China and Inner Asia
KINDAI NIHON NO KAKUSHINRON TO AJIA SHUGI: Kita Ikki, Ōkawa Shūmei, Mitsukawa Kametarō ra no shisō to kōdō 近代日本の革新論と アジア主義:北一輝，大川周明，満川亀太郎ら の思想と行動. By Christopher W.A. Szpilman (Kurisutofā W.A. Supiruman cho). Reviewed by Tosh Minohara
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
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FOREIGN POLICIES AND DIPLOMACIES IN ASIA: Changes in Practice, Concepts, and Thinking in a Rising Region. Global Asia, 1. Edited by Matthias Maass. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press in close collaboration with the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS); Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press [distributor], 2014. 207 pp. US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-8964-540-1.
The “Rise of Asia,” in contemporary terms, is already a multi-decade story, one which began with the postwar recovery of Japan, building in less than two generations the second-highest GDP on the planet, and followed by a succession of “economic miracles,” the most recent, and also the most dramatic, that of China.
This story has moved well beyond being an economic one. Among the innumerable ramifications of this transformative era, geopolitics and its hand-maiden, diplomacy in all of its forms, today receives the most deserved attention, not least among scholars, even the best of whom are hard-pressed to keep up with developments in Asia, let alone explain their import.
Still, a great deal of excellent analysis is available to those, in academia and out, who seek to understand at least the direction of international relations, if not their ultimate destination. It’s easy to list the ongoing geopolitical, economic, security, even cultural developments, another matter to assert their outcomes.
A recent addition to the outpouring of informed reflection on geopolitics and diplomacy is Foreign Policies and Diplomacies in Asia, edited by Matthias Maass, currently at Yonsei University, only the most recent stop for this peripatetic academic. Along with eight other distinguished academics, he seeks to “probe and explore how the changing regional dynamics are reshaping the political landscape in a rising Asia,” (13) and on this point, the volume enjoys a measure of success. Thematically, Maass’ book covers much that is relevant to an understanding of the region’s dynamics, with many of the views of contributors expressing refreshingly unconventional views. And interestingly, while this 2014 volume contains primarily chapters that date back to 2010, the issues it raises remain highly relevant in 2015. Even in dynamic Asia, where change is the norm, so is continuity.
Two contributors (Chong and Howe) outline the constraints on the development of a regional security consensus, explaining the limitations arising from a dearth of shared political and social values: what is shared is a “sovereignty-centered, non-interventionist paradigm” that sets its own limits on a predisposition in favour of cooperation.
The dynamics promoting both stability and instability in Northeast Asia are outlined by Lukin. He posits a set of structural breaks against armed conflict, arising from demographics and aging populations: less war-like; regional economic integration with high mutual dependency rations; and a regional nuclear balance of terror.
Southeast Asia and its dominant institution, ASEAN, once Asia’s convener-in-chief, has seen its influence wane, for reasons internal (limits on its economic and political integration) and external (Chinese economic and political clout). The two contributors (Noortmann and Tang) focus on internal ASEAN dynamics to explain its loss of momentum, accelerating the speed and impact on the region of China’s rise.
An interesting chapter (by Ming Hwa Ting) on the distinctive and competitive relations which China and India maintain with Myanmar throws an informed light on how these emerging superpowers insert strategic considerations in their relations with this important neighbour state—all neighbours by definition being of strategic import. China’s ability to throw money and infrastructure at Myanmar contrasts with India’s focus on managing bilateral political relations—one is tempted to add faute de mieux. These distinctive approaches say a great deal about the priorities and capacities of the two large players in the conduct of their foreign relations.
Wilkins’ “Reinventing Japan in the Asian Century” fits the argument in the title: the sum of all of Japan’s current challenges is less than the extent of its resources and its capabilities. Japan’s economy (third in the world) and military capacity (sixth) offer the potential for international power projection. True as far as it goes. But unfortunately for Wilkins, his 2010 sources lead him to conclude that Japan’s erstwhile, if misleadingly named, “omni-directional foreign policy” will be sufficient to manage its relations with the US and the rise of China at the same time, a misreading of the depth of the China challenge and ever-evolving US expectations of its allies.
The strategic reach of Chinese diplomacy is best captured in Safiullin’s chapter on China, Central Asia, and the uses and impacts of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The focus is not on China’s economic diplomacy—important in Central Asia as it is elsewhere—but on its conduct of the security dialogues with the “Stans” on its Western border, emphasizing common threats, cooperation, and identity over the establishment of a common security regime. Safiullin emphasizes the importance of promoting ideas of a “common security space” in China’s regional diplomacy, an example of the breadth of tools Chinese policy makers have in their kit to defend and promote their national interests.
A few minor caveats: Maass does not provide thumbnail bios of his writers, so non-academics will be googling and guessing who is who. And inescapably, there are errors of fact: the Asian Tigers were not the precedent for China’s economic rise: that was Japan; Japan was not the only country that escaped Western colonialism: so did Thailand; and so forth. Many of the writers also bow, at the outset, to the spirits of political and diplomatic theories (constructivism, neorealism, even Kahneman’s prospect theory, etc.) before moving on to the more interesting task of calling regional developments as they see them.
These are quibbles for what is an informed and insightful reflection on some of the key dynamics shaping Asia and its place in the world.
Joseph Caron, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
ASIAN-PACIFIC RIM LOGISTICS: Global Context and Local Policies. By Peter J. Rimmer. Northampton, MA; Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2014. xxiv, 522 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$180.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84720-628-2.
While there have been many books written about the rise of the Asian economy, none before this one have focused on the key transportation and logistics challenges facing the Asian-Pacific Rim in the twenty-first century. Transportation geographer Peter Rimmer provides a grand synthesis of the region’s supply chain needs and discusses how national transport policies are responding to the growth of a region that stretches from eastern Russia in the north to the Indonesian archipelago in the south and which encompasses China, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asia. What is at stake is that due to the elongated geography of the Asian-Pacific region, together with its decentralized production and service hubs and the difficulties of shipping, air transport, and so on, the costs of logistics are inherently more expensive here than in Europe and North America. “A seamless Asian-Pacific Rim is still a long way from reality” (15). This of course impacts on the region’s overall competitiveness.
By way of a long introduction, in part 1 the author discusses the growth of supply chain management for manufacturing and retail companies together with recent trends in container shipping, cargo airlines, and telecommunications in terms of hub-and-spoke spatial arrangements on a global region level. He uses spatial concepts such as gateways and transport corridors as a way of linking international flows of goods and information with national-level logistics policies and plans, which are then explored in detail for selected countries of the Asian-Pacific Rim in the second part of the book. This examination is also extended in part 3 to Australia and India, just around the corner from the Rim. One can only marvel at Rimmer’s in-depth knowledge of individual Asian manufacturing, transportation, and distribution companies and the very interesting case studies of the supply chain requirements of Toyota, Sony, Samsung, and Lenovo, as well as the up-to-date marketing strategies of Qantas and Singapore Airlines.
In a chapter examining the paucity of any joint logistics policy between China, Japan, and South Korea, he comments favourably on Canada’s national approach to supporting integrated trade corridors in British Columbia, which is a long-term project aimed at capturing the growth of Asian exports sent by container ships into North America involving multi-level governance, public infrastructure, and the input of the private sector. He shows that similar plans exist for Northeast Asia on paper but very little implementation has occurred, especially in the absence of an effective region-wide institution.
Rimmer argues that another missing link in Asian-Pacific Rim logistics is a “land bridge” that could span the industrial and consumption hubs of China with those of India and further into Europe. He points out that a Eurasian land bridge would disrupt the current “hub-and-spoke” system of global transportation links, which gives more or less equal weight to North America, Europe, and Asia (and hence helps set the status quo geopolitics and geo-economics) by integrating Europe-Eurasia-Asia as the core global region, leaving North America as a relative outlier. This of course is exactly why Chinese President Xi Jinping has proposed the land-based “New Silk Road,” which will begin in Xi’an in central China before stretching west through Lanzhou (Gansu Province), Urumqi (Xinjiang), and Khorgas (Xinjiang), which is near the border with Kazakhstan. The New Silk Road then runs southwest from Central Asia to northern Iran before swinging west through Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. From Istanbul, the New Silk Road crosses the Bosporus Strait and heads northwest through Europe, including Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Reaching Duisburg in Germany, it travels north to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. From Rotterdam, the path runs south to Venice, Italy, where it meets up with the equally ambitious Maritime Silk Road. Although not mentioned in this study, such an enormous project conveys economic and political ambitions far beyond reducing the costs of logistics: it is designed to reclaim China’s place as the “Middle Kingdom,” linked to the world by trade, currency and cultural exchanges through an “economic cooperation area” that stretches from the Western Pacific to the Baltic Sea.
This book’s strengths lie in its comprehensive grasp and synthetic approach to the material, together with the many maps and diagrams explaining the conceptual ideas and spatial patterns of the region’s transportation networks between countries, as well as national development corridors, either actual or proposed. It will be very valuable for not only business studies scholars but also for geographers and spatial planners interested in the Asian-Pacific region.
David W. Edgington, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE ARTS: Perspectives on Global Asia. Global Encounters: Studies in Comparative Political Theory. Edited by Susan J. Henders and Lily Cho. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. xi, 262 pp. (Figures.) US$90.78, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-8473-8.
Human Rights and the Arts is a valuable and welcome contribution to the growing scholarship on human rights issues and debates in Asia. Its major contributions are threefold. First, it enables us to understand how culture and local context play a role in understandings and struggles for human rights in different Asian societies while avoiding the often static discussions on culture found in many works on Asian values. Second, it draws our attention to the central place of art (poetry, literature, visual art, film, performances, etc.) in human rights struggles, and how such works, more easily than legal and political texts, can sensitize and engage people on human rights issues. And third, it alerts us to the fluid nature of geographic boundaries and cultures as it discusses Asia as a global site where local and global values merge and where people elsewhere (including the Asian diaspora) engage with human rights issues in Asia.
The volume consists of an introductory chapter that outlines the book’s aim and approach, and a range of chapters dealing with specific artists/authors and countries grouped under different headings such as freedoms and democracies; war and atrocity; livelihoods, place and ecologies; minorities, nations, states, and empires; and migrations, transnationalisms, universalisms. In the introduction the editors situate the book in relation to other academic discussions on how local contexts and culture shape human rights debates and practices. The editors draw our attention to earlier, often essentialized and static, descriptions of culture and alert us to the fact that such descriptions hide power hierarchies, contestations, and changes within societies and over time, as well as ignore how contacts with other cultures and the emergence of new values shape local societies. Their conceptualization of context, which includes aspects such as embodied and everyday experiences, spiritual and religious dimensions, ecologies and places, and cultures and nations, provides a basis for a deeper understanding of how different individuals and communities discuss and speak out against human rights violations of different kinds. The editors argue well for why art is a powerful tool to discuss and engage with human rights in Asia, although many of the works discussed don’t explicitly talk about human rights and the artists in question wouldn’t conceive of themselves as human rights activists. Art elicits emotional responses and feelings of empathy and solidarity that enable people to engage with human rights in a more personal, immediate, and bottom-up way. To express oneself through art can furthermore often be the only way to make trauma and human rights violations visible in contexts and societies where it is too painful or too dangerous to speak openly.
The artists and authors discussed in the volume come from many different Asian countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and India, and they depict and deal with different types of injustices and atrocities in works that range from poetry, fiction, visual art, and film, to drama and performances. We are introduced to both internationally well-known arists and writers such as Ai Weiwei and Michael Ondaatje as well as less well-known artists from the region. Among the artists discussed in the volume, Ai Weiwei is probably the most well-known and outspoken on human rights issues. Alice Ming Wai Jim discusses the cultural and political context that has triggered Ai Weiwei’s activism and why art can be such a powerful tool in a repressive society like China. She also draws attention to Ai Weiwei’s skilful use of different digital technologies such as social media and film, which opens up new possibilities for both art and human rights activism in Asia today. Alicia Turner’s chapter on the Burmese artist U Htein Lin and his work shows how religious beliefs imbue human rights struggles in the country and alerts us to the danger of a narrow universalist human rights interpretation. The different and complex ways depictions of war and civil war find their way into literature are dealt with in the chapters by Van Nguyen-Marshall (Vietnam) and Arun Nedra Rodrigo (Sri Lanka). The latter also addresses the impact of ethnic and diaspora identities in writings about the civil war, and the complex and contested international circulation of both rights discourses and literary works. One of the more original sections in the book addresses literary works that deal with ecology and place, people’s relations to nature, and traditional ways of living under threat. The three chapters on works from Tibet (Françoise Robin), Indonesia (Mary M. Young), and Bangladesh (Afsan Chowdhury) show how local views on nature imbue people’s identities and struggle for livelihood and rights, that these understandings may challenge both local states’ development agendas and global human rights discourses, as well as pave the way for new understandings of environmental rights and global responsibilities. Four chapters in the book deal with literature and film that address discrimination based on ethnicity in different Asian counties (Jooyeon Rhee, Arun P. Mukherjee, Susan J. Henders) and of citizens of Asian origin in North America (Theodore W. Goossen). The final section deals with issues of migration, transnationalism, and universalism, addressing the intersection of diasporic experiences and human rights struggles in a chapter on South Asian diasporic poets (Sailaja Krishnamurti) and the impact of global power and universal human rights on workers, women, and other citizens in Indonesia (Michael Bodden). The latter chapter raises many important and difficult issues such as whether global human rights discourses can challenge unequal power relations in a world dominated by global capital, and whether art really can provide an avenue to challenge inequalities and create real solidarity both nationally and globally.
This volume shows not only that art can be a powerful tool for artists and activists to depict human rights violations and call for justice and recognition, especially important in non-democratic countries, but that art can be an excellent window for students and scholars who want to understand how human rights norms, contestations, and problems are experienced by individual citizens in Asia. One would hope that this volume would inspire further studies that probe deeper into different forms of art, the relationship between art and activism in different Asian countries, and the reception of these art works in Asia.
Marina Svensson, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF EAST ASIAN CAPITALISM. Research Papers and Policy Studies, 46. Edited by Hong Yung Lee. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 2014. vii, 291 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-55729-108-0.
A Comparative Study of East Asian Capitalism provides excellently written case studies detailing important economic aspects of East Asia (defined as Japan, China, and South Korea). It asserts that as the memory of each country’s different historical, economic, and political paths to the present has gradually begun to fade, so the mutual benefits of cooperation and the convergence of strategies for economic development have come to the fore. Therefore, according to the editor of the volume it is necessary to recognize a distinct form of capitalism in this part of the world, whilst acknowledging the differences at the national level.
The book is divided into four parts: the introduction offers an overview of the economic development of Japan, China, and South Korea; part 2 focuses on financial and labour reforms in all three countries; part 3 examines corporate governance (again covering all three countries); and part 4 looks at networks (strangely, only in South Korea and Japan). The level of detail displayed and thorough coverage of the historic subtleties of economic development in each country must be applauded. The book provides an extremely useful insight and factual repository into the micro-mechanisms of many aspects of capitalism across East Asia. This would prove indispensible to any scholar looking at specific changes or attempting to build a theoretical framework based on this book in conjunction with other sources. With its key strength being micro-analysis, it is parts 2 and 3 that are most useful. Part 4 lacks an analysis of networks in China and offers a useful, factual, but less culturally analytical view of networks. This is especially pertinent as networks are highlighted as one of the features uniting East Asian capitalism, despite the useful recognition that they operate differently in each of the three countries examined. Certain chapters may be useful for advanced undergraduates, but the specialist nature of this book makes it more applicable to postgraduates and scholars of China.
At the beginning of this book the need for a new conceptual framework of East Asia, fully applicable to China, Japan, and South Korea, is asserted. The common characteristics of these countries’ economies are identified as a combination of conscious decision-making processes on the part of the state, spontaneous decision-making processes on the part of the market, and the highly influential function of networks. However, the majority of the book is then (rightly) dedicated to illuminating the differences between these countries, especially when it comes to the functional and operational differences of economic institutions, which rather causes one to question whether any framework could be fully applicable to all three. The extent to which Western thinkers (classically Weber of course) have (erroneously) tended to define East Asian economies as “stagnant” due to cultural features such as Confucianism is usefully touched upon, and the potential for Confucianism to have aided the East Asian style of capitalism (via discipline, paternalism, and the acceptance of state intervention, for example) is hinted at. A slightly fuller explanation of the re-appropriation of Confucianism to market agendas may help further this argument and provide more basis for the new conceptual framework the book hopes to inspire. However, the succinct critique of neoclassical economics very much helps outline the issues at stake. Three “fallacies” are outlined: 1) a single-cause theory of underdevelopment, 2) a single figure of merit criterion for development, and 3) the portrayal of development as a log-linear process. The insistence of neoclassical economics on the necessity of state non-intervention is also usefully ridiculed. Perhaps what may also be useful is to question the assumed clear line between state and market and market and community that neoclassical economics asserts, especially in light of the emphasis on networks that transgress established boundaries of “business” and “family.”
There is certainly a need for some kind of alternative theory that speaks more to East Asia, but building it will require more consideration of common features than occurs here—a feat that is difficult and requires careful consideration if it is not to fall into normative assumptions about the nature of socio-economic development in East Asia. However, in that it more than satisfies its stated aim of alerting scholars to the urgent need for a comprehensive theory that can cover the remarkable economic performances of China, Japan, and South Korea, this book is a resounding success. One is left keen to consider what this theory might look like and how it would manage to break out of neoclassical economic paradigms without essentializing and homogenizing the experience of what it fully acknowledges to be three very different nations and cultures.
Alison Hulme, Royal Holloway, University of London, London, United Kingdom
POWERFUL PATRIOTS: Nationalist Protest in China’s Foreign Relations. By Jessica Chen Weiss. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. x, 341 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$31.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-938755-7.
In this deeply researched volume, author Jessica Chen Weiss examines Beijing’s management of nationalist, anti-foreign protests. If the elite of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are dependent on popular nationalism to back their foreign policy aims, does this inhibit rational diplomacy? Under what circumstances do the authorities allow or even encourage citizens to take to the streets to organize demonstrations? When do they shut down protests and bring activists in to “drink tea,” a thinly veiled warning that failure to improve their behavior will result in more strenuous penalties. Chen Weiss presents seven case studies. Two involve the United States: the apparently accidental bombing of the PRC embassy in Belgrade in 1999 and the collision of an American reconnaissance plane with a Chinese air force fighter plane in 2001. Five concern Japan: the demonstrations of 1985, protests in the 1990s, 2005, 2010, and 2012. She argues convincingly that without visible evidence of popular anger, Chinese leaders, being unelected, have greater difficulty convincing foreign observers that public opinion credibly constrains their diplomatic options. Anti-foreign, nationalist protests enable authoritarian leaders to raise the specter of a popular backlash if they make concessions, while discernible efforts to repress nationalist sentiment allow the authorities to play “good cop” relative to extremist voices from the streets.
Still, any actions to diminish the intensity of the demonstrators have serious disadvantages both internationally and internally. Target countries perceive a weakening of central government resolve on the foreign policy issues that brought the protestors to the streets and may be less inclined to meet Beijing’s demands. Domestically, suppressed activists become disillusioned with their government, accusing it of unpatriotic behaviour and even implying that corrupt high-level officials stand to enhance their incomes by collusion with foreign entities. Party and government leaders are acutely aware that the demonstrations they encourage, either tacitly or actively, may be used to bring down the regime. Hence they are sensitive to indications that activists’ demands are straying off message, seguing into slogans urging an end to such practices as illegal confiscation of land, inflation, corruption, and suppression of freedom of expression.
