteenth documentary, The Missing Picture, Rithy Panh continues to explore the traumas of Cambodian society, particularly the genocide conducted by the Khmer Rouge against their fellow citizens in the 1970s. This time, however, the moving and effective documentary takes a different approach from Panh’s previous work, such as S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003) and Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2012). It is his most autobiographical work to date, in which he uses multiple media to tell the story, including clay miniatures. Panh was a teenager when the Khmer Rouge killed his parents and siblings, and he was sent to a labour camp where he suffered from malnutrition and violence. “I was robbed of my childhood,” he says in the film, which he wrote and directed when he was almost 50. The visual novelty of the documentary resides in the first-person narration, which is given with the help of little clay figurines. Miniatures tell the story of hunger, fear, torture, death, dream and hope. They are set in the jungle, in rice fields, in private houses or in schools. This narrative device is brilliant, because it conjures up so many aspects of Panh’s youth. Clay figurines, like lead soldiers, are childhood toys, a childhood that Panh is seeking, “unless my childhood is seeking me.” As such, they refer to a time of innocence, play, and nonchalant distraction. Clay is basic, natural, fragile and akin to the mud in the rice fields—a reminder of feet stuck in the swamps, dirt covering the body, and endless forced labour against a myth of order, cleanliness, and purity. But clay also allows for reconstruction, commemoration, and the creation of the “missing picture”: those years of suffering, disappearance, and murder. The figurines are expressive: their faces are sad, happy, filled with tears, or marked by pain. They rise against Pol Pot’s regime to dehumanize them, turn them into robots with no identity. Some figurines have emaciated bodies, bellies bulging from malnutrition, scars from beatings, or bleeding limbs. Some work, stooped over their shovels, while others rock their crying babies or assist dying relatives. The guard’s dog is better fed than the imprisoned children; even in clay, shackles and other torture tools are visible and in use. These reconstructed snapshots are the missing scenes from the official Khmer Rouge footage that is interwoven in the documentary: happy “revolutionaries,” happy farmers, and happy children, singing communist hymns and embracing collective slogans. There is no individuality, self-expression, or even emotion in the black-and-white archives of Pol Pot’s regime. There is no single voice or first-person account in the audio files that were recorded in the 1970s. “Color has vanished, like laughter, song, dance.”
While most miniature scenes and archival footage address the “missing years,” a few scenes with clay figurines reminisce the carefree period before the Khmer Rouge or express dreams and hopes after hell. There, the little characters wear colourful clothes, they are healthy, they smile, and they dance to the typical sound of 1960s Cambodian rock, another victim of the sanguinary regime. This is not just clay, or an inanimate construct, little pawns that Angka’s monstrous and invisible hand can easily smash; following Buddhist beliefs of reincarnation, life can be breathed into these figurines, and the souls of the dead will incorporate new shells and live through new life cycles.
The modeling of clay figurines is a tool that suits cinema perfectly; it offers a visual substitute to the missing pictures, and it energizes the cinematographic storytelling by alternating between archival footage and sound, contemporary images of the Cambodian countryside, and the miniatures. It also raises questions about the Khmer Rouge’s relationship to film (“A Khmer Rouge film is always a slogan”) and photography (“why did the Khmer Rouge photograph their victims, executions, and dead bodies?” Why so much evidence of their crimes?) But most importantly, molding, shaping and creating clay figurines is an act of creation against the attempt to destroy; it is a way to give a face and a name against the loss of identity and humanity; it is a successful endeavour to tell a story against the silencing of witnesses, of showing the picture that has been missing.
Brigitte Sion, Columbia University, New York, USA