Chen Weiss presents examples of where the Chinese government has succeeded in extracting concessions on the basis of popular pressure. Premier Zhu Rongji, negotiating the PRC’s accession to the World Trade Organization, was able to extract a reduction of ownership in telecommunications and insurance from 51 to 50 percent, persuading US representative Charlene Barshevsky that he would lose his job otherwise. In 2005, Japanese officials attributed their country’s failure to obtain permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council to popular protests in China.
Though not remarked on by the author, the ability of Chinese officials to convince Western negotiators that their jobs are at stake if they cannot get concessions is ongoing. An example that long predates the founding of the PRC occurred during talks between Qing representative Qiying (Ch’i Ying) and British envoy Sir Henry Pottinger over what eventually become the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. In addition to Barshevsky’s concern for Zhu, in 1985, Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro, believing that his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine would undermine the position of Chinese leader Hu Yaobang, pledged he would not revisit the shrine, which Chinese activists consider symbolic of Japan’s lack of remorse for the country’s aggression during World War II.
Two years later, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, pressing Japan for a concession on the ownership of a disputed dormitory as well as additional aid, told Japanese officials “it will be impossible to explain [these actions] to the people. It will be impossible to control them. I want you to understand this position which [party and government] are in” (102). A Japanese analyst commented that whenever political disagreements arose, Tokyo attached the highest priority to avoiding serious confrontation and made the concessions necessary to defuse the crisis.
Despite the author’s efforts, it is difficult to thread a path through the murky waters of less than transparent high-level diplomacy, and some oddities appear. This reviewer was puzzled by the statement that, after the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, Japan rewarded China for Chinese restraint. Perhaps it should have been the other way around. The Japanese government, though publicly opposed to sanctions against China, acquiesced to American pressure, and ended them as soon as possible. Japanese business people were the first to return to China after June 4, some even arriving before their government had deemed their presence safe. Tokyo was roundly criticized by democracy activists, some of whom threatened violence against Japanese citizens for supporting the Beijing leadership.
There is an occasional tendency to accept soothing diplomatic rhetoric as reality. The Japanese ambassador’s statement in the mid-1990s that Sino-Japanese relations were the best in the new decade belied serious underlying tensions. While the Japanese government and business community were eager to soothe relations, public opinion was horrified by the murder of unarmed civilians, and views of the PRC took a sharply negative turn. Chen Weiss describes the Japanese government’s reaction to the National People’s Congress passing, in 1992, a law unilaterally declaring sovereignty as mild. Yet it was only publicly so; the declaration threatened to scuttle a long-planned visit by the imperial couple to China, which officials on each side had, for their own reasons, desired. The law also provides needed context to Japan’s efforts to resist China’s efforts to take control of the disputed islands, which Tokyo had incorporated in 1895, and energized nationalist sentiments in Japan. While there is much evidence of Japanese concern for the position of Chinese administrators, there is no indication of Chinese leadership concern for their Japanese counterparts and relatively little examination of the influence of Japanese domestic politics on its government’s decision-making.
Allegations that the Japanese foreign ministry was far too accommodative to China came to a head in 2002, when Chinese police entered the Japanese consulate-general in Shenyang to extricate a North Korean family who had sought refuge there. The incident, unmentioned in this volume, discredited the so-called China School in the Japanese foreign ministry, thereby narrowing the bargaining space for the solution of disputes.
Withal, Chen Weiss sustains her argument well. A prudent Chinese leadership should, she counsels, balance the long-term risks of stoking Chinese nationalism against the short-term gains of diplomatic pressure. This is a book well worth reading.
June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami, Florida, USA
CHINESE MODELS OF DEVELOPMENT: Global, Local, and Comparative Perspectives. Challenges Facing Chinese Political Development. Edited by Tse-Kang Leng and Yu-Shan Wu. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014. xviii, 301 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$100.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-9226-9.
This volume is the product of a collaborative effort between the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, and the Department of Political Science of the University of Virginia in November 2011. The organizing theme of the volume concerns the issue of “models” of Chinese development. The book is divided into four parts, each providing a somewhat different take on understanding Chinese models of development. Part 1 focuses on Chinese models and paradigms of development studies with contributions by Yun-han Chu and Xiaoming Huang. The second part, on Chinese models in comparative perspective, has essays by Yu-Shan Wu, Allen Lynch, and Brantly Womack. Part 3 looks at regional models of development in China, with two essays by Tse-Kang Leng and Szu-chien Hsu and Hans Tung. The final section looks at models of Chinese external relations and global governance. Here, David Kang, Rumi Aoyama, and Herman Schwartz provide the chapters.
As with most edited volumes, the contributions are uneven. I particularly liked Yun-han Chu’s essay on regime legitimacy in China; Yu-Shan Wu’s essay comparing China’s development models with the historical experience of the Republic of China (both on the mainland and on Taiwan) and the thought of Sun Yat-sen; Tse-Kang Leng’s examination of cultural industry development in different areas of Nanjing; Szu-chien Hsu and Hans Tung’s examination of local autonomy under the 2008 Chinese stimulus package; and David Kang’s essay on hegemony, power, and history in international relations.
A number of the essays in this volume are revisions of papers that have been published in English elsewhere (Chu and Womack) and others have been published in other languages or summarize larger works by the authors. In some cases, the papers have been updated to include data from 2013, but in others, there seems to have been little added since the original conference in 2011.
The editors state in the preface that there is “no single ‘Chinese model’ to cover all dimensions of this rising power” (vii). However, while there is no single model, a central problem with this volume is there is no agreement on what exactly a model is, or what makes a model a model. Thus, for many of the essays, one might easily substitute “the Chinese experience” (or experiences), the “Chinese case(s),” or even Chinese history. Is it a distinctly Chinese model or models, or does China fit or not fit some other “type” or category? Some do try to think about the issue of model or models more or less explicitly (Xiaoming Huang in particular), but there is no consistent effort to unify the essays around what exactly a model is or might be. Several of the authors do not seem to pay any attention to the issue of whether (and in what respects) China is a model at all. Without a more explicit consideration of what constitutes a model, there is no standard of comparison and evaluation common to all of these essays, so the essays stand on their own as opposed to being in a more explicit dialogue with each other. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.
Several questions might have been used to organize this volume more effectively around the issue of Chinese models. First, can we extrapolate from China’s reform experience core, enduring analytical elements of that experience? How do we know what is the core or enduring? Given that China’s reforms and changes remain dynamic, how is it possible to isolate the underlying core elements of a model? Second, is the model time-bound or not? Are there a series of “models,” one after another? Allen Lynch compares Deng’s reforms of the 1980s with Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet Union (though his title suggests he covers the 1965 to 2010 period). But the Chinese reforms of the 1980s were quite different from the reforms of the 1990s or 2000s. Which set of experiences are truly a model, or put differently, if each set of reform experiences is a model, is there any model at all?
Third, we might ask whether the model is replicable in other countries or localities? Can the model be diffused or transplanted without doing undo damage to the model when there is an attempt to emulate it in other contexts? If it cannot, then in what sense is it a model, as opposed to a unique case? Fourth, in addition to the question of transferability, we might try to probe what political purposes are served by labelling something as a model. Who benefits or is privileged by such a label? What experiences are excluded when a model becomes a particular reification of reality? Several of the authors discuss or mention the “Beijing Consensus” though none seems to see this as a model. Presumably, the Beijing Consensus calls for authoritarian politics and state capitalist approaches, thereby de-emphasizing democracy and more laissez-faire forms of capitalism. Is that enough to qualify as a model? If it is not, why isn’t it?
A number of the essays in this volume provide some fruitful material to contemplate as we think about comparing China to other places or experiences, and what makes China’s experience during the post-Mao period unique. But this book represents perhaps a starting point for those endeavours, and leaves us far from any definitive conclusions.
David Bachman, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
PATRONAGE AND POWER: Local State Networks and Party-State Resilience in Rural China. By Ben Hillman. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. viii, 208 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$50.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8936-3.
A book that contains the following quotes from its rural Chinese interviewees has to be interesting: “If you’re not corrupt, no one will trust you,” (15) and “In Mao’s day we had more fairness, but that’s because we all had an equal share of nothing” (138). And while Ben Hillman’s study of patronage links starts off with a fairly abstract scene-setting chapter about the nature of kinship and the political, moral, and economic values attached to this in contemporary China, the material that follows is richly informed by the decade-long period he spent doing field research in a remote part of the southwest.
His broad subject is the reach of the Chinese Party-state into the most distant places. The picture he draws is of a Communist Party and government often portrayed as hierarchical and rigid in its Beijing manifestation which, in its most local face at least, has created an extraordinary, dynamic accommodation with the highly networked nature of society there. In the author’s description, the Party has, in the ways in which its officials organize relations and dispense resources, made a very broad framework within which people work, leaving plenty of space for variations and adaptations. It is a less fiercely prescriptive entity than the one that is sometimes portrayed, at least outside China. The Party in this account is pragmatic to its fingertips, and, depending on whether you are looking at it from its provincial, prefectural, country, or town levels, shows different faces to the world.
In the village-level entity where the author spent most of his time, there were two issues he picked up on that illustrate this diversity. One was that, purely through bureaucratic accident, a place that anywhere else in China would have ranked as a township was given classification as a rural area. This allowed it to hold multi-candidate elections under the 1998 Village Election Laws, despite the fact that from the early 2000s the brief experiment in townships elections effectively ceased. The second was that on the whole the relationship between kinship links and how these led to the exercise of power was not a straightforward one. People spent time mobilizing areas of support through the different groups ranged around them when elections came up; there were constituencies that were relatively easy to mobilize, and other which were more neutral and had to be appeased by different sorts of incentives, from money to discreet favours and other promises. While not a “democracy” in the formal sense, at the most local level, from the evidence presented here, China is certainly a place where people often negotiate, campaign, and form alliances, support for which has to be won rather than assumed.
This is one of the problems that Hillman’s book very lucidly puts into sharper focus. Everyone knows that China remains a highly networked society, and that human relationships and connections remain a fundamental characteristic of the business, cultural, and political life of the country. But trying to get inside these relationships to give them a stronger sense of definition and content is challenging. The fact that people went to the same schools, worked in the same factories or on the same farms, or are linked by marriage gives at least some clues as to what that content might be. But kinship also means something more than this—a sense of shared interest and values, or clan identity for instance, or shared world views.
This issue of content is highlighted in an informal survey the author undertook, showing that most of the residents of the area he is looking at rank political connectedness and wealth over all other preferred qualities in a village leader—including efficiency and honesty. The most we can conclude from this is that the Chinese people he talked to place a high value on perceptions of being well-connected. But the real value of this connectedness is far harder to quantify. He refers later to other studies that show rank incompetence has not precluded the well-connected from enjoying good careers when they get the right sort of support. But against this, he does also offer signs of supportive relationships that get exhausted and end, or people whose incompetence is finally dealt with by them being sidelined in positions at cultural bureaus or academic entities where they have grand-sounding titles, but zero powers or influence. In these aspects, China is not so different from the outside world. Even when it comes to connections and kinship values, people change their minds and have strategies in place to deal with this.
This links to probably the most contentious issue the book raises: how far can lessons observed in the regions Hillman studied be extrapolated elsewhere in China? This, after all, is the promise implied in the book’s title and subtitle, which seems to promise a description of networks and power in rural China generally, rather than one area of Yunnan. Ethnically, geographically, and even developmentally, Hillman is evidently looking at somewhere which is very specific. Perhaps the only safe conclusion to draw from this book is that, organizationally at least, the Communist Party of China represents different things to different people, and this almost liquid aspect of the way it exercises power is the source of its durability.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Hillman’s study is the lively vignettes that he relays about some of the elections he has witnessed and the way people in the area he researched related to each other, tried to gain influence, and, when things didn’t go well, how they sometimes lost it. For a crisp, accessible description of how towns, counties, and prefectures are meant to operate, this book is invaluable. Whether it tells us much about the real nature of power in China, however, is more debatable.
Kerry Brown, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE OF CHINA’S CONSUMERISM. Chandos Asian Studies Series. Edited by Alison Hulme. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2014. xxxi, 221 pp. (Figures.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84334-761-3.
This book is a collection of essays authored by a diverse group of young scholars and artists from such places as the UK, Denmark, Iceland, and the US, with quite rich academic and non-academic backgrounds in literature, philosophy, sociology, and media and cultural studies, and experiences of growing up, living, working, or studying in China. These credentials are important for their subjects of study, the evolving consumerism of today’s China, which requires close and intimate observations and even participation. Since modern consumer society and consumerism as an ideology are now a global phenomenon with historical roots in Western societies, the multiple and comparative perspectives that the authors take in their examination of China’s case are especially valuable.
The book’s editor Alison Hulme argues that as “capitalism becomes an increasingly global phenomenon, consumer society is the mode of organization desired by nation states,” and China now needs to “turn a consuming society into a consumer society (i.e. one in which the buying and selling of goods and services is in reality the most important social and economic activity)” (xxiv; emphasis in original). Hulme then quickly qualifies her argument: “the meeting of capitalism (and therefore consumerism) and communism in China,” and the “constantly re-negotiated conundrum of capitalist-communist consumerism … differs from any yet seen in global development and creates new questions for established theories of consumerism” (xxv). The introduction thus cogently spells out the dichotomy of “capitalism (consumerism) vis-à-vis communism” (or the “conundrum,” as Hulme puts it) as the quintessential problem for the authors to explore, and, meanwhile, a task for theoretical self-reflection on consumerism. Hulme acknowledges that the direction of Chinese consumerism “cannot be fully known,” and thus the issues the authors discuss “are riddled with awkward contradictions and cultural attitudes are in constant flux” (xxv). Such a caveat about the tentativeness of taking China’s pulse becomes a cliché. Yet the sincerity and seriousness of the authors’ efforts can be seen throughout the book.
The chapters are grouped into two parts. The first part has five chapters addressing consumer culture in China today. The first chapter, by Xin Wang, examines the formation of China’s middle class within the context of consumer culture and society, drawing heavily on the theories of French cultural philosopher Pierre Bourdieu. Wang’s essay illustrates the double bind that is both theoretical and methodical. He aptly applies Bourdieu’s ideas about class distinction in contemporary capitalist society to China, observing the interplay of the cultural, symbolic capital, and economic, material status at work in the Chinese middle class. However, Wang recognizes at the same time the difficulties in describing and defining the Chinese middle class in purely Bourdieuan terms. On the one hand, he states that the Chinese middle class distinguishes itself by engaging in the consumption of cultural, educational, and other status-boosting products (or suzhi promotion, a Chinese concept mentioned by many authors in the book, somewhat akin to Bourdieu’s “distinction” and “taste”), with ample case studies. On the other hand, Wang concludes that members of the so-called Chinese middle class find their social distinction or identity primarily through consumption of commodities or ownership of material wealth (20). What Wang does not address, however, is the political culture or the ideology of the Party-state in China that simultaneously encourages the commodity fetish and suppresses any political and social engagement. Bourdieu certainly has no answer to this “Chinese characteristic,” and Wang’s response is regrettably scarce.
The second chapter, by Calvin Hui, takes on the interesting task of examining the legacy of socialism and its linkage to the contemporary fashion industry from the 1970s (the Cultural Revolution) to the present. It’s a Foucauldian genealogical inquiry with a good deal of insight, and its feminist focus on gender and sexuality is interesting in itself. The third chapter, by Gabriel Lafitte, explores the ways the exotic and ethnic Tibet has been consumed by the booming Chinese tourism industry. This chapter confronts the political question of China with/in Tibet. This draws attention directly to the political and ideological battles waged both at the forefront and behind Tibet, either as a site of intense conflict or as a commodity for tourist consumption. The fourth chapter, by Karen Tam, offers a fascinating narrative of the fake art products or shanzhai (counterfeiting) phenomenon in China, and questions the far-reaching implications this pervasive Chinese copy-cat cultural practice has on the meaning of the “original” and the “authentic.” Tam’s question reminds us of Walter Benjamin’s query of when modern technology of mechanic reproduction threatened to deprive customers and society of the aura of the original and authentic art work. The fifth chapter, by Qingyan Ma, is an interesting field-work report on how medicine and health care is being rapidly turned into a commodity in China and the social and economic implications of this.
The second part of the book consists of three chapters, one by Geir Sigurdsson on traditional Chinese philosophy’s possible implications for today’s consumerism; a chapter by Andreas Steen on the revolutionary model soldier Lei Feng from the 1960s which shows the sharp ideological contrast with today’s consumerism; and a final chapter by Giovanna Puppin on the ambiguous and awkward relationship between Maoist socialist ideology and the contemporary advertising industry, another illustration of ideological conflicts and contrasts. These chapters nicely contextualize Chinese consumerism in terms of its historical and political conditions, highlighting and reinforcing the “Chinese characteristics” of consumerism, specifically and emphatically, its political and ideological nature. Consumerism, in a nutshell, is better seen as an ideology or a set of values, and we will be better served by viewing Chinese consumerism dissected and diagnosed as such, in an ongoing ideological battleground that involves all members of society across the world. For that, this book is certainly a good starting point.
Liu Kang, Duke University, Durham, USA
BEIJING’S ECONOMIC STATECRAFT DURING THE COLD WAR, 1949-1991. By Shu Guang Zhang. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Centre Press; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. xiv, 477 pp. US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4214-1583-3.
This is a newly published book which provides the readers with a very detailed description and in-depth analysis of how China’s economic statecraft, or the use of economic weaponry in diplomacy, evolved during the Cold War years (1949–1991). The author elaborates on the economic statecraft of China, both in the role of aid receiver and aid giver. He argues that in order to regain its “rightful” position in the international community, the PRC was not only on the target side (being sanctioned and aided) but also on the sender side (rendering economic aid and imposing economic sanctions). This is the central argument of this book.
As a well-known Cold War historian, Shu Guang Zhang adopts an international history approach to describe and analyze the PRC’s experiences with economic statecraft during the Cold War years by using recently declassified Chinese and Soviet bloc archives and records, and each chapter of the book (8 chapters in total) deals with one of those experiences. China’s foreign economic statecraft has its origins in 1949 when the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was proclaimed. Shortly after the PRC came into being, the United States and other Western powers imposed restrictions on trade with China. After 1949, the PRC followed Soviet-style economic policy, including foreign trade policy, at least partly as a response to the trade embargo and other economic sanctions by the US and its allies, especially after the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. The PRC had been a target of economic aid from the Soviet Union and the East European countries from 1949 to the early 1960s. At the same time Beijing also adopted a strategy to break the China embargo by simultaneously promoting trade with some non-Communist countries, including the UK and Japan. The PRC was taking a position in China-Soviet economic relations by seeking Soviet aid while resisting Moscow’s influence. The impact of political relations and nationalism on bilateral economic relations was enormous, and as a result, the Soviet Union withdrew all of its advisers from China and imposed economic punishment on China in 1963.
Starting in the mid-1950s, shortly after the end of the Korean War, the PRC, a very poor country in the world, devoted much of its still limited resources to aid select Asian and African countries, shifting from the target to the sender position. Aid diplomacy targeting African and Asian states bore fruit in 1971 when the 26th UN General Assembly passed a resolution which called for the replacement of Taiwan’s seat at the UN with the PRC. China continued to provide aid to the so-called third-world countries in the remaining years of Mao’s rule and in the post-Mao era. In the 1960s and 1970s, North Korea, Mongolia, Albania, and North Vietnam were the four socialist countries which received large amounts of economic aid from China. The PRC aimed to lure those recipients of economic aid away from the USSR or to neutralize them in the Sino-Soviet rivalry, and the four socialist brothers also took great efforts to exploit the difficulty in Sino-Soviet relations to their own advantage. In the end, China’s aid to those countries proved counterproductive to its political objectives. As a result, China even sanctioned Albania and Vietnam by terminating aid to them in the second half of the 1970s. Beginning in the late 1970s with the proclamation of the reform and opening policy, China’s economic statecraft entered a new stage. While continuing to stress the utility of economic aid in accomplishing political and strategic goals, the Chinese leadership under Deng Xiaoping assigned China’s economic diplomacy a new mission: to help promote China’s opening up abroad and economic reforms at home, including economic incentive diplomacy towards Washington, and the expansion of China’s share of the resources and labour markets. At the same time, China also began to collaborate with the United Nations and other international organizations in granting technical assistance.
Although the focus of this book is an account of the more than forty-year evolution of Beijing’s economic diplomacy during the Cold War, the historical interpretation of China’s economic diplomatic behaviour in the past might also provide readers with a better understanding of the current and future economic statecraft of the PRC. As the author points out, Beijing’s past experiences with economic diplomacy might play a role in shaping China’s foreign policy in the coming decades. As China has been rising as a great power, no longer a poor country by any contemporary economic measure, Beijing seems poised to transform its economic might into considerable political influence in world affairs.
Xiaoming Zhang, Peking University, Beijing, China
In the past decade, English-language scholarship on Sino-Japanese relations has increased significantly. Scholars are paying more attention not only because of these two countries’ importance but also the escalating tensions between them. Joseph Yu-shek Cheng’s book is a welcome addition to this very important topic.
Cheng’s book examines the diplomatic history between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Japan from 1949 to 2011. It has nine chapters organized largely chronologically. The first four chapters examine pre-normalization relations, covering the Cultural Revolution, the Cold War context, and the Chinese Communist Party’s use of “united front” policy attempting to woo Japan even prior to the founding of the PRC in 1949. Chapters 5 to 7 study the normalization process and its impact on the future of Sino-Japanese relations. Chapters 8 and 9 examine relations during the 1980s, and chapters 10 to 12 cover Sino-Japanese relations since the 1990s.
I see three main values in Cheng’s book. First is its exhaustiveness. The book is long: 431 pages, excluding bibliography and index. Throughout, Cheng convincingly demonstrates his firm grasp of voluminous details regarding Sino-Japanese relations. My applause comes with a disclaimer: honestly, I did not find much new information in the book, materials that I have not encountered in scholarship or media coverage produced in the Chinese, Japanese, or English languages. Where the book lacks fresh empirical materials, it handsomely compensates with its sheer comprehensiveness. The book is certainly not the first to examine the diplomatic history between the PRC and Japan. But it is clearly among the most thorough works on this topic.
Second, the book examines Sino-Japanese relations from a predominantly Chinese official perspective. This focus helps balance the conventional wisdom on China-Japan relations. Mainstream English scholarship tends to analyze Sino-Japanese relations, especially its recent problems, more by examining what has gone wrong on the Chinese side: for example, how Beijing’s need of promoting nationalism forced its leaders to take a hawkish attitude toward Japan. However, it takes two to tango. Cheng’s work offers a detailed analysis of the mistakes committed by Tokyo, from the point of view of China’s leaders and policy experts. A sense of insecurity is not confined to China. In Japan, this insecurity is fostering an increasingly paranoid government overly sensitive to gains and losses in its interactions with China.
Third, the book offers an insightful summary of the philosophical evolution of China’s diplomatic framework toward Japan: from an orthodox Marxist-Leninist desire to spread revolution to anti-Soviet hegemonism to boosting modernization and to enhancing China’s international status in recent years. This thematic roadmap is helpful as one navigates the long and storied interactions between China and Japan.
I perceive two weaknesses in Cheng’s book. The first one lies in Cheng’s effort to present the Chinese official take on what has gone wrong in Sino-Japanese relations. While I applaud the book’s balancing value, I wonder if Cheng has gone too far in blaming Japan overwhelmingly for the long list of problems between the two countries. Towards the end of the book, as Cheng discusses the latest diplomatic crises, the arrow of complaint is unmistakably pointed at leaders in Japan: how they were held hostage to Japan’s “rightwing” forces (Koizumi Jun’ichiro), how they squandered Chinese good intentions (Kan Naoto), or how unfortunately short their tenures were (Fukuda Yasuo and Hatoyama Yukio). Chinese nationalism is certainly not the only culprit in pushing China-Japan relations to a nadir. But I am surprised at how little systematic attention Cheng gives to this important factor or, for that matter, to China’s domestic politics in general. There has been a lot of insightful knowledge generated on how China’s domestic agenda shapes its foreign policy. Given the comprehensiveness the book boasts, this analytical void is a major disappointment.
Second, as the book progresses, the main target of analysis increasingly shifts from the Chinese government to a particular group: China’s Japan specialists. Indeed, in the last two chapters, references to China’s “Japan experts” appear on almost every page. This is problematic: to begin with, it feels the last third of the book needs a new title: it is no longer China’s Japan policy, but China’s Japan policy in the eyes of China’s Japan specialists. But exactly how have China’s academics shaped Beijing’s policy towards Tokyo? Cheng’s answer is assumed rather than analyzed, as he claims that to study these experts’ words “is probably the only way” to study Chinese leaders’ perception (376). This claim makes the book methodologically one-dimensional and vulnerable to subjectivity.
Also, the community of China’s Japan watchers is pluralistic: one only needs to look at the controversies stirred up by the moderates’ “New Thinking” to get a sense of such lively debates. But Cheng’s analysis of the intra-experts’ differences is cursory. He simply dismisses the New Thinking as “severely criticized”(376). No other information is offered. But what about the rise of such voices in the first place? Did its publication reflect the agenda of the moderates within the leadership? Peter Hays Gries, among others, offered a careful analysis of China’s remarkable public debate on Japan policy. His widely cited piece titled “China’s ‘New Thinking’ on Japan” (The China Quarterly, 2005: 831–850) focused on the “New Thinking.” However, Cheng’s book made no reference to this or similar academic efforts. This is but one example of an even bigger problem: the book treats China as a unitary actor with a coherent Japan policy and a schism-free leadership. I find such treatment, which glides over China’s domestic complexities, simplistic and inaccurate.
Despite these complaints, I appreciate the importance of Cheng’s book and applaud the contribution it makes. Cheng’s encyclopedic knowledge of the vital relations between China and Japan shines in the work. The book is a helpful reference to anyone who wants to understand China’s diplomatic evolution toward Japan.
Jing Sun, The University of Denver, Denver, USA
CHINESE AND AMERICANS: A Shared History. By Xu Guoqi; foreword by Akira Iriye. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 2014. xiii, 332 pp. (Illustrations.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-05253-6.
Untimely deaths punctuate Xu Guoqi’s engagingly written “shared history” of Chinese and American attempts to cooperate toward China’s self-strengthening and modernization. Anson Burlingame succumbed to illness while touring Europe as China’s representative seeking more favourable treaty terms; several students in the Chinese Educational Mission passed away before returning home; Ge Kunhua, the first Chinese native hired to teach the language at Harvard, died from pneumonia only three years into his posting; uremia claimed Yuan Shikai before he could expand presidential powers as advised by the constitutional law advisor Frank Goodnow.
Apart from Yung Wing’s Chinese Educational Mission and John Dewey, the individuals and projects featured in Chinese and Americans have previously received little scholarly attention. Echoing Prasenjit Duara’s interventions in Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (University of Chicago Press, 1997), they seem not to have contributed to the dominant turns taken in China’s unruly recent history. Xu argues that the many abrupt starts and stops in China’s long quest for self-strengthening via Westernization have obscured but not necessarily rendered inconsequential those efforts that produced few short-term outcomes. He suggests persuasively that the fraught image of Western domination, poor communications, and Chinese corruption and incompetence that has tended to characterize this era should be leavened with consideration of these carefully developed and mutually constituted efforts toward integrating China into the circle of modern nations. A striking example is the scrupulous attention brought by both Ge Kunhua and his advocate Francis Knight to the selection of textbooks and adapting of pedagogical approaches for Ge’s pioneering efforts to teach Chinese to Americans in the United States.
Chinese and Americans is perhaps most expressive in conveying the dedication, talents, and creative adaptability of Qing dynasty and Republican Chinese leaders such as Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang, Prince Gong, Sun Jiagu, Wu Tingfang, Tang Shaoyi, Cai Tinggan, and Hu Shi in seeking purchase in a world dominated by militaristic powers who operated by vastly different rules. They proactively sought support and advice from Americans and other foreigners whom they had identified as well-qualified and sympathetic to China, and hired not a few, including Anson Burlingame, who negotiated on China’s behalf the first equal treaty since the First Opium War. This unprecedented gain in status for China reflected Burlingame’s conviction, unfortunately then shared by too few other Americans, that China must be allowed and encouraged to develop into a sovereign, independent nation. The Qing funded the Chinese Educational Mission, as described most authoritatively by Edward Rhoads in Stepping Forth into the World: The Chinese Educational Mission to the United States, 1872–81 (University of Hong Kong Press, 2011), under the access to public military schools secured in this agreement. Within a scant dozen years, however, the White House and US Congress moved to renegotiate the treaty terms so that the United States could restrict the immigration of Chinese, reflecting a majority view that a strong America should press its advantages over a weak China.
Even the efforts of liberals such as Goodnow and Dewey to facilitate China’s modernization were motivated in part by the goal of spreading American influence. This self-interest and overconfidence has on frequent occasions blinded Americans in their dealings with Chinese by limiting capacities to discern and comprehend how the intense forces of nationalism and self-determination moved China away from US influence and toward communism.
Xu argues that “despite giving a general impression of isolation and stagnation, Chinese civilization was not bankrupt, nor was ‘China’ or ‘Chinese culture’ at a dead end; it only needed to work out a way forward in a very different world system.” As Goodnow concluded, this required a dominant, centralized authority and not necessarily a republican form of government poorly directed by a mass of population as yet unprepared to meaningfully cast votes. China had to wait until “a nationalist revolution . . . concentrated the power by which a Chinese nation could develop internally and protect itself internationally” (260–261). Communist successes justify Xu’s final substantive chapter surveying sports as a site of mutual endeavour and subsumed nationalist competition, but also as a vehicle to strengthen international alliances. The “ping pong” diplomacy of 1972 warmed the chill of the Cold War, followed by unified action in Olympic boycotts targeting the Soviet Union during the 1980s which affirmed China’s common cause with America. Forty years of economic integration logically culminated in Beijing’s triumphant hosting of the Games in 2008 with a dazzling display of cutting-edge technology and wealth that emphatically proclaimed China’s return as a major world power.
Although selective in its narration of the past 150 years of entwined history, Chinese and Americans recalls key conjunctures of amity and cooperation during times of even the greatest misunderstanding and conflict, endowing hope in personal friendships when political negotiations fail to find a way to move forward.
Madeline Y. Hsu, The University of Texas, Austin, USA
GREEN INNOVATION IN CHINA: China’s Wind Power Industry and the Global Transition to a Low-Carbon Economy. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Joanna I. Lewis. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. xx, 282 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-15331-7.
Today it is widely known that China is the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases by volume, mainly due to the continued dominance of fossil fuels in energy production. In fact, the country’s energy sector is the largest single source of climate-warming emissions globally. In Green Innovation in China, the result of nine years research, Joanna Lewis takes as her focus a low-carbon power source that has seen unprecedented growth in China and is therefore of crucial importance: wind energy. The country now has the biggest wind power market in the world, its installed capacity having increased over a hundredfold from 2000 to 2010 (1).
China now builds almost all of its wind turbines at home. It therefore offers not only an example of a transition from carbon-intensive growth towards low-carbon economic development, underpinned by China’s domestic policies and reflected to varying extents in its changing position in the United Nations climate-change negotiations—an important context that Lewis outlines clearly in the book’s second chapter—but also valuable insights into the process of innovation in energy, particularly for relative latecomers, and the government and business strategies that have underpinned this: from technology transfer and diffusion, to networks of learning, the emergence of Chinese green energy leaders, and, ultimately, to technological leapfrogging.
To better understand China’s place in the wind power innovation system as it has developed around the world, Lewis’s third chapter explores the national and multinational networks of public and private institutions that have funded and supported innovative activity in this sector, with a particular focus on China’s national innovation system and the laws, Five-Year Plans, scientific institutions, and mechanisms for government support that have sustained it through the period of China’s ongoing and evolving market reforms. This includes discussions of China’s absorptive capacity, incentives and decisions around localization of manufacturing, and the barriers posed by factors as diverse as tariffs, gaps in indigenous technical capacity, and failings in quality control.
Lewis’s fourth chapter focuses on the role of foreign technology. The author discusses the early decisions taken by international turbine manufacturers in engaging with China, including Denmark’s Vestas, Spain’s Gamesa, Germany’s Nordex and the United States’ GE, by pursuing joint ventures or localizing production to meet local content requirements. These detailed profiles illustrate the changing policy environment for foreign firms in the era of reform and opening up, and the diverse ways in which technology transfer to China was achieved in this context, from mergers and movements of employees, to licensing and collaborations with China’s universities and research institutes. This brings the reader up to the environment of today, in which foreign companies face not only price competition in China, but also a policy environment that assists research, development, and deployment in its domestic wind industry “in a manner not unlike that of Denmark and the United States in the 1980s” (113), at a time when government support in industrialized countries has waned.
This is particularly important, since the successful results of this sustained government support are evident in Lewis’s fifth chapter, which focuses on Goldwind, China’s “first leading wind turbine manufacturer” (121), a partially state-owned company which had designed one-fifth of wind turbines installed in China by the end of 2010. Goldwind also managed to increase its total R&D investments annually—receiving funds not only from the Chinese government but also international investors, such as the World Bank—developing its own, successful turbine designs. Lewis notes here that domestic wind deployment has suffered delays in connecting to the grid and political barriers to wind integration remain. Given its prominence in debates around renewables in China, it is surprising that this problem of so-called “abandoned wind,” the local implementation gap it exposes, and the fragmented, elite politics that it touches on are not given greater attention in the book.
The process of leapfrogging in wind energy, however, is given close and well-deserved attention in the sixth chapter, with China, South Korea, and India—all late entrants to the global wind power industry—seen using different strategies to foster the development of their own domestic manufacturing firms, in terms of technology transfer and acquisition strategies, domestic policy environments and integration with global learning networks. Leading Indian firm Suzlon, for example, is seen to have pursued an internationally based R&D and manufacturing strategy from the outset, while Goldwind kept an exclusive focus on the Chinese market, with little R&D or manufacturing outside.
Lewis’s final chapter, on the prospects and politics of engaging China on clean energy cooperation, makes clear the contrast between China’s role as developing country in multilateral climate change talks and its increasing ambition when acting bilaterally: so far as to be seen to act as a “superpower” (169) in the context of US-China climate cooperation. This observation proved prescient, given the importance of 2014’s joint US-China announcement on emissions reductions (after Lewis’s book went to press). Her concluding recommendations in this chapter—to expand US-China collaboration on clean energy—also resonate with the details of that agreement.
That political dimension, however, suggests how understanding the prospects for wind energy in China should also include the political and social dimensions of innovation, aspects that technology-focused approaches do not emphasize. There is room for greater attention, for example, to the perspectives, priorities, and practices of China’s provincial and county-level governments, individual entrepreneurs, grid operators, or electricity users themselves. Green Innovation in China is important nonetheless: an accurate and invaluable reference for scholars of development and innovation studies, which while commendably empirically focused, should inform theoretical conversations around diverse global approaches to green transformations, seen in Hubert Schmitz’s How does the Global Power Shift Affect the Low Carbon Transformation? (IDS, 2014), and the dynamic role of government in driving innovation, as discussed in Mariana Mazzucato’s The Entrepreneurial State (Anthem, 2013).
Sam Geall, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
NEGOTIATING CHINA’S DESTINY IN WORLD WAR II. Edited by Hans van de Ven, Diana Lary, and Stephen R. MacKinnon. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. xii, 319 pp. US$60.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-8966-0.
This is the fourth of five edited volumes sponsored by Harvard University. Thirteen essays examine Nationalist China’s wartime diplomacy with France, Britain, Tibet, Canada, India, Russia, and the United States, the Communist International (Comintern), the Nationalist declaration of war, the postwar recovery of the Northeast, plus negotiations ending the war with Japan, relations with Vietnam, and the postwar peace treaties. Notably, the Wang Jingwei government’s pro-Japanese diplomacy is excluded.
The introduction and conclusion, written by Diana Lary and Stephen R. MacKinnon respectively, describe how China grew from a minor international player in the early 1930s to one of the “Big Four” by the end of the war. Major themes include: 1) how Japan’s invasion forced the Nationalist regime to open diplomatic relations with the rest of the world; 2) Chiang Kai-shek’s failed attempts to balance relations with various Allies, in particular the USSR and the United States; and 3) China’s relatively lenient postwar attitude toward Japan in return for recognition as one of the victors of World War II. Many wartime problems remain unresolved, including Taiwan’s legal status, Japanese responsibility for beginning the war, plus the sticky issue of war reparations.
In part 1, Marianne Bastid-Bruguiere argues that Japan was determined to halt arms shipments to Chiang Kai-shek, and the Vichy regime was forced to agree after the fall of Paris on June 14, 1940, thus turning Vietnam into a virtual Japanese puppet state. Rana Mitter discusses how London was worried that Moscow might dominate China, but Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was reassured by T.V. Soong during fall 1945 that China was satisfied with its negotiations with Stalin; meanwhile, the British ambassador to Chongqing, Sir Horace Seymour, presciently warned that while the USSR had “agreed not to provide assistance to any government other than the Nationalists,” Moscow’s desire to expand into Xinjiang and Mongolia “might lead them to an alliance with Yan’an” (50). Chang Jui-te discusses Tibet’s attempts to retain its independence from China, but when Lhasa sent a delegation to the Nationalist Representative Conference during spring 1946, Nanjing refused to recognize Tibetan autonomy. Yang Kuisong shows how Mao Zedong was secretly pleased when the Comintern was dissolved in May 1943, without necessarily realizing that Soviet promises might no longer be honoured; among these was a Comintern promise to turn Outer Mongolia back to a Communist government. Diana Lary summarizes Sino-Canadian relations during World War II, when many Canadians—most important among them Dr. Norman Bethune—were lionized by the Chinese Communists as models of self-sacrifice.
In part 2, Tsuchida Akio explains why the Nationalists did not declare war against Japan until December 8, 1941, fearing US aid would be cut due to the Neutrality Act. Yang Tianshi recounts how Jawaharlal Nehru supported the Nationalists in their fight against Japan, but when Chiang urged India to join the war effort Nehru refused, instead denouncing British imperialism. Li Yuzhen discusses how, after the Second United Front’s formation in 1937, Chiang tried, and failed, on three different occasions to convince Joseph Stalin to declare war on Japan; Stalin was more than happy to let China absorb Japanese troops, even while signing the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact of April 1941, and authorizing Soviet troops to invade Manchuria only in the last days of the war. Xiaoyuan Liu recounts how the US State Department hoped to sponsor postwar international discussions on the autonomy of Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, Tannu Tuva, Tibet, and Xinjiang, but restoring the Chinese empire turned out to be a core interest of both the Nationalists and Communists, and so US efforts were largely ignored. Nishimura Shigeo discusses Chiang’s determination to recover the northeast, and when it was suggested that Manchuria be ceded to the USSR after the war, he protested that recovering Chinese sovereignty in the northeast was a primary war aim.
In part 3, Wu Sufeng details the Nationalist postwar claims to all private and public Japanese lands in China, minus much of the industry in Manchuria that the USSR removed as war reparations. Yang Weizhen shows that Chiang initially supported an independent Vietnam, but fearful of a pro-Communist government under Ho Chi Minh, Chiang allowed France to return to Vietnam in exchange for abolishing French special rights and privileges in China plus territorial concessions along the Sino-Vietnamese border. Hans van de Ven recounts how Russia refused to attend, and neither the PRC nor the ROC were invited to the signing of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty. American insistence that Japan not pay reparations angered many participants, but John Foster Dulles—who had attended the Versailles peace talks as a young man—refused to back down. This treaty, plus the subsequent 1952 peace treaty between Japan and the ROC, helped guarantee the postwar peace.
While presenting much new information on the Nationalist wartime diplomacy, this book repeats outdated myths. One author argues Roosevelt and Churchill “accepted Stalin’s price tag” at Yalta and “endorsed the geopolitical reality on the Mongolian Plateau” (170). Another blames FDR for signing “secret Yalta agreements,” forcing China to agree to Outer Mongolia’s independence (155). It has long been known that W. Averell Harriman, who was the US ambassador to the USSR, testified in 1951 that once Sino-Soviet negotiations began in July 1945, “Stalin, at the outset, made demands that went substantially beyond the Yalta understanding.” Harriman also said of T.V. Soong: “At no time did Soong give me any indication that he felt the Yalta understanding was a handicap in his negotiations. I repeatedly urged him not to give in to Stalin’s demands” (W. Averell Harriman Papers, Manuscript Division, US Library of Congress, Washington, DC). Recently, S.C.M. Paine has demonstrated that Roosevelt did not betray China, but that “Chiang Kai-shek traded Chinese sovereignty over Outer Mongolia for the return of Manchuria” (The Wars for Asia, 1911–1949, Cambridge University Press, 242).
Bruce A. Elleman, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, USA
CHINA’S CIVIL WAR: A Social History, 1945-1949. New Approaches to Asian History, 13. By Diana Lary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xii, 283 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$29.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-67826-2.
French novelist Victor Hugo once wrote that “foreign war is a scratch on the arm; a civil war is an ulcer which devours the vitals of a nation.” The Chinese Civil War (1927–1949)—technically ongoing since the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) never signed an official armistice—is no exception to this characterization of civil strife as an instrument of life-shattering trauma. Historians know well that the conflict split China along ideological lines, with millions of Communist and Nationalist soldiers and countless millions of civilians perishing throughout the duration of hostilities, and millions more evacuating the Mainland to Taiwan to escape the victorious Chinese Communists. But lost in the war’s underscoring of the ideological divide between Mainland China and Taiwan and postwar interpretations of the war on both sides of the Taiwan Strait are the people who suffered through war themselves.
Contrary to ideologically tempered interpretations of the 1945–1949 period of the Chinese Civil War, however, China’s Civil War: A Social History, 1945–1949 by Diana Lary (professor emeritus, University of British Columbia) moves beyond existing Marxist and postmodern theoretical approaches to interpret it through the lens of trauma theory. Like her previous Scars of War (ed. with Stephen MacKinnon), The Chinese People at War, and China at War (ed. with Ezra Vogel and MacKinnon), military history interweaves with social history to frame a picture of the lives of people during and after violent conflict. Lary uses biographies, memoirs, illustrations, and oral histories to accomplish this end, thereby highlighting the “painful and divisive social impacts of the war” (12) to give voices to those who either experienced China’s Civil War firsthand or felt its reverberations through familial ties.
The book consists of eight chapters that cover the war in chronological fashion, from its social background in the opening chapter to the immediate and social outcomes in the 1950s. Lary sets the first few chapters against a backdrop of Guomindang (GMD) instability and Chinese Communist regrouping in China’s countryside after 1927. Chapter 1 examines elite upheaval, social polarization, and the psycho-social effects that war with Japan caused, while the second chapter analyzes the transition from the Second Sino-Japanese War into all-out civil strife between Communist and GMD belligerents, during which, as Lary states, the “re-establishment of political order in China was fragile” (38). The author argues in chapter 3 that despite the GMD’s control of China, several turning points account partially for a spike in support for the Communists and shifted momentum into their camp, such as a disunited GMD’s failed efforts to recoup lands that they lost previously, economic turmoil, and its total ignorance of winning hearts and minds. The next few chapters, meanwhile, trace the Communists’ gradual rise from rural nuisance to tactical aggressor. The fourth, fifth, and sixth chapters discuss the escalation of the conflict, leading up to the eleven months of the Communists’ rout of GMD forces as it moved to take Beijing by 1949. Chapters 7 and 8 examine outcomes of the war during the 1950s, such as the victorious Communists’ entrenchment of class differences, generational splits as youth took primacy in Communist China over parents and adults, and in contrast to earlier periods, a promise to improve the status of women. The concluding chapter provides an exposé into postwar reverberations, namely isolation, cross-Taiwan Strait interpretations/re-interpretations of the conflict, and memories of the war.
Overall, the book satisfies as a long-overdue investigation of the immediate post-WWII period of the Chinese Civil War without the ideological or nationalist overtones that have characterized previous efforts, yet some issues do detract from an otherwise excellent study. Lary’s inclusion of succinct biographical snapshots—from last Emperor Pu Yi, acclaimed author Jiang Bingzhi (Ding Ling), to best-selling novelist and journalist Louis Cha and famed director Ang Lee—succeeds in connecting peoples’ stories to the larger analysis of the Chinese Civil War. Her decision to incorporate them only in short form instead of granting them chapter-length focus, however, is disappointing, and at times this causes distraction from the larger point that the author endeavours to make. Also offsetting is Lary’s invocation of Chalmers Johnson’s somewhat dated mono-causal explanation for the spread of nationalism in China to rural areas. Lary states that Johnson “argues persuasively that the alliance between Party and peasantry in the resistance to Japan brought nationalism to the villages, taught peasants to understand how oppressed they were under the old order and gave them a sense of belonging to a nation” (8). However, recent scholarship based on Communist Party documents, classified GMD intelligence reportage, and local archives reveals otherwise. Chen Yungfa’s local historical approach, for instance, highlights issues of tax evasion, army desertion, the Party’s countermeasures, corvée service, and soldier enlistment campaigns, to demonstrate that to overcome the peasant tradition of resisting state requirements the Communists’ required more than patriotic appeals to mobilize peasants. Prasenjit Duara, in the same vein, argues that Qing state modernizing initiatives attacked local religion and lineage structures, thereby empowering entrepreneurial brokers, and unseating rural gentry to create a cultural nexus of power vacuum that remained unfilled until the Communists established rural bases. Therefore, the Communists’ exploitation of several cleavages, not merely homages to a detached and ethereal nationalism, explains more fully the phenomenon of peasant mobilization against the Japanese occupiers.
Such issues notwithstanding, China’s Civil War is a thoughtful and well-composed volume that breaks the mould of telling military history by placing valuable insight on the social dimensions of civil strife. Diana Lary’s interweaving of accounts of the war with people’s lives illustrates the conflict’s pervasiveness across several social strata in Chinese society, reminding us that countless numbers of everyday Chinese endured significant hardship in wartime, and even thereafter, in both Chinas, many more still seek to sew the broken pieces of their lives back together.
Matt Galway, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
FROM FU MANCHU TO KUNG FU PANDA: Images of China in American Film. Critical Interventions. By Naomi Greene. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. xii, 264 pp. (Figures.) US$25.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3836-2.
Naomi Greene has written a thoughtful and accessible study of “representations of China found in American films” over the course of a century, looking specifically at “images and myths regarding China” (1). As a film studies scholar, Greene deftly integrates various elements of visual representation and historical analysis. Her work expands the rapidly growing body of scholarship in American Orientalism and the cultural Cold War in Asia. Greene’s central argument is that myths and images of China swing in pendulum-like fashion between positive and negative extremes. On the positive side, “China is regarded as an ancient and wise civilization,” and portrayals of Chinese people and culture in Hollywood are connected to beautiful landscapes, venerable sages, and noble traditions. But the underside of such nobility is a more troubling world of “Oriental despots, of Genghis Khan and his marauding hordes, of strange practices and barbaric tortures” (3). While times have changed, many of the images have not. Greene sees current anxiety about China’s rise as an economic power as reprising earlier preoccupations articulated by American missionaries, merchants, and politicians.
Despite significant diversity in the type of cinematic stories that are told about China, when the pendulum swings it does so, Greene convincingly argues, in a repeatedly bifurcated style, saying more about constructions of the American self and other, than China or the Chinese. And, while there are historical periods when such divisions seem to fade or disappear, they can, upon closer analysis, be seen in reconstituted albeit more muted forms. The divide between self and other plays out in both macro and micro contexts and, Greene claims, “reflects and fuels, at the individual level, the distinction between two countries, the United States and China” (12). Limiting her study to analysis of films about China rather than Chinese Americans or Chinese immigrants, Greene reminds us that both groups were, nonetheless, affected by stereotypes and representations on screen (14).
The first three chapters offer a nice fleshing out of issues related to early-twentieth-century films. I particularly appreciated Greene’s discussion of The Bitter Tea of General Yen, The Cat’s-Paw, and The Good Earth. Many scholars have written about both Pearl S. Buck’s wildly popular book and film, but Greene manages to provide a fresh perspective through her discussion of the marginalization of ethnically Chinese/Asian actors and the Caucasian performers who played Chinese characters in yellowface.
The second half of the book is particularly engaging. Chapter 4, “The Cold War in Three Acts,” weaves film analysis with a textured discussion of Sino-US relations, broad transpacific historical tensions, and links between cultural production and anti-Communist sentiment. It illustrates how attitudes about Chinese culture have, despite significant change in China, stayed frozen in time on screen. Audiences today have inherited staid stereotypes and do little to resist them. Chapter 5, “The World Splits in Two,” seems to jump rather abruptly to the 1990s but then meanders between late- and mid-twentieth-century films in a way that prepares the reader to see how past and present are always already in conversation with each other in Hollywood. The political landscape in both China and the US are juxtaposed against each other in considering several late-twentieth and early-twenty-first-century films, including Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet. However, even as she keeps several plates in the air, Greene never loses sight of the self/other split and the reprising of themes from earlier eras. We are, thus, prepared for a full-on encounter with postmodernity and its trenchant Sinophobia and American neocolonialism as the book winds its way to a conclusion. But for all of its caution about the ways in which Americans continue to see themselves, and a “hollowed-out” China when they go to the movies, Greene teases out differences and divergences from the historical norm by considering a range of films from the “new” families of Ang Lee, to the revisionist westerns Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights and to animated blockbusters such as Mulan and Kung Fu Panda.
While the focus of the book is, of course, Hollywood, because Greene uses the term “American” film in her subtitle, this reviewer wondered how an already strong study might have been improved by introducing films from Canada, or considering how recent co-productions with a PRC, Taiwanese, or Hong Kong connection would have been in conversation with other films in her archive. After all, Ang Lee, like many ethnically Chinese/Sinophone filmmakers, is simultaneously claimed by various nations when he wins awards, and many of the most established Hollywood studios are, actually, transnational in their production, marketing, and distribution efforts. For all of her care with the integration of films and historical context one wishes for a bit more commentary on how national myths are in conversation with postnational/transnational flows in an age of globalization. But perhaps such themes would have watered down the sorts of clear theoretical/conceptual lines Greene chose to draw.
Greene’s book is that rare gem that will be of use in graduate film studies courses as well as in undergraduate teaching in various departments. But it would be equally interesting to a keen general reader with a desire to think beyond the binaries that are all too apparent as one looks at representations of China currently in the news.
Stacilee Ford, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
IN THE LAND OF THE EASTERN QUEENDOM: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity on the Sino-Tibetan Border. Studies on Ethnic Groups in China. By Tenzin Jinba. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. xvi, 170 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-295-99306-5; US$30.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-295-99307-2.
MAPPING SHANGRILA: Contested Landscapes in the Sino-Tibetan Borderlands. Studies on Ethnic Groups in China. Edited by Emily T. Yeh and Chris Coggins. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. xv, 332 pp. (Figures.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-295-99357-7; US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99358-4.
For those not specialized in Tibetan affairs, Tibet is often identified primarily with the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China and perhaps too with the Tibetan exile community in India. It is seldom recognized that more than half of ethnic Tibetans belong to the four provinces to the east of the TAR: Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan. The Tibetans of these regions have their own histories and cultural specificities, as well as peculiar challenges in establishing communal identities and negotiating their station in contemporary China. It is to the credit of the University of Washington Press’s Studies on Ethnic Groups in China series, under the general editorship of Stevan Harrell, that it has encouraged well-informed scholarship on the Sino-Tibetan borderland peoples, first in its publications of Åshild Kolås and Monika P. Thowsen’s On the Margins of Tibet: Cultural Survival on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier (2004) and Koen Wellens’s Religious Revival in the Tibetan Borderlands: The Premi of Southwest China (2010). The two new titles reviewed here continue to advance our knowledge of current developments in communities on the margins of Chinese and Tibetan cultural worlds.
Both Tenzin Jinba’s monograph, In the Land of the Eastern Queendom, and Emily T. Yeh and Chris Coggins’s edited volume, Mapping Shangrila, may be said to concern centrally the phenomenon that Yeh and Coggins term “shangrilazation” (16). This designation was inspired by the 2002 rebranding of Zhongdian County in northern Yunnan as Shangrila, a toponym unknown in Tibetan and derived from James Hilton’s famed novel Lost Horizons, which described a never-never land hidden away somewhere in Tibet (20). Zhongdian’s new identity suggested that current reality might be configured so as to satisfy the yearnings of the imagination, the touristic imagination in particular. The promise of bringing tourist investment—above all from China’s burgeoning domestic tourism market—to the Sino-Tibetan borderlands is one of the leitmotifs in the two books under discussion.
The “eastern queendom” of Tenzin Jinba’s title refers to the fabled “eastern land of women” (Chinese, dongnüguo) mentioned in the annals of the Sui and Tang dynasties. Though legend has magnified this to be a land of amazons, less dramatic institutions privileging women or maternal lineages, as are current in some Tibetan and Himalayan societies, may well be in the background here. Whatever the explanation, a region that is often named as a probable location of the eastern land of women is Gyalmorong (literary Tibetan, rgyal mo rong; Chinese, jiarong), literally the “Valley of the Queens.” Tenzin Jinba is himself a native of Gyalmorong, but from a different community than that which he studies here. He is therefore enough of an insider to have unusual insights into the nuances of his subjects’ relations and affirmations—which, given the several linguistic registers in use (the Gyalmorong language, Amdo and Khampa Tibetan, Sichuan-dialect Chinese), present a considerable challenge to non-natives—and yet far enough removed to develop an etic perspective.
Gyalmorong, a cluster of counties mostly straddling the upper reaches of the Dadu River in northern Sichuan, has been closely associated with Tibet since the eighth century. Its dominant religious system was, and to some extent remains, the autochtonous Tibetan Bon religion, though Tibetan Buddhism is a strong presence as well. The language is peppered with Tibetan expressions, often in archaic forms, and, although current linguistic scholarship considers it to be a Qiangic language, local opinion, strongly supported by local scholars, insists that what is spoken is in fact ancient Tibetan (23). In some parts of Gyalmorong, versions of the Tibetan Amdo dialect are nevertheless also widely in use, and in Danba County, where Tenzin Jinba’s research was conducted, Khampa dialect too. This perhaps explains why Danba, uniquely among the Gyalmorong counties, was incorporated into Sichuan’s Ganzi prefecture, which is Khampa. Although the people of Gyalmorong were given their own ethnic designation immediately after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, in 1954 they were reclassified as zangzu, that is, Tibetan (21). Nevertheless, owing to differences of language and local custom, Tibetans often consider them alien (23). Identity is thus very much an issue in Gyalmorong, and Danba County in particular has responded by asserting itself to be the site of the famous “queendom.”
Tenzin Jinba’s study concerns the dynamics of this claim within Danba, where the identification of the county with the legend has opened up a variety of divisions and unanticipated consequences in the country itself. First, and most generally, was the transformation of the “queendom” into the “Land of Beauties,” which, of course, played very well in the Chinese tourist business. However, the exotic in this case soon morphed into the erotic and Danba found itself beset by numbers of Chinese men looking for sexual adventure. This eventuality had not been foreseen and was a profound affront to the dominant mores of the community (59–64).
Tenzin Jinba sets this episode in relation to pertinent aspects of gender construction in contemporary China, particularly with reference to ethnic minorities like the people of Danba (chapters 2–3). His account explores both the gender-based stereotypes that have emerged and in particular the manner in which these have played out in the discourses of the “queendom” elaborated in and around his main site of fieldwork, the Danba township of Suopo. For here a coterie of the local elite has sought to demonstrate that their township was not just within the queendom, but that it was its royal centre, the site of the ancient queens’ palace. Being of this lineage, they insist, the women of Suopo are particularly capable and wise, and the men particularly inclined to grant the women the honour and respect that they merit. This distinguishes the people of Suopo both from the Han and from other Tibetans, earning them, so it is argued, a unique dignity (67–71).
All of this has a (no doubt unintended) comedic dimension; for, as Tenzin Jinba suggests, there is no empirical basis for believing that gender relations in Suopo differ much from norms in other Danba communities, the local traditions of the queens seem rather tenuous, and the entire queendom issue—including the debates it provokes with Suopo’s neighbours—involves primarily the men, Suopo women being generally indifferent to it (65–67). What emerges is a portrait of a small and vulnerable community strategically maneuvering to win for itself what it hopes will be a profitable position in relation to the larger forces that surround it, while at the same time seeking to enhance its sense of rootedness and self-esteem (chapters 4–5). The ancient queendom figures here as the imaginal vehicle invoked to ensure the order of contemporary reality.
The intersection of imagination and reality informs the first part of Mapping Shangrila, as well. Entitled “Shangrilazation,” it includes three articles probing the constructions of the Sino-Tibetan borderlands in writing and popular culture. “Vital Margins” by Li-hua Ying explores the depiction of Sino-Tibetan frontier societies in contemporary fiction and poetry, both by Chinese and Sinophone Tibetan authors. In “Dreamworld, Shambala, Gannan,” Chris Vasantkumar examines the touristic vision of southwestern Gansu Province (Gannan) as “Little Tibet.” The trope of “miniaturization” (57–70) is of particular interest here, focusing on the representation of Labrang monastery and its culture in contemporary guidebooks produced in China. The final article in this section, Travis Klingberg’s “A Routine Discovery,” looks to the Yading Nature Reserve in western Sichuan and its varied representations beginning with early twentieth-century botanical explorers, for whom it was ungoverned wilderness, through to its current incorporation (and domestication) in the Greater Shangrila Ecotourism Zone.
The second part of the volume, “Constructing the Ecological State,” includes two informative contributions on wilderness conservation—“Making National Parks in Yunnan” by John Aloysius Zinda and “The Nature Conservancy in Shangrila” by Robert K. Mosely and Renée B. Mullen—and two articles on fungus: Michael J. Hathaway’s “Transnational Matsuke Governance” and Michelle Olsgard Stewart’s “Constructing and Deconstructing the Commons: Caterpillar Fungus Governance in Developing Yunnan.” While one might regret that topics such as endangered species preservation are not treated more fully in this section of the work, the one dealing most directly with conservation policy, the swelling importance of the matsuke mushroom and the caterpillar fungus in the rural economies of the regions studied is very adequately demonstrated, as are the distortions emerging from too narrow a focus on these commodities and from their over-exploitation.
Part 3, “Contested Landscapes,” is particularly attractive precisely because contestation, that inevitable marker of value, is at last brought to the fore. In “Animate Landscapes,” Chris Coggins, with Gesang Zeren, discusses the latter’s deployment in recent years of traditional beliefs regarding the spirits occupying the land to support the adoption of ecofriendly practices. Such efforts, however, involve an inevitable tension between traditional reverence to powers that are not beholden to human reason and scientific projects of environmental management that presume no non-rationalized agencies: “[A]nimate landscapes are, in ontological and cosmological terms, radically different from, and not always commensurable with, scientific conservation practices and interests.… Tibetan geopiety is not a panacea for sustainable ecological development” (213). Similar divisions are brought more sharply into focus in Charlene E. Makley’s “The Amoral Other,” which turns to the continuing practice of spirit-mediumship in Qinghai’s Rebkong district and the challenge this has presented to state-governed policies of development. In the final chapter, “The Rise and Fall of the Green Tibetan,” Emily T. Yeh takes up the cases of Tibetan environmentalists who have fallen on the wrong side of Chinese authority—and have been arrested and jailed for this impertinence—precisely while advocating policies and practices that the state seems otherwise to support. An immediate analogy that comes to the fore at the time of this writing (April 7, 2015) is the arrest of five Chinese feminists who appear to be advocating rights for women that China has otherwise broadly endorsed (Andrew Jacobs, “Taking Feminist Battle to China’s Streets, and Landing in Jail,” The New York Times, 5 April 2015.]
I note this parallel because it appears to me to touch on a vital point that has not been, to my mind, quite satisfactorily addressed in either of the books reviewed here. Both appear to speak with cautious optimism of the rise of “civil society” in China. Neither seems quite willing to acknowledge that genuine civil society is not only difficult to achieve, but is an impossibility in today’s China, that its activities are tolerated only so long as they appear not to disrupt the authority of the Party or state. Manifestations that suggest the rise of other sources of authority, even where they broadly accord with current policy, cannot be tolerated at all. Of course, quite a lot may fly under the radar of the dominant powers at any given time, particularly in remote districts. In the end, however, the monopolization of authority in China ensures that civil society will never be allowed to mature. If I am reading her correctly, Yeh indeed suggests that, in the wake of the Tibetan protests of 2008, something like this may now be the case in Tibetan regions. I would hold, however, that even without the events of 2008, this is inevitably the nature of power under China’s system of one-party rule. Something of this sort indeed seems to be entailed in the concluding “afterword” to the volume, contributed by Ralph Litzinger (279–286).
With the publication of these two works, we see that “Sino-Tibetan Borderland Studies” has in a sense come of age as a distinct area of inquiry. For reasons stated by Yeh and Coggins in their introduction (7–8), reasons that include the projection of these regions as an idealized counterpart to contemporary urban China, their central place in the working out of Chinese ethnicity policies, and the concrete role of both development and ecology within them in the formation of contemporary Chinese territorial definition, this is as it should be. The Sino-Tibetan frontiers are thus of considerable interest in their own right, while bringing an important range of broad issues facing China into close focus as well.
Matthew T. Kapstein, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France
MY TIBETAN CHILDHOOD: When Ice Shattered Stone. By Naktsang Nulo; translation provided by Angus Cargill and Sonam Lhamo; edited and abridged by Angus Cargill. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. liv, 286 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5726-1.
In a forward to this important volume, the 14th Dalai Lama writes, “My Tibetan Childhood is the autobiography of a young Tibetan that vividly describes the brutal repression of Tibet by Chinese forces in the 1950s” (ix). However, Naktsang Nulo’s memoir is much more than a story of Chinese aggression and Tibetan victimization. While there have been numerous accounts of Tibet under Maoist rule, most have been produced in exile, and often in English, as deliberate attempts to raise international attention for Tibet’s plight. A few others have been co-written by Western scholars, primarily for an academic readership. By contrast, when in 2007 the original edition appeared on bookshelves as Joys and Sorrows of the Naktsang Boy (Nags tsang zhi lu’i skyid sdug), written in colloquial Amdo Tibetan, it represented the first critical account of the 1950s in Tibet published within the People’s Republic of China. This is therefore an insider account written for insiders, an audience that experienced the events described within living memory, but also one that continues to negotiate the uncomfortable choices demanded of Tibetans living within China today.
Among its many contributions, My Tibetan Childhood contains the first detailed descriptions of 1958’s Amdo Rebellion and the state’s brutal response, as well as horrific accounts of mass starvation during the Great Leap Forward. In his extremely insightful introduction, Robert Barnett remarks, “This may thus be the first known eyewitness account of atrocities carried out by the PLA in Tibet or elsewhere in China to have appeared in print within the PRC” (xxxiv). Significantly, Naktsang narrates his story in the “unvarnished” voice of a child, “what he saw, what he heard, and what he thought” (1). Of course, the author’s claims of historical accuracy should be treated with the same caution as any attempt at historical reconstruction from individual memory. Nonetheless, as Barnett suggests, this literary device allows an otherwise hyper-political story to be told outside the rhetorical frameworks that usually accompany accounts of Tibet’s recent past. He writes, “In the child’s world, political rationalizations for destructive actions do not make sense; only moral values about human relations apply” (xxxviii). So, for example, it is not clear if the author considers “Tibet” to have been a singular, historical ethno-political community. However, his story is rife with references to fierce regionalism and intercommunity violence that might suggest otherwise. Likewise, Naktsang makes no attempt to explain the events that led to the violent confrontation between the Chinese state and Amdo Tibetans. Nor does he offer an opinion as to what caused the great starvation that in less than six months killed 95 percent of the 1600 children and elderly inhabitants of Ratsang School—with tragic irony referred to as “Joyous Home” (262). However, it is not lost upon the reader that Chinese soldiers bivouacked nearby had plenty to eat. And it is with astonishment but little further comment that Naktsang describes a Speaking Bitterness Meeting during which a Tibetan mob savagely murdered two lamas and their attendants.
Furthermore, the “joys” and “sorrows” from Naktsang’s original title do not simply reflect a rupture between “traditional” Tibet and what the author refers to as the “time of revolution,” when “the earth and the sky were turned upside down” (7). In fact, during the first half of the book Naktsang encounters almost no Chinese. Instead, he paints an engrossing and often unflattering portrait of social, political, and economic life on the Amdo grasslands prior to the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army. This includes a fascinating description of the six-month caravan trip to Lhasa, which combined religious pilgrimage with economic adventurism. Yet, as viewed through the child’s eyes, this was a world filled with violence and injustice. Monastic officials were corrupt, capricious and callous. Wealth was fleeting, human existence precarious. Naktsang’s father repeatedly served as victim to this unjust world. However, his father also embodied the positive characteristics of an Amdo Tibetan—loyalty to family and friends, rugged individualism, personal integrity, and the spirit of self-sacrifice—that in Naktsang’s memories bound this society together and allowed it to function according to a set of unwritten rules.
Imperfect though it may have been, for Naktsang Nulo this life came to an end the day his father was killed and he and his band of refugees were captured by the PLA. Although occurring more than halfway through the book, September 9, 1958—“The day of our destruction”—is the first time a specific date appears in the text, as if even the temporal rhythms of his old life had been dislodged (181). Yet, this transformation takes on a new dimension when we recall that the boy who had once vowed revenge against his father’s killers, instead would become a functionary of that state. Thus, the author himself may personify a troubling disconnect, one that is reflected in the book’s provocative final paragraphs. Having survived his harrowing stay at “Joyous Home,” Naktsang suddenly shifts to the voice of his elder self. Obliquely and perhaps ironically referring to the promises of the post-Mao period, he suggests that Amdo Tibetans continue to inhabit a world thrust upon them by outside forces, one in which the massive dislocations of the past have not been remedied. “Now we have grown up and are able to practice our religion and dedicate prayers to [our father],” he states before somberly adding, “We are also certain that we will have a chance to return to our native land, and all our relatives will greet us” (268).
Naktsang Nulo insists that his only purpose in writing of the “inconceivable suffering” experienced during “the times of great change” (4) is to preserve its memory for future Tibetan generations, remarking, “They know nothing of this era in history because no detailed account of it can be found in any history book” (7). With the publication of My Tibetan Childhood, this little-known history is now available to a far wider audience. Anyone interested in modern Tibetan or Chinese history—scholars, students, and the general public alike—should be grateful.
Benno Ryan Weiner, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA
JAPAN’S MARITIME SECURITY STRATEGY: The Japan Coast Guard and Maritime Outlaws. Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific. By Lindsay Black. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. xii, 221 pp. (Graphs.) US$105.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-38554-3.
In the field of international security, Japanese behaviour is pre-eminently explained as the product of one of two different attitudes. A core of realist scholars considers Japanese governments to have a preference for strategies seeking to avoid major responsibilities in dealing with major security issues. Others, including constructivist writers, understand that Japanese behaviour is trapped between an inability to “normalize” and the tendency to conform to international norms. In particular, the combination of the engrained nature of what Thomas Berger defined as Japan’s culture of anti-militarism, and the legacy of the imperial military past, have continuously constrained the scope of Japanese actions in international security.
Lindsay Black disagrees with this view. In this carefully constructed book, he argues that this literature has failed to capture Japan’s “innovative contribution to the maintenance of international order since the late 1990s” (7). Black looks at Japanese responses to maritime security threats to show how, in this branch of international security, authorities in Tokyo have not merely followed other international actors, nor have they just sought to do as little as possible. On the contrary, they took a frontline role in tackling maritime outlaws, from terrorist groups and pirates to criminal organizations. Indeed, Black argues, Japanese authorities displayed a degree of entrepreneurship, devising innovative policies that contributed to the capacity building of law-enforcement agencies and the financing of multilateral institutions from Southeast Asia to the Gulf of Aden. This is no trifling achievement since, in so doing, Japanese authorities balanced self-perceptions about anti-militarist norms and the legacy of the imperial past against the need to address a serious security challenge.
Black’s choice to focus on maritime security is no coincidence. No aspect of international security is more relevant to explore the evolving nature of Japanese behaviour, and few areas of international security have gained the same level of attention in East Asia over the past decade and a half. As a maritime nation, Japan depends upon unfettered access to shipping routes for its economic survival. From a security perspective, the sea represents both a crucial factor of vulnerability and a platform from where the defence of national borders is exercised. Thus, changes to the international maritime security order require Japanese authorities to act and, in a fast-changing East Asian maritime landscape, Black had no lack of examples to investigate the subject. The intellectual framework underscoring the book’s analysis draws upon the English School of International Relations, which the author mobilizes with great mastery to conceptualize both the boundaries of the Japanese identity as a member of the international society, and the nature of the challenge presented by state and non-state maritime outlaws. The first half of the book is used to adapt this theoretical framework to the maritime context—an exercise that is particularly successful.
The second part of the book focuses instead on examining Japanese policy reactions in relation to three sets of issues: North Korea’s incursions into Japanese waters in 1999 and 2001, piracy in Southeast Asia and in the Gulf of Aden, and counterterrorism and anti-proliferation initiatives. The chapter analysis of the Japanese policy-making process vis-à-vis maritime piracy in Southeast Asia is particularly compelling. In it, the lengthy theoretical discussions of the previous chapters find a clear empirical application. The book convincingly reviews the Japanese choice to see the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) promoting cooperation with counterparts in ASEAN, offering advice through personnel exchanges and thematic seminars, and hosting and contributing to exercises. As the chapter shows, Japan’s self-perceived identity informed by anti-militarism and the legacy of the imperial past shaped the process, favouring the use of the JCG instead of the navy, known as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). On the other hand, this self-perception did not prevent innovative action to ensure the maintenance of regional order, with the Japanese active promotion of a Singapore-based Information Sharing Centre, established in 2004.
Notwithstanding the title (and the cover image), however, this book is not really about maritime strategy, nor about the Japan Coast Guard (JCG). Practitioners or specialists of maritime affairs will find no intellectual reference in the theoretical chapters to the classic works of Alfred Mahan and Sir Julian Corbett or to more modern authors like Ken Booth and Geoffrey Till, nor practical explanations as to how the JCG operates or how it interacts with the JMSDF. This has two implications. The first is that the book lacks a basic understanding of maritime operations, leading the author to overstate the case of the JCG. For example, in the Gulf of Aden, the JCG maintained a mere eight officers on board a JMSDF task force of three warships and two P-3C aircraft based in Djibouti. Contrary to what is suggested in the book, the navy deployed its own special boarding unit for the mission and maintained a firm operational control in patrols, inspections, boarding, convoying, and coordination with other navies. The JCG had a supporting role in monitoring the compliance to law enforcement; this state of affairs makes it hard to support the notion that the Japanese government perceived piracy as “falling within the purview of a civilian police authority” (138). The second implication is that what the author calls Japan’s “dual” maritime security strategy, is actually a maritime security policy aimed at deploying the coast guard or the navy (or both of them in tandem) depending on the nature of the challenge. Indeed, from a maritime perspective the examples referred to in this book—most notably that of North Korea’s incursions—undermine the very existence of “two” strategies. These events have in fact been driving the development of manuals and practices for coordinated actions between the two organizations. Like other state actors with significant maritime interests, Japan seems to have one strategy and coordinated maritime policies to employ its coast guard and navy to maximum effect.
In all, these considerations leave the door open for further research as to what is the balance between identity and operational requirements in the shaping of Japan’s responses to maritime security. Is the entrepreneurial behaviour displayed by Japan in tackling maritime outlaws during the 1990s and early 2000s a sign of the emergence of a different international security actor with a tendency to favour civilian actions as opposed to military ones? Or, are the examples cited by Black just the expression of an initial cautious engagement that is now seeing the navy taking a stronger role alongside the JCG? Recent Japanese naval exercises with NATO as part of the anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and increasing defence engagements in Southeast Asia would suggest that the latter interpretation stands at least on equal footing with the former. The debate is open and this book deserves credit for setting forth a strong theoretical framework in support of one of the possible answers.
Alessio Patalano, King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
CONFIGURATIONS OF FAMILY IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN. Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies. Edited by Tomoko Aoyama, Laura Dales, Romit Dasgupta. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xvi, 179 pp. US$145.00, cloth . ISBN 978-0-415-71765-6.
We can notice the continued centrality of family in contemporary Japan through any number of measures. From politicians’ rhetoric that links perceived threats to family risk, to omnipresent worries about Japan’s falling birth rates and its attendant problems, to deeply personal decisions about who to marry, when to divorce, and what children need to thrive, families remain a key symbol in contemporary Japan. This centrality seems to be reinforced through three interlocking platforms. First, as Carol Gluck and others have convincingly argued, the modern Japanese nation was created partially through the ideological force of “national family” (kazoku koka), when Meiji politicians built unity through constructed claims that all citizens should be figurative kin. Second, families matter in practice because, as in many other cultural contexts, Japanese people often understand their own families as vitally important in their own lives and they put tremendous resources into building, sustaining, and reformulating them. Third, and perhaps less visibly, families remain a key force of political economy because, throughout the postwar period, particular family structures worked in synergy with labour markets to create tremendous profit made by loyal salarymen who, in turn, required housewives to sustain them. Despite all this, academics and the Japanese public are still struggling to acknowledge, measure, and judge the particular shifts that have overtaken families in the last twenty years. In light of falling birth rates, later marriage, and shifting models for how romance should fit within nuclear or extended families, there are open questions about how family norms might be changing, and what implications such change might bring.
Within that context, Configurations of Family in Contemporary Japan, edited by Tomoko Aoyama, Laura Dales, and Romit Dasgupta, offers new examples and analysis of how family continues to matter. Because this analysis comes in chapters written within a range of disciplines and research methodologies, the volume enables the reader to trace how contested family norms might translate from, say, literature to television to people’s individual experiences. The book rightly pushes against any idea of a singular Japanese family and suggests the multi-vocal perspectives or positions within families that continue to tell us something broader about Japan. I understand a particular strength of this volume to be how such interdisciplinary work intersects with visual culture; many chapters, including those written by ethnographers, directly engage popular films or television. Therefore in addition to the convincing analysis included in the chapters, the collection offers a veritable “to watch” list for anyone interested in these themes.
After a brief introduction, the volume is divided into four sections, the first of which explores “Family and Companionship.” Romit Dasgupta analyzes two films, Tokyo Sonata and Hush! The former tells the story of mini disasters wrought in a middle-class family when the husband/father is laid off, while the second represents the tensions surrounding two men and one woman who contemplate building what might seem like a queer family. Laura Dales’ chapter analyzes how single women are represented in Japanese television dramas (dorama) compared with how actual single women understand themselves and their choices. Although she focuses on women, she convincingly argues that singlehood might be more problematic for men after a certain age. In a chapter exploring how LGBTI people plan for, and experience, older age, Leonie Stickland successfully tackles one of the most visible problems (aging society) within a diverse group often given less attention.
In the volume’s second section, “Old Age, Women, and Storytelling,” the chapters engage directly with literary and filmic representations of older women. Using lovely examples from manga, Tomoko Aoyama lays out a typology of how older women tend to be represented in Japanese fiction, from the fairy godmother, to the mountain witch (yamanba), or the “super-active and self-centered old woman” (55), to highlight slippages between young girls and older women that might offer representations of new social formations. Lucy Fraser’s chapter contrasts the Japanese folktale of “The Old Woman’s Skin” (Ubakawa), the 1986 British novel Howl’s Moving Castle, and the Studio Ghibli animated version of the same story released in 2004. Working in conjunction with the previous chapter, Fraser’s work argues that these iterations of similar tales demonstrate shifting anxieties about family life and aging, particularly for women.
The volume’s third section, “Contemporary Parenting,” includes two chapters suggesting that parenting might be both a hotbed of anxiety and a scapegoat for more generalized troubles. In her chapter, Tomoko Nakamatsu describes the vast difference between the ways Japanese-Brazilian parents are described in Brazil and Japan. In the former, they are often represented as model minorities who bring up highly successful children; in the latter, Brazilian-Japanese parents are instead represented as likely failing their own children and hurting society more generally. Kayoko Hashimoto’s chapter traces the power of discourse about “monster parents,” so-called because they make unreasonable demands of schools, teachers, and staff. She convincingly concludes that this discourse demonstrates a breakdown in respect between families and the education system.
The final section of the volume, “Transnational Families,” sheds needed light on the experiences of Japanese people abroad within the families they build. Leng Leng Thang and Mika Toyota explore Japanese women who have married and stayed in Bali. The women who marry and stay are usually women who aged out of the marriage market within Japan (not to say this is the reason they made such a choice) and now have to deal with the expectations put upon daughters-in-law in Balinese culture. In the next chapter, Sachiko Sone and Leng Leng Thang analyze Japanese women who make families in western Australia, describing such patterns as rendered more important in the years since 1999, a period in which more Japanese women than men have permanently left Japan (121). In his description of how Japanese migrants to Australia understand their own filial piety, Jared Denman finds a range of beliefs and practices but all suggest a continuing presence of the idea of the stem family (ie) system and the piety supposedly within it. The volume concludes with a powerful epilogue by Vera Mackie analyzing how families—and the discourse surrounding them—have changed in recent decades.
Overall this volume provides compelling literary and ethnographic examples for scholars interested in debates surrounding families in contemporary Japan. I imagine the analysis of media representations will be particularly helpful for those looking to get a sense of how people debate what families should be and why they continue to matter.
Allison Alexy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
BAD WATER: Nature, Pollution, and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950. Asia-Pacific; Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University. By Robert Stolz. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2014. xi, 269 pp. (Table, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5699-8.
The environmental history of Japan has flourished in recent years with a blossoming of strong English-language scholarship from established figures (like Brett Walker) and a younger generation of newcomers to the field (including the author of this volume). Despite all the critical environmental topics and themes as of yet untouched by historians, a great deal of this research has clustered around a relatively limited range of subjects, notably industrial pollution incidents, the idea of nature in Japanese thought, and environmental activism. Robert Stolz’s Bad Water: Nature, Pollution, and Politics in Japan, 1870-1950 is part of this scholarly pile-up on turf already well-trod in Japanese environmental history. Happily, Stolz brings to his study fresh and important perspectives on familiar events, intellectual trends, and individuals as well as introducing heretofore little-known (but significant) thinkers and narratives to the Western scholarship.
At its core, Bad Water is a critical reassessment of the thought and intellectual influence of Tanaka Shōzō (1841–1913), the Meiji politician, journalist, and activist celebrated (and even lionized) in the historiography as Japan’s first conservationist, a principled crusader against an authoritarian state and irresponsible corporations, and an agrarian conscience in a nation (and a landscape) being transformed by rapid industrialization. Tanaka, who was elected to the Diet in Japan’s first general election of 1890, had all the makings of a pioneering and heroic environmentalist: horrified by the widespread devastation caused to farmland and villages by the toxic effluvia washed downstream from the Ashio Copper Mine in his native Tochigi Prefecture, Tanaka was relentless in his efforts to stir public opinion and spur government action. Although he and his fellow protesters were able to win some redress from the corporate owners of the mine and incremental policy concessions from Tokyo, Tanaka eventually despaired of a political solution, resigning his seat in the Diet, withdrawing to live in Yanaka (one of the villages hardest hit by the Ashio pollution), and devoting himself to reflection and writing.
Although often cast as a backward-looking champion of the peasant soul of a Japan already lost to capitalism, industry, and the pursuit of empire, Tanaka emerges in Stolz’s book as a more creative, progressive, and influential thinker. Through a careful and compelling re-reading of Tanaka’s career and writings, Stolz reveals Tanaka as a complicated figure, transformed by the horrors of industrial pollution from an archetypal Meiji liberal (who cherished the abstract vision of an autonomous subject divorced from his/her surroundings) into an impassioned spokesman for a new environmental politics. In what Stolz describes as his “environmental turn,” Tanaka came to recognize the folly of humans’ (and the modern state’s) attempts to control or contain nature; instead, he took as his environmental and social ideal the notion of “flow” (nagare), a liberated and healthy condition for rivers and people alike. Thus, in his mature writings Tanaka not only articulated a profound critique of Meiji political philosophy and the inherent ecological contradictions of capitalism but also crafted a powerful environmental vision of what he called “true civilization.”
Stolz’s book is not simply an intellectual biography of Tanaka, however, as he also explores at length the lives and work of three other Japanese environmental thinkers: Matsumoto Eiko, a radical journalist whose ethnographic work on pollution informed Tanaka’s thought; Ishikawa Sanshirō, an eccentric anarchist and nudist influenced by Tanaka, who proposed an ecological alternative to industrial modernity based on the rhizome; and Kurosawa Torizō, who founded Snow Brand (still one of Japan’s largest milk and cheese companies) and aimed to create a Danish-style community of environmentally sustainable dairy farms in Hokkaidō. In these four unusual individuals, Stolz reveals four potential paths for progressive environmental activists under prewar Japanese authoritarianism: escape (as Matsumoto emigrated to California not long after publishing her work on Ashio), engagement (modelled by Tanaka through his life of protest, community organization, and advocacy), withdrawal (Ishikawa sought self-sufficiency and privacy on a small farm west of Tokyo), and utopianism (in Kurosawa’s quest for a socialist dairy paradise in Japan’s farthest hinterlands). As these cases demonstrate, the options for forward-thinking environmentalists in the highly circumscribed political landscape and inalterably capitalist socio-economic order of imperial Japan were extremely limited.
For all the strengths of Bad Water, the volume is not without its flaws. Frustratingly, especially for a rigorous intellectual historian, Stolz does not define or clearly differentiate the English terms nature, environment, or ecology, nor does he unpack the meanings of ten, a Japanese word he seemingly interchangeably translates as “heaven” and “nature.” At times, Stolz’s narrative reads like a quaint search for “resistance” in Japan before and immediately after World War II, a longstanding project of left-leaning historians that today seems dated and unnecessary. And Stolz’s conclusion, which is the only part of the book too heavy on jargon, is painfully dark, indeed almost nihilistic in its hopelessness for those of us who perforce live in capitalist societies and retain a shred or two of faith in liberal subjectivity. In this regard, Stolz participates in what now seems like a curious “race to the bottom” among historians of the Japanese environment, as scholars like Brett Walker paint Japan’s ecological past, present, and future with almost unremitting bleakness.
Although the conclusion of Bad Water almost assures that readers will finish the book with an anguished frown on their faces, Stolz’s contributions to the environmental and intellectual histories of modern Japan—from his timely reinterpretation of Tanaka Shōzō to his fascinating story of Snow Brand’s trajectory from Danish inspiration to fascist mobilization to recent tainted food scandals—are undeniably substantial.
William M. Tsutsui, Hendrix College, Conway, USA
BEYOND THE METROPOLIS: Second Cities and Modern Life in Interwar Japan. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. By Louise Young. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. xiii, 307 pp. (Maps.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-520-27520-1.
In Beyond the Metropolis, Louise Young strives to fill a gap in the scholarship on Japanese modernity, a story, she asserts, that historians have “overwhelmingly told … from the vantage point of Tokyo” (6). Locating her work “at the interstices of social and cultural history” (12), Young focuses her attention on “tracking the discourse on the modern” (7) in four prefectural capitals: Okayama, Niigata, Kanazawa, and Sapporo. She defines those cities in tightly circumscribed terms, viewing each first “as a constellation of institutions” and second “as a set of ideas—a social imaginary” (11). Her broader goal for the work, she states, is to “illuminate … the lived interdisciplinarity of social life” (12) as reflected in these modernizing processes. In a work teeming with urban portraits, sketches of individuals’ life courses, capsule discussions of knotty terms such as kokyō/furusato and ura Nihon, and broad treatments of the ongoing construction of railways, Meiji and Taisho economic evolutions, and twentieth-century inventions of tradition, however, images of lived reality in each of her cities gain and lose resolution page to page.
Young organizes her study in three parts. In the first, “Contexts,” she argues that the economic “boom” brought to Japan by the First World War “ushered in a new age of the city” (6) as wartime affluence “spurred municipalities to expand the range of urban amenities and develop basic infrastructure to accommodate the demands of a surging population and burgeoning local industry” (21). The war years promoted urban growth, but they also brought new social forces: the presence of the narikin, the newly rich who profited from wartime production (23–27), and the threat of the urban crowd that rose to prominence with the 1918 Rice Riots (27–32).
The second part, “Geo-power and Urban-centrism,” begins with an exploration of “a new cultural geography that … defined Japan in terms of Tokyo and its Others” (39). This emphasis on Tokyo, as elsewhere in the work, threatens to derail her central argument. Here, however, after demonstrating through the biographies of prominent intellectuals that “ascension to Tokyo” (jōkyō) for higher education not only “deprived provincial cities of local talent” but also prompted the students to adopt the capital as foundation for a new identity, she offers close readings to argue that “their provincial origins left conspicuous traces in their literary production,” resulting in figures who “located themselves as men of the metropolis, but also in relation to an earlier, provincial identity” (53). Young continues mediating the relationships between the metropolis and these provincial cities by careful analysis of local institutions, particularly schools and the press. While she concludes that “the newspaper provided a critical institutional foundation for local cultural movements” (69), she suggests also that the independence of local culture remained limited, as the local press largely “served as conduits for the import of new ideas and practices from abroad” (70), and an “assertive localism” expressed by provincial literary societies was in fact rooted in “movements that had been heavily influenced by Tokyo writers” (78).
This section’s second chapter reverses the center-Other equation, proposing that in “a time of transformation in the urban-rural relationship,” regional cities assumed a new centrality, “breaking down … old patterns of self-sufficiency and obstacles to demographic mobility … and replacing them with a new dependency on the urban market” (83). Young illustrates these trends through clearly formulated and detailed discussions of the economic and spatial development of her cities: the experience of Okayama, for example, demonstrates the destabilizing effects of railroads on existing patterns of commerce (92–95), while the suburbanization of Sapporo’s surrounding villages offered a “performative fix” against rigid rural–urban dichotomies (135).
The book’s final section, “Modern Times and the City Idea,” first relies on locally produced histories to establish how “urban elites,” perceiving “a crisis of socialization for municipal governments,” responded by “stretch[ing] the meaning of the city, installing [sic] the belief that the rising urban centers … represented natural communities that drew on a shared cultural heritage” (142). This line of argument takes Young to the edges of profound and highly contested dynamics in the historiography of twentieth-century Japan, including activities of local history movements (145–154), the roles of folklorists in reenvisioning the collective past (166, 171), and regionalism as itself an “invented tradition” (143) constructed “within a national frame” (144).
In the book’s final chapter, “The Cult of the New,” Young again leaves the local to focus on “broader intellectual trends that oriented people toward the future” (188). These cultural discourses transcended the local even as they attempted to control, reform, and contain it, and much of what Young cites are nationalist and centralist: “a new mania for government planning,” as well as “a boom in popular science and science fiction … in the service of nationalism,” and “a new faith in the efficacy of measurement and prediction, statistics, and prognostication … in the social sciences, management ideology, and government policy” (188).
Her late emphasis on centralizing discourses highlights two issues that run through the book as a whole. The first is a matter for social history: the definition of the actors who can be linked directly to the dynamics she cites. From the narikin (23) to the “urban crowd” (27), “urban elites” (142) to “prominent public intellectuals” (167), “city leaders” (142), an “urban-based middle class of professionals, technocrats, and managers” (189), and even “scholars and artists” (189), the identification shifts and wavers. The second is cultural, addressing the social imaginary of these times and places. The relentless pull toward the centre reflected throughout Young’s text serves as a constant reminder of the backdrop to all she dramatizes: the steady convergence of nationalist and militarist factions and eventual integration of all social institutions into the centralized state. From the viewpoint of the postwar era, Japan’s interwar modernity must be treated as complicit in those centralizing processes and, local boosters aside, one wonders how that centralization registered with local residents. That the topic is only briefly touched on in the epilogue to Young’s otherwise illuminating work represents a missed opportunity as we try to refine our view of Japan’s modernization.
Peter Siegenthaler, Texas State University, San Marcos, USA
KINDAI NIHON NO KAKUSHINRON TO AJIA SHUGI: Kita Ikki, Ōkawa Shūmei, Mitsukawa Kametarō ra no Shisō to Kōdō 近代日本の革新論とアジア主義: 北一輝，大川周明，満川亀太郎らの思想と行動. By Christopher W.A. Szpilman (Kurisutofā W.A. Supiruman cho). Tokyo: Ashi Shobō 芦書房, 2014. 351 pp. ISBN 978-4-7556-1274-9.
This book is without a doubt a tour de force for Chris Szpilman, a scholar known for his extensive research into Japanese right-wing kakushin (renovationist) intellectuals of the prewar period, in particular that of the kokkashugi (statist) nationalists such as Kita I’kki and Mitsukawa Kametarō. After years of research, in addition to the extensive use of the personal papers of Mitsukawa which he had a prominent role in uncovering, Szpilman has completed a quality tome that examines the trio—with Ōkawa Shūmei completing the threesome—who formed the infamous kokkashugi (statist) organization Yūzonsha in August 1, 1919. However, the book does not limit its examination to the three; there are additional chapters that provide further insight into the relatively obscure kokusuishugisha (ultranationalist; the extreme form of kokkashugi) Kanokogi Kazunobu, as well as his well-known counterpart, Prime Minister Hiranuma Kiichirō. Wrapping up his examination of the five prominent Japanese kokkashugi/kokusuishugi actors of their time, is a final chapter that adroitly compares pan-Slavism in both Poland and Russia to that of Japan’s ajiashugi (Asianism).
While there is an abundance of literature on Ōkawa, Kita, and Hiranuma, especially in terms of Japanese language sources, there is relatively scant research on Mitsukawa and Kanokogi. Of the two, Szpilman’s detailed treatment of Mitsukawa in particular shines through as he not only makes generous use of the Mitsukawa papers, but also shows his deep understanding of the intellectual thought of the individual who was also the mastermind who brought together Ōkawa and Kita in his quest of pursuing a greater thrust for the “statist” movement in Japan. His grasp of the subject matter clearly manifests itself and is helped by his earlier experiences as co-editor of not only the diaries of Mitsukawa (Ronsōsha, 2010), but also his personal papers (Ronsōsha, 2012), which are now accessible to the public at the Kensei Office of the National Diet Library in Tokyo. However, this book is much more than a biography, as Szpilman’s strength is clearly evident in his meticulous attention to detail, which successfully brings out the innermost intellectual thoughts of his subjects while also delving deep into the various actions that they took in their mission to restructure and reform Japan.
Although an excellent book in many aspects, as with any work, it does have a few minor weaknesses. The first lies with the title, as it gives the impression that the book is a whole lot more encompassing than it actually is. If kakushinron (renovationist theory) and ajiashugi (Asianism) are to be thoroughly covered, as the main title suggests, the book needs to expand both its breadth and scope to incorporate relevant individuals in both the Japanese military (active members, unlike Kanokogi who had resigned from the Imperial Japanese Navy) as well as in the bureaucracy. As a matter of fact, such comparisons regarding differences and similarities with the Yūzonsha trio in addition to Kanokogi to their counterparts acting within government—with Hiranuma being the notable exception—would have added a new dimension to our existing understanding of the nature of Japanese Asianism during this period; alas this was not the original intent of the author. Furthermore, as a book that is formed from an anthology of previously published articles, a sense of uniformity and unity is lacking between the chapters. In particular, his final chapter that compares pan-Slavism to Japan’s Asianism, while an important contribution, feels out of place and leads to the impression that it is more of an appendix (there is actually an appendix immediately after the first chapter which also appears awkward). With more strenuous editing in linking and better integrating the various chapters together, this book would have surely attained a much more polished quality. Unfortunately, in its current state, even though the book is written by a single author, it conveys the impression that it is actually a multiple-authored volume.
Finally, one cannot overlook the fact that the overall balance of the book is greatly skewed, with Mitsukawa by far receiving the most attention within the book at nearly 100 pages of text. On the other hand, the other individuals who are part of the book receive on average a mere twenty pages or so. The reason for this is obvious since this is where the author’s heart truly lies; Szpilman’s primary research interest is in Mitsukawa, and the other actors are introduced as a way to provide a basis of comparison in order to bring about contrast to the character, thought, and actions of Mitsukawa. There is no fault in this approach per se, but perhaps more initial strategy was warranted in structuring the book in order to improve its balance. But of course, none of these are serious flaws, and they do not in any way detract from the high quality of Szpilman’s research. Recognition is also due to the contribution of this work to the existing body of scholarship, particularly in its discussion of Mitsukawa.
In sum, contained within these pages is a solid body of research that sheds much more light on our understanding of prewar Japanese right-wing nationalist actors who played a prominent role outside of government (excluding Hiranuma) in their ultimately futile attempt to alter the shape and course of Japan. Packed with a wealth of information, this book comes in at a hefty 351 pages. But this should not deter any potential reader as the book is well written and thus is very readable. Finally, one should also not forget the present-day relevance of this book as Japan readdresses the Pacific War during the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of the war. The failure and responsibility of Japan’s kokkashugi/kosuishugi intellectuals should not be forgotten. Amidst Japan’s current debate about normalizing its stance over issues relating to national security, what Szpilman’s groundbreaking work makes readily apparent is that Japan’s prewar intellectual roots have truly been severed from its past.
Tosh Minohara, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan
New York City is to aspiring members of Japan’s creative class today what Paris was to foreign artists in the interwar years: a place where dreams of recognition and success can come true. At any given time among the estimated 100,000 Japanese staying legally or otherwise in New York, there is a sizeable minority that left Japan in order to re-invent themselves, hoping to make it as painters, musicians, installation artists, fashion designers, or as practitioners of similar professions that offer opportunities for self-realization.
But just as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein chose Paris and not Lyon, so Japan’s present-day émigrés head for New York and not Los Angeles or San Francisco. For creative Japanese, New York has taken on magic qualities associated with no other urban centre in the world. Among the scores of works to be found on New York City in bookstores in Japan today, several contain the word mahō (magic) in their titles. To Japanese fans of New York, the city is imbued with the capacity to transform.
To say that there is a cult of New York in Japan today might be only a slight exaggeration. More than 600 Japanese-language blogs can be found with subject lines containing the words New York. Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, has been carrying regular weekly TV programming focusing primarily on fashion, the arts, and pop culture exclusively from New York. NHK does this for no other city.
It is the attraction of New York and the motivation of a small but significant group of adventurous and ambitious Japanese who go there to seek self-realization that is the subject of anthropologist Olga Kanzaki Sooudi’s excellent, and highly readable, ethnography of Japanese expatriate bohemian life.
The fabric of Japanese New York consists of an intertwining of several different strands. It is first and foremost an ethnography that examines the goals and values of members of a distinct group defined by language, national origin, and area of professional activity. In choosing to focus on an expatriate community, even though its members insist that they do not constitute an identifiable group, the work ventures into the field of migration studies. By delving into her subjects’ search for an “authentic experience” outside Japan, Sooudi explores identity issues and takes her work into the realm of philosophy, specifically modernity discourse. While Japanese New York is ultimately an academic work, it is also a good read. Sooudi is an accomplished storyteller.
However, Japanese New York is unlike other works on migration because the phenomenon it describes is unique. Sooudi’s Japanese subjects are neither refugees nor immigrants. They do not leave Japan intending never to return. In their preference for Japanese food, their concern for Japanese identity, and in how they relate to other Japanese, they take Japan with them. Moreover, the artists do not seek to make a new life in America in the hopes of earning more money than they might in Japan. Most gladly accept serious financial hardship for years after arrival. Although some choose to leave Japan because opportunities for young artists in Japan—in fact for young people in general—are limited, the majority go for positive reasons: to pursue a dream, to become successful artists, but failing that, to prove to themselves that they can survive living astride boundaries of language and culture.
Although Sooudi locates Japanese New York on the map of Manhattan in a rapidly gentrifying part of the East Village, she explains that the group cannot be defined in physical terms since unlike immigrant communities, members of Japan’s émigré creative class are united not by where they live or even where they work but by their goals and values. While one of its few successful members can be found in her own handbag boutique in a better part of downtown Manhattan, another who is down on his luck as a flamenco guitarist stacks boxes of canned food in the basement of a Japanese grocery store at the south end of Broadway.
What unites these Japanese émigrés is that they came to New York to pursue a dream, or as Sooudi quotes several of them as saying, to succeed on the world stēji (stage). They come in search of the elusive goal of “authenticity,” what one Japanese jazz musician describes as the nama (raw, meaning real or genuine) experience. For this artist hearing jazz in New York was an entirely different experience than in Japan. In the former it was real while in Japan it was mere imitation. Although Sooudi is generally sympathetic to her subjects, she sees an inconsistency in the authenticity argument. She notes that in their search for validation in New York they implicitly locate the authentically modern outside Japan. Though they cling to a Japanese identity, they seek validation outside of Japan. Sooudi’s conclusions would seem to indicate that the perceived tension between what is Japanese and what is modern, a relic of prewar Japanese intellectual discourse, continues to haunt Japanese artists seeking to maintain their identity as Japanese abroad.
Adding greatly to the pleasure of reading Japanese New York is a constant flow of characters and stories. We meet Yuka, a visual artist, who says, “When I think of the city, the painful part comes to mind first.” But she adds that it “has a big heart because no matter where you come from you are welcome.” She is impatient with those who hate the city “because they can’t accept differences”(86). Yuka is a case of successful transformation both from a career and a personal perspective. The majority of Japanese artist émigrés, however, do not do so well. We encounter waitresses at a Japanese restaurant, cashiers at a Japanese grocery who do menial jobs while waiting for breaks in creative careers. Naoko is among these and at first glance she appears to be a failure. An industrial designer who spends five years in the United States, mostly in New York obtaining a second university degree, submitting to an unpaid internship and finally giving it all up to return to Japan where she faces corporate HR staff who attach negative value to the time she spent away from Japan. And yet at the end of the book, Naoko tells Sooudi: “I would do it all over again if I had the option. Because I feel I get more depth in my life … . It’s like a movie. No one wants to see a movie with just happy people. You want complicated … feelings” (210). Japanese New York provides plenty of those.
Andrew Horvat, Josai International University, Chiba, Japan
WORKING SKIN: Making Leather, Making a Multicultural Japan. Asia Pacific Modern, 13. By Joseph D. Hankins. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2014. xxii, 277 pp. (Figures.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28329-9.
Working Skin is a highly original treatise which explores one of the primary tensions pertaining to the contemporary Buraku problem in Japan: “that multicultural forms of political argument that authorize labor as a category of Buraku marginalization are gaining traction at the precise moment the labor that renders people stigmatized as Buraku is disappearing” (240). Based on the author’s extensive engagement in broad-ranging fieldwork activities, including working in the Buraku-affiliated NGO International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and a Tokyo leather tannery, the book offers perhaps the most theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically reflexive attempt by any scholar to date to wrestle with issues of contemporary Buraku liberation within the broader context of liberal multiculturalism and globalization.
As the introduction makes plain, multiculturalism is viewed as a liberal discourse employed by both Burakumin and non-Burakumin alike in recent decades to construct and manage issues pertaining to difference. Working Skin offers a study of what is termed “the labor of multiculturalism,” making sense of the differing, gendered conditions under which such multicultural signification takes place, the kinds of labour employed in the constitutive process, the bodies of content entailed in the production process, and the transformative power of that labour. Multiculturalism in the book is interpreted as a discourse that “disciplines and dominates the lives of people both at the margins and at the center of the nation-state” (17).
Chapter 1 analyzes and contrasts the different kinds of labour engaged in by employees in both the IMADR and a leather processing plant in Tokyo. The chapter shows how the different labour undertaken in both settings, which is both gendered and shaped historically by divergent practices of economic production, works to produce different bodies of Buraku subjects ultimately brought together under the same label. Chapter 2 focuses on the problem of the “non-production of signs of being Buraku” and the question of “how this non-production troubles the Buraku political movement” (62). Defining the desire of people not to want to identify as Burakumin “Ushimatsu” (based on the leading protagonist in Shimazaki Tōson’s novel Hakai), and identifying this tendency at various scales including both the individual and the geographical collective level, Hankins demonstrates the tensions this kind of ideology has for the Buraku Liberation League in its search for “complete liberation” (69), and establishes via a historical argument the ways in which such an idea has emerged in conjunction with a (neo)liberal politics that advocates multiculturalism.
Chapter 3 marks the commencement of a new section which shifts the focus of the book away from the production and non-production of Buraku signs to the kinds of content produced and the forms of labour undertaken to draw public attention to this difference. Here the focus is first on understanding the transformations in the criteria that have physically and conceptually determined Buraku identity (occupation, residence, and kinship), an analysis that is conducted through (among other things) the intriguing lenses of environmental critique and private detective investigations. Chapter 4 then moves on to introduce how attention to the signs of Buraku difference is constituted in two public settings important for the Buraku liberation movement: human rights seminars and denunciation campaigns. By focusing on the figure of the “sleeper” within a human rights seminar setting (members of the public allegedly in attendance of their own volition), and contrasting these figures alongside a public that needs to be forced to admit to both direct and indirect acts of Buraku discrimination, the chapter convincingly shows that rather than seeing both figures as mutually opposed or chronologically consecutive moments in a process of liberation, they can be productively understood as twin processes designed to constitute and discipline a Buraku public.
Chapter 5 marks the beginning of a third section in the book dealing with the transnational aspects of Buraku liberation and the attempts to create a basis for international solidarity. The chapter specifically focuses on the attempt by the Buraku Liberation League to develop international partnerships with various overseas groups by fostering a sense of the corresponding nature of their experiences of discrimination. The chapter offers an analysis of “Discrimination Based on Work and Descent,” a now officially recognized category of discrimination which emerged as the result of the political collaborations of various international partner groups including the Buraku Liberation League, and examines the kinds of labour undertaken in this project to create a universally recognizable subject suffering a unique form of discrimination. The chapter further explores the interpretative problems such a project poses, and the ways in which such an undertaking is both connected to and generated by broader liberal concerns.
Chapter 6 deals with a particular instance of what Hankins terms the “transnational solidarity project” (200) wherein a group with Buraku ties in Tokyo, through the English language tutelage and then interpreting efforts of the author, prepared for and embarked upon a journey to Tamil Nadu to strengthen ties with Dalit organizations experiencing what was projected by participants to be similar forms of discrimination. This chapter also looks to examine the kinds of labour undertaken to articulate a particular form of “wounded” subjecthood transnationally, the different forms such labour takes and the tensions they produce, as well as the work engaged in to forge solidarity between groups whose experiences of discrimination and movements towards liberation are at times jarringly different. The conclusion then seeks to tie the various sections of the book together by addressing important questions about why the labour of multiculturalism has gained traction and support from funding bodies in recent times and how it has worked to transform the Buraku subjects who engage in it.
Working Skin offers powerful insights into the nature of the contemporary Buraku liberation movement as well as addressing broader issues pertaining to constructing and managing difference in Japan. By asking original questions and then developing investigative methods and interpretative strategies that permit highly suggestive answers, the book sets a new gold standard for both studies of Burakumin and multiculturalism in Japan. The work’s exciting theoretical underpinnings and powerful conclusions suggest that it will also have a much broader appeal for scholars and students working further afield both in the disciplines of anthropology and history as well as in the various locations where they intersect.
Timothy D. Amos, National University of Singapore, Singapore
JAPANESE AND KOREAN POLITICS: Alone and Apart from Each Other. Asia Today. Edited by Takashi Inoguchi. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. x, 295 pp. (Figure, tables.) US$100.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-48830-5.
This book, edited by Takashi Inoguchi on the fiftieth anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, is a timely culmination of joint efforts by academics of both countries to examine domestic politics and foreign policies in order to understand how the current “unfriendly relationship has come about” (ix).
The contributors are authoritative scholars based in East Asia and many possess track 1 or 1.5 experience. The book, therefore, emphasizes government-focused analyses and Inoguchi is clear about the adopted level-of-analysis: “the states governing the population in a certain territory with sovereign power are the major actors” (260).
The book is organized into three parts: the first two analyze Japan and South Korea’s macro-economic policies and party politics separately, while the last part deals with bilateral relations more directly. Instead of the contributors solely analyzing their countries of origin, each section balances the writers’ nationalities.
In part 1, Inoguchi explains how the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies of “Abenomics” (quantitative easing) and “Abegeopolitics” (proactive pacifism and pursuing revisions to the Peace Constitution) have fared (chapter 1). He concludes that many Japanese regard Abenomics as satisfactory, but that Abe’s goal of turning Japan into his version of a “beautiful country” is still contingent upon alleviating important neighbours’ concerns about Abegeopolitics. Yutaka Harada expands on the Abenomics analysis and explains why the Bank of Japan (BOJ) did not adopt an expansionary monetary policy earlier. By providing an overview of the nature of the BOJ’s relations with political parties and the bureaucracy, he argues that only a politician with a popular mandate to end deflation could push for reform, and that Abe should be given credit for achieving it.
The latter two chapters of part 1 focus on Japanese party politics. Cheol Hee Park argues in chapter 3 that the return of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) under Abe in 2012 was possible because of the incapability of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and other opposition parties. Park predicts that Japan’s single-member district system will eventually force the “opposition parties to reshuffle themselves to pose challenges against the LDP” (68). Seung-won Suh in chapter 4 examines bilateral relations through the lens of Japanese party realignment. Before losing power, the DPJ tried to improve relations with South Korea, but, as a result of nationalist identity politics on both sides, the attempt did not bear fruit. Suh argues that the use of the “other-nation-blame card” has crossed party boundaries in Japan and has impacted cooperation with Korea, which, in turn, also uses the card in abundance.
Part 2 focuses on Korean macro-economic policies and party politics. Jongryn Mo explains President Park Geun-hye’s dilemma in implementing her “Geun-hye-nomics.” Her goal is to improve welfare spending and the “democratic” foundation of economic growth, while still relying on export promotion based on a developmental state model. Mo predicts that public expectations about Park’s reforms will be disappointed, because making Korean capitalism more democratic requires holding economically powerful actors accountable, but export entails close ties between the government and the chaebols—the supposed target of Park’s “discipline” (chapter 6). In chapter 5, Won-Taek Kang argues that Korea’s party politics are in crisis. Citizens are dissatisfied with a two-party-dominated system that is frozen in ideological divide and regional rivalry, but alternative candidates have not been able to break in.
Part 3 deals with foreign policies at the bilateral level. Kazuhiko Togo provides an overview of Abe’s foreign policy from his second prime ministership onward. Chung-In Moon and Seung-Chan Boo explain how South Korea’s strategic calculation to maintain harmonious relations with both the United States and China affects South Korea-Japan relations. The concluding chapter by Inoguchi reiterates the importance of international monetary flows in East Asian politics.
The book is insightful for emphasizing how party politics and macro-economic/monetary policies—two areas that many security-focused books overlook—are closely linked to bilateral interactions. For example, regarding Korean anxiety about Japanese constitutional revision, Park deduces that the current party alignments provide more options for the LDP in choosing potential coalition partners, thus undermining the bargaining power of the New Komei Party, which is cautious of the revision. The book also introduces arguments that are rare in English-speaking academia: Yuki Asaba argues that the immobility of Japanese politics—caused by the bicameral parliamentary system in which the House of Councillors is dominated by a foot-dragging opposition—is comparable to the identical system in Korean politics before the military coup in 1961 (173–175); and Harada talks about “Galapagosization of Japanese intellectuals” to explain how the problematic BOJ policy of tightened monetary control had been legitimized by scholars who supported bureaucrats with theories that were only applicable to Japan (41).
The book’s greatest strength is the way that it highlights Japan and South Korea’s diverging strategies in facing the United States-China rivalry, and explaining this as one of the most serious sources of bilateral deadlock. According to Suh, it comes down to “a failure of bridging geopolitical imaginations” between the two states (86): Japan emphasizes an “alliance of democracy” to counter China’s rise, while South Korea’s complex position pursues a harmonious relationship with both in order to be a “gateway” to “bridge the maritime realm and the continental realm,” all while maintaining its traditional alliance with the United States (87–88, 244).
However, not all chapters engage directly with the book’s initial question. In this regard, it would be a rewarding and thought-provoking exercise to thematically connect all the knowledge gained by reading the book and seek the answers oneself. For those interested in understanding the cultural/ideational aspects of Korea-Japan relations, The Japan South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States by Brad Glosserman and Scott A. Snyder (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015) could be a worthwhile complementary reading.
Seung Hyok Lee, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada
SOUTH KOREA’S RISE: Economic Development, Power and Foreign Relations. By Uk Heo and Terence Roehrig. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. xi, 215 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$29.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-107-69053-0.
South Korea’s Rise: Economic Development, Power, and Foreign Relations begins by identifying the relative paucity of attention in the existing literature to the issue of how economic development affects a country’s foreign relations. As countries undergo the structural transition that marks development, the question itself certainly has applicability outside of South Korea’s experiences to other “rising powers,” as the authors note (10). The book claims to present a “theory on how economic development affects foreign relations” (3), with South Korea as a case study, focusing on security relations, economic and political ties to major powers, and increasing involvement in areas outside of Northeast Asia.
A brief introduction is followed by chapter 2, which outlines the “theory.” Succeeding chapters are organized around South Korea’s relations with individual or a group of countries. To wit, Chapter 3 focuses on inter-Korean relations, chapter 4 relations with the US, chapter 5 Russia and China, chapter 6 Japan, chapter 7 the EU, chapter 8 India, and chapter 9 with the developing world: Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Chapter 10 describes South Korea’s contributions to multilateral agreements and international organizations such as UN Peacekeeping Operations, the OECD, and Official Development Assistance programs. This is followed by a short conclusion.
In empirical terms, the most useful element of the book is that there are compact and clear descriptions of South Korea’s foreign relations. However, specialists expecting new empirical information will be disappointed. Newspaper articles and a sampling of some relevant works in English are used, but nothing in the way of archives or interviews. Further, the absence of any engagement with several touchstone works in English on Korea’s history of development, such as books by Robert Wade or Alice Amsden, means a missed opportunity to point out the paucity of analyses of externalities of the developmental state, or explain how this book might differ from previous work on state power and development. Also, only a couple of published academic articles in Korean are cited despite the voluminous and increasing body of work on a range of related subjects that has been published in the last ten years alone.
Some of the passages are compact to the point of distortion. For example, the authors claim that South Korea was unable to become an official member of the United Nations (UN) prior to 1991 due to the vetoes exercised by Moscow and Beijing (173). In actuality, the relevant Korean archives and published debates of the 1980s indicate there was constant lobbying to win votes by both Seoul and Pyongyang from the 1960s onwards to be allowed entry into the UN. In addition, there was intense domestic debate within South Korea about the desirability of being recognized prior to unification either jointly or separately, as some argued that the division of the peninsula would become legally recognized within the UN and by South Korea itself as an indirect result, regardless of the conditions of entry into the UN. Another case is the mistaken assertion that the Japanese government claims that “it made restitution” for the colonial past under the terms of the 1965 Normalization Treaty (102). In fact, Japan’s official position is that past claims were “settled”; the difference is crucial. The Japanese government has deliberately avoided using the terms “restitution” or “compensation” in any portion of the treaty itself or in comments about it after.
In analytical terms, the argument is dulled by some questionable assertions and puzzling elisions of literature. The authors argue that because development leads to democratization, new elites emerge, the government gains more transparency and responsiveness, resulting in a stronger sense of national pride and identity. This in turn attracts more FDI, generating improvements in infrastructure, outward FDI and ODA, and, ultimately, greater international influence (10–26). While some of the propositions are useful to use as tests in analyzing long-term changes in Korea’s foreign relations, the actual causal mechanisms outlined in chapter 2 are not applied in any of the body chapters. There are simply descriptions, followed by a short claim in each chapter that the arguments apply. The linear causal dynamics that invoke 1960s modernization theory instead of more contemporary frameworks in international political economy also mean that there is no attempt to explain why historical issues stemming from the colonial period have not been resolved between Japan and Korea despite the improvement in Korea’s economic performance, which, according to this book, should simply result in better relations. Nor is there an attempt to account for the rapid growth in exports and overall growth rates under the authoritarian presidency of Chun Doo-Hwan from 1981 to 1986, and the challenges this posed for the US government in its handling of the bilateral relationship. Similarly, there is no discussion of negative production externalities, such as how industrial pollution, produced through economic development or overfishing, might affect foreign relations. There are various other conceptual issues, such as the lack of clear distinctions between effects of development as opposed to growth in foreign relations, or the claim that the size of trade flows makes other countries desire more relations (21). The latter point is not cogent without specification regarding whether trade balances (as opposed to just scale) or types of exports (high end, primary goods) matter or not.
Moreover, the engagement with the existing theories of economic diplomacy and international political economy is uneven. The authors refer to the applicability of their “theory” to “rising economic powers” (10) without even referring to the existing literature in international relations on “middle powers,” even though this concept had been applied to analyses of Korea when it co-hosted the G20 meetings with Canada in 2010. Other scholars whose work readers might expect engagment with, such as John Ruggie, Robert Cox, or John Ravenhill, are entirely missing from the footnotes. Puzzlingly, books by Robert Gilpin that are more directly connected to international political economy, such as The Challenge of Global Capitalism (Princeton University Press, 2010), and The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton University Press, 1987), are not cited at all, while another of his works with more tenuous relevance, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge University Press, 1981), is.
The book never claims to contribute new empirical information, but the fact that the analytical framework is hampered by limited engagement with the relevant theoretical literature, and that it is not consistently applied in any of the body chapters limits its appeal for specialists of Korea and international political economy. The book, however, provides compact descriptions of South Korea’s foreign relations with a wide range of countries, making some of the chapters potentially useful as a textbook.
Hyung-Gu Lynn, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
ON THE MARGINS OF EMPIRE: Buraku and Korean Identity in Prewar and Wartime Japan. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 349. By Jeffrey Paul Bayliss. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. xii, 437 pp. (Tables.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06668-7.
This book examines the identity formation of the Buraku and Korean communities in Japan from the Meiji era to the end of World War II. It compares the experiences of these groups at the social and political margins of the Japanese empire and their responses to the condition of marginalization at different levels. It argues that while divergent historical origins and political contexts shaped their struggles in different ways, the Burakumin and Koreans, the largest minority groups in Japan, were both victims of Japanese imperialism and modernity. Their political and social struggles in the empire not only mirrored each other but also intertwined through inter-ethnic cooperation and conflict.
The bulk of the book is composed of seven chapters, organized chronologically and thematically. Chapter 1 examines how images of Burakumin and Koreans were respectively marginalized in the Meiji era. While in both cases social and ideological systems in the Tokugawa era played a role, the categorization of these two groups as inferior was a product of Japanese imperialism in the modern era. Chapter 2 probes the similar positions of Buraku bourgeois and Korean students in Japan, the elites of the two groups at the beginning of the twentieth century, when Japanese nationalism swelled following the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War. Both considered themselves to be the natural leaders of their communities, fighting against discrimination from mainstream Japanese society on the one hand, and partially applying such discrimination to the lower classes of their own communities on the other. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the dynamics between the inclusive ideologies and policies of assimilation (dōka) and conciliation (yūwa) and how different members of these two communities responded in different ways in the interwar period, a flourishing time for democratic and liberalist movements in the Japanese empire. Buraku and Korean leaders believed that capitalist exploitation was at the root of all discrimination, and therefore sought an ultimate solution through inter-ethnic collaboration with the Japanese working class. On the other hand, the less educated members in both communities stuck to their ethnic identity for self-empowerment, in order to combat the ubiquitous racism they experienced in their daily lives. The dynamics between the two communities and the discourse of inclusion in the imperial state in the era of total war are examined in chapters 5 and 6. In order to maximize all possible resources for war, the empire promised equal treatment to both communities under the principle of impartiality and equal favour (isshi dōjin); however, in reality, they were treated with mistrust in almost all aspects. As in the interwar period, Buraku or Korean communities responded to the discourse of inclusion uniformly. Burakumin were generally more responsive to the state’s war mobilization efforts; however, in both communities the elites’ passionate support of the war was contrasted by the indifference of the masses. Chapter 7, the final chapter, reveals the complicated relationship between the two communities, an important but insufficiently studied topic in existing literature. Both Buraku-Korean collaborations and their discrimination against each other, as Bayliss convincingly argues, should be understood in the context of Japanese imperialism and the logic of Japanese racism.
Based on thorough examinations of primary sources such as journals, newspapers, and interview records, and scholarly works mainly in Japanese and English, this book enhances our understanding of racial struggles in the Japanese empire in different ways. Joining the growing literature on racial identity in the Japanese empire in recent years, this book makes an important contribution to the deconstruction of the myth of Japan as mono-ethnic nation and empire. It illustrates the ever-changing and at times contradictory racial policies and ideologies of the state toward minority groups, and also brings nuance to our understanding of the two communities’ layers of responses to the state.
Perhaps the most important contribution of the book is the approach of examining the experiences of Burakumin and Koreans in Japan together. This innovative perspective allows us to probe racial identity formation in the Japanese empire beyond the boundaries of individual ethnic groups and the categories of colonial subjects and ethnic minorities. It not only brings scholarly studies on these two types of racism into the conversation but also demonstrates how the racial struggles of the two communities converged: their ethnic identities were both products of Japanese imperialism and objects of the state’s policies of racial inclusion, and they also at times replicated the logic of Japanese racism for self-empowerment by differentiating themselves from each other.
Such a path-breaking approach also inspires readers to ask new questions. To what extent are the historical experiences of Burakumin and Koreans in Japan separable and to what extent are they not? How will our understanding of the Japanese empire be changed by comparing and connecting the experiences of Burakumin and Koreans? Can the experiences of other minority groups, such as Okinawans and Ainus, be included in the comparison? This is a well-researched book, with eye-opening comparisons and rich details. It brings the scholarly inquiry of identity formation and racial relations in the Japanese empire to a new level. It will be welcomed by historians of the Japanese empire and scholars who are interested in the issue of ethnic minorities in modern Japan.
Sidney Xu Lu, Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA
THE REAL MODERN: Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea. Harvard East Asian Monographs, 357. By Christopher P. Hanscom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. ix, 235 pp. US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-07326-5.
It was not until the late 1990s or early 2000s that the obstinate dichotomy that saw Korean modernization during the colonial era only in terms of nationalism/anti-nationalism began to break up. According to this dichotomy Korean modernity and its culture could be understood and evaluated only from the perspective of resistance—rather, direct resistance—to Japanese imperialism. Simply put, all the lives and cultural products of colonial Korea had value only insofar as they directly and effectively manifested such resistance. These superficial binaries—of nation vs. anti-nation, resistance vs. collaboration, and anti-Japan vs. pro-Japan—had constituted the Korean imagining of the colonial period.
Our understanding of Korean literature of this period has also been based upon a binary outlook, with scholars viewing Korean colonial literature through such schemata as realism vs. modernism, content vs. form, the real vs. the aesthetic, etc., with literary history narrated on the assumption of the former’s superiority over the latter. Such an approach also began to collapse only in the late 1990s.
Freed from such binary schemata and a methodology that had worked so well, scholars were then faced with two salient characteristics of modernity itself: contradiction and irony. Since the 2000s, this irony has resulted in ample achievements in the study of colonial Korean literature. Korean scholars were better able to understand the complexity and multi-layered character of the colonial period, which in turn allowed them to reflect more deeply on the idea of modernity itself.
Christopher Hanscom’s book, The Real Modern: Literary Modernism and the Crisis of Representation in Colonial Korea, reflects such a tendency in Korean studies. What Hanscom first suggests from his meticulous, elaborate reading of the works of Pak T’aewŏn, Kim Yujong, and Yi T’aejun, representative authors of Korean modernist fiction, is a strong and valid anti-thesis to the schema of realism vs. modernism and the assumption of the former’s superiority over the latter. According to Hanscom, these authors reveal “the distrust of a positive basis for both perceiving and representing the ‘real’ of a predetermining actuality” (15). This distrust makes their works “more real than real” as a sort of “hyperrealism” (15). He defines the literary-historical situation of colonial Korea in the 1930s as a time “when the transparency of language itself, the unproblematic correlation of signifier and reference that arguably compromised the basis of both realist and formalist aesthetic practices, came into question” (80). By doing so, he lifts the stigma placed on these authors, such as “escape from the real” and “art-for-art’s sake,” and redefines their literary works and practices as “a response to the loss of faith in language as a ‘crisis of representation’ prevalent in Seoul literary circles in the 1930s” (13).
Above all, Hanscom attempts to move beyond the long-held dichotomy of universality vs. particularity regarding the colonial era by reading their modernist works as recognition of the crisis of representation and a reflection on the impossibility of linguistic communication in the 1930s. If we follow this dichotomy, we cannot but choose between universality and particularity. If we understand colonial thought and culture only in terms of universality, it may lead to our approval of European hegemony and collaboration with imperialism. On the other hand, if we insist on the so-called colonial particularity, it may mean ignoring the universality of world history, ending with either self-contempt or narcissism through the privileging a local particularity. This conundrum often found in the study of colonial modernity is a major problem that no scholar of colonialism can escape. As Hanscom clarifies, the first aim of this book is “to rethink Korean literary history in relation to a redefinition of modernism outside the Eurocentric/native binary” (17). In other words, Hanscom attempts in his book “to retain an attentiveness to the literary and historical context while also reaching beyond a model of ‘European diffusionism’ that understands non-Western cultural products as either radically different from or as derivative of the West” (17). In my view, this is one of the most significant achievements of his work. His theoretical approach is very effective in abolishing the old-fashioned, comparative perspective which continues to frame the study of colonial as well as contemporary literature. Ultimately, Hanscom’s approach will lead us to acquire a transnational perspective from which we can newly understand world history and culture, replacing the old perspectives of nationalism as well as its extension, internationalism.
Chul Kim, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea
GLOBALIZATION AND INDIA’S ECONOMIC INTEGRATION. South Asia in World Affairs Series. By Baldev Raj Nayar. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2014. xvi, 299 pp. (Tables.) US$69.50 cloth. ISBN 978-1-62616-107-8.
Baldev Raj Nayar has written an account of globalization and economic integration in India which steers a middle course between the Scylla of economic boosterism—the brakes came off the economy in 1991 and a tiger was uncaged—and the Charybdis of anti-globalist pessimism—a discourse wherein overwhelming global forces are made the mainspring of an erosion of state capacity and social cohesion in modern India, not to mention of rising inequalities between social groups and across the Indian space economy. Nayar is clear that economic growth has been stimulated by what he calls “economic liberalization” in post-1991 India. In this respect he lines up closely with commentators like Arvind Panagariya and Jagdish Bhagwati. At the same time, Nayar accepts that economic growth has brought with it widening income inequalities, at least in the short run. Importantly, though, Nayar insists that the national economy in India has not been segmented or excessively dislocated by economic liberalization. Rather, there has been significant consolidation of markets and improved linkages across the space economy as a result of new infrastructural developments and trade and investment flows.
Thus described, Nayar’s book takes its place as a very fine and sensible addition to the vast middle ground of studies of globalization in India, and indeed of globalization more generally. The idea that globalization is wholly new or one-directional was disposed of many years ago by critics including Paul Hirst and Grahame Thompson. Where Nayar’s book adds significant value to these stylized debates is by means of his core empirical chapters. Having set the scene and reviewed the literature in chapter 1, Nayar completes the first section of his book with an overview of the state of India’s economy and economic policy making up to 1991. The second and third parts of the book then deal with “the state after economic liberalization” and the “market after economic liberalization.” Under the first heading, Nayar deals incisively with issues of fiscal federalism and the slow process of indirect tax reform in India. These are excellent chapters. Under the second heading, Nayar addresses the integration/disintegration dialectic by means of an extended consideration of trade and investment policies, migration, and the rise of a pan-Indian class of capitalists. Again, this is very well done. Statistics are well marshalled and the narrative accounts are consistently well told.
For all its considerable strengths, Nayar’s account of globalization and economic integration in India also has several weaknesses—as is perhaps inevitable when the canvas is so large. First, the account offered here largely treats as unproblematic the idea of 1991 as some kind of Year Zero in India—the year when economic autarky was put to bed and economic reason was unleashed in its place. All the evidence suggests, however, that the Indian economy was turned around a full decade earlier, even if some of the growth in the second half of the 1980s was heavily debt-financed and unsustainable (as was revealed in the 1991 balance of payments crisis). Second, and relatedly, much of the growth that could be observed in the Indian economy in the 1980s, and indeed subsequently, was driven far more by pro-business reforms (favouring incumbents) than by reforms that were more openly pro-market. Atul Kohli has made this argument as well as anyone and I was surprised his work was not engaged with more closely by Nayar. The particular forms of globalization in India have been significantly affected by this underlying political settlement. Third, again relatedly, precisely because globalization in India has been so partial at the level of the productive economy—consider the absence of Thatcher-style privatizations and the very slow reform of the power sector—the impact of economic globalization has been relatively more marked in the lives of ordinary Indians in the sphere of consumption: what is available to them in shopping malls or the marketplace and the effects that new consumption patterns have on the making of a new Indian middle class. This dimension to globalization—which is also linked to the production of new forms of identity politics in India, as elsewhere—is barely mentioned in Nayar’s account of globalization and economic integration, an unfortunate limitation on an otherwise extremely good and thorough study.
In sum, Nayar has written a book that many students of India and of globalization will find useful. It is well organized, well written and generally balanced in its treatments of key issues. Given that no author can be expected to cover all aspects of economic globalization in one text it is perhaps unfair to suggest that Nayar’s book is limited by its reluctance to deal directly with the new logics of economic consumption in India. But this is a limitation, nonetheless.
Stuart Corbridge, London School of Economics, London, United Kingdom
INDIA’S GRAND STRATEGY: History, Theory, Cases. War and International Politics in South Asia. Edited by Kanti Bajpai, Saira Basit, V. Krishnappa. New Delhi: Routledge, 2014. xiv, 582 pp. (Tables.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-73965-8.
In 1992, George Tanham, a former RAND analyst with no prior background in South Asian politics, published a monograph Indian Strategic Culture: An Interpretive Essay. In his view, India lacked any intellectual tradition of strategic thought, a shortcoming that he mostly attributed to some putative features of the country’s Hindu cultural ethos.
Within the past decade there has been a renewed interest in India’s grand strategy. Most of these contributions, in the form of monographs, have emerged from think tanks in India. Their arguments and evidence clearly belie the rather bizarre and polemical claim that had undergirded Tanham’s analysis. Among the most recent contributions is the multi-authored Nonalignment 2.0: A Foreign and Strategic Policy for India in the Twenty-First Century. Apart from its somewhat misleading title, as it does not suggest a resurrection of a moribund doctrine, the study is a curious amalgam of ideational and realist analyses. Despite its inherent tensions it did generate a much-needed discussion about the intellectual underpinnings of the future course of India’s foreign policy in a vastly changed post-Cold War world order.
The volume under review, India’s Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases, constitutes an attempt to examine both historical and contemporary features of India’s grand strategy. One of the distinguishing and welcome features of this volume is that it departs from the mostly policy-oriented work and instead seeks to provide more rigorous and scholarly analyses. Unfortunately, the volume suffers from two important limitations, both of which are the bane of most edited works. First, the contributions to this volume are uneven in quality. Second, despite the efforts of the editors to deal with historical, theoretical, and substantive issues under specific rubrics, there is little or no connective intellectual tissue between the various chapters.
Commenting on the features of every chapter in this substantial volume is simply beyond the scope of this brief review. However, a discussion of a number of salient chapters can illustrate both of the concerns alluded to above. One of the most perceptive, insightful and perspicacious essays in this volume is Rahul Sagar’s chapter, entitled “Jiski Lathi, Uski Bhains,” loosely translated from the Hindi as “whoever wields a stick owns the buffalo.” In this chapter, Sagar deftly traces the ideological and intellectual roots of the Hindu nationalist worldview through a careful and nuanced reading of the key works of two ideological stalwarts, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. Central to their views, Sagar persuasively argues, were their pessimistic views about the possibilities of human confraternity and their consequent embrace of a constructed, primordial vision of nationalism.
Similarly, Siddharth Mallavarapu’s chapter, “Securing India: Gandhian Intuitions,” shows considerable sensitivity toward Gandhi’s views about the use of force in international politics. It is also to Mallavarapu’s credit that he effectively demolishes rather self-serving interpretations of Gandhi’s ideas of cowardice and self-defense.
In marked contrast to these analyses, Srinath Raghavan’s chapter in the historical section of the volume, “Liberal Thought and Colonial Military Institutions,” focuses mostly on the historical antecedents of civil-military relations in India from the colonial era onwards. However, he adds pitiably little about liberal ideas that animated a significant segment of the Indian nationalist movement. Parenthetically, he refers to Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a “liberal” owing to his early commitment to constitutional change and democracy. However, this characterization flies in the face of Jinnah’s feckless courtship of the most obscurantist religious authorities as he sought to bolster the claim for Pakistan.
Other chapters also underscore the unevenness of this volume. For example, there is much sound and fury about the need to highlight the existence of a non-Westphalian view of global order in Jayashree Vivekanandan’s “Strategy, Legitimacy and the Imperium: Framing the Mughal Strategic Discourse.” To her credit, she carefully outlines how the Mughal Empire did not enjoy a monopoly of violence in securing and maintaining political order. Instead it relied on various institutional innovations such as mobile durbars, on the co-optation of local potentates, and a degree of religious pluralism emanating from the emperor, Akbar, himself. Some of these governing precepts, especially the commitment to religious pluralism, clearly did not survive Akbar. Furthermore, empires, whatever virtues they may have once embodied, are anachronistic. Consequently, while these governing arrangements may have well served his reign it is difficult to see how they might inform today’s needs for global governance. For good or ill, the Westphalian order has proven to be rather durable and universal.
The case studies in this volume are also of varying quality. Ali Ahmed’s chapter, “Indian Strategic Culture: The Pakistan Dimension,” suggests that there has been a significant doctrinal shift in India’s strategic orientation toward Pakistan since 1971. More to the point, he correctly argues that it has taken on a strong coercive bent, a movement that he clearly laments. Ahmed traces this growing embrace of a more muscular strategy to the forces of cultural nationalism. However, his evidence suggests that the shift cannot be traced merely to an ideological shift in Indian domestic politics. Instead he shows that a series of provocations from Pakistan precipitated changes in India’s strategy.
Other case studies are more promising. Rudra Chaudhuri’s chapter, “Aberrant Conversationalists: India and the United States Since 1947,” reveals a firm grasp of the texture of Indo-US relations since independence. The historical material that he summarizes does not alter any prior understanding of key developments and turning points. However, he does provide a most useful dissection of Indian decision making when asked to provide a military contingent in support of the US-led military intervention in Iraq.
The limitations of this volume notwithstanding, it is nevertheless a worthwhile attempt to address multiple dimensions of the grand strategy of a state that may yet play a critical role in shaping the global order in the twenty-first century. Perhaps it will encourage further discussion of the subject to the benefit of both theory and policy.
Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
ELITE PARTIES, POOR VOTERS: How Social Services Win Votes in India. Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics. By Tariq Thachil. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. xiv, 331 pp. (Illustrations, map.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-07008-0.
Why would poor, socially marginalized people vote for a party run by—and for—a deeply entrenched social and economic elite? Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? (Holt, 2005) asked a version of this question about the United States, where a striking proportion of working-class people supported a Republican Party that systematically advanced the interests of better-off Americans.
An Indian variant of this puzzle is the subject of Tariq Thachil’s Elite Parties and Poor Voters: How Social Services Win Votes in India. Thachil examines how and why the elite-dominated Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has attracted the votes of Dalits and Adivasis. What particularly interests Thachil is a method the BJP has used to cultivate support from these subaltern groups: delivering social services through party-affiliated, yet nominally independent, welfare organizations. Thachil regards the operation of these schools, clinics, and community centres in predominantly Dalit and Adivasi areas as a strategy to broaden the party’s appeal—one with parallels in other countries. He devotes part of a chapter on comparative cases to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which (like the BJP) was founded and dominated by elites, and which (also like the BJP) has developed a robust service-delivery apparatus. Both parties regard serving the poor as a religious obligation. Thachil notes the ideological difference between such “charitable” work and the emancipatory projects pursued by class-oriented parties. The most important distinction he draws, however, is between the work of the BJP’s privately financed service-delivery organizations and two conventional methods for attracting subaltern votes: clientelism (the selective distribution of state benefits to a party’s supporters) and a redistributive policy agenda. Clientelism has been of limited use to the BJP, Thachil claims, because the party has been out of power for most of its existence; a pro-poor policy platform is constrained by the preferences of the BJP’s elite core.
Thachil deserves credit for identifying the private provision of “local public goods” as a party-building strategy, and even more kudos for showing how it works and why it does not always produce the desired results. There is much else to praise in this book. Thachil’s prose is uncluttered, his methodological tastes omnivorous. The empirical material, which includes close scrutiny of welfare organizations in a number of states, is analyzed sensitively. Thachil deftly deploys the personal narratives of service workers to illustrate the subtle ways in which the teachers and health professionals who staff these BJP-linked organizations become opinion-shapers in the localities where they work: these individuals do not officially endorse candidates, but rather suggest to the people they serve which candidate is their own personal preference.
Thachil also makes good analytical use of comparisons between (and within) India’s states. The BJP’s divergent electoral fortunes in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, for instance, demonstrate how the viability of the BJP’s private-welfare-provision strategy is adversely affected by increased social-service expenditure by state governments. Thachil’s comparison between Chhattisgarh, Kerala, and Uttar Pradesh nicely captures how the strategies pursued by the BJP’s state-level rivals influences the party’s approach. He also takes time to explain outliers, such as Gujarat, where the BJP has experienced electoral success despite a relative shortage of party-linked service organizations.
One shortcoming of Thachil’s analysis stems from one of the book’s greatest strengths: the laser-like focus on advancing his claims. This leads Thachil, on occasion, to give short shrift to alternative explanations. He claims, for example, that the division of labour between the BJP and its affiliated service organizations has been dictated by a contradiction between the party’s elite core and the subaltern voters it seeks to attract. But are the BJP’s financial backers, and its largely upper-caste leadership, really so implacably opposed to pursuing elements of a pro-poor agenda? During the 2014 general election that brought it to power, the BJP’s manifesto promised merely to reform, rather than abolish, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the previous government’s flagship welfare program. Some BJP-run state governments—e.g., Rajasthan in the 1980s and 1990s; Madhya Pradesh in the first two decades of the twenty-first century—pursued high-profile pro-poor programs. BJP stalwarts, in other words, may be more aware of the need to counter the party’s elitist image through programmatic adjustments than Thachil acknowledges. (His impressive review of BJP policy statements cannot, unfortunately, capture the complex reality of how the BJP governed in practice.) The BJP, in this sense, is not hugely dissimilar to the Congress Party, whose more progressive manifesto commitments in recent years have been driven by much the same political motivations. Both the industrialists who provide the bulk of the Congress’s funds, as well as the party’s leadership, itself drawn largely from one or another fragment of India’s variegated elite, have long regarded such policy accommodations as the cost of doing business.
Thachil may also underestimate the degree to which the BJP recruits subalterns through divisive rhetoric and provocative acts that target religious minorities and are designed to unite Hindu voters, regardless of caste, behind the BJP. Communal mobilization of this type—a classic of the BJP’s political repertoire—does not generally work with Dalits, Thachil contends, because subalterns tend to shun ideologies that legitimize and facilitate their oppression. Yet, in places where Dalits compete for jobs, housing, and services with members of religious minorities, or are employed by them, one cannot assume that Dalits are immune to the perceived psychic, and sometimes material, rewards that can accompany the persecution of another subordinated group. Dalits and Adivasis are also reported to have voted for the BJP in parts of Rajasthan as a result of private assurance that, once in power, the party would protect these vulnerable groups from locally dominant land-owning castes (of “intermediate” or “backward” status) that are often the most direct threat to Dalit and Adivasi well-being, including their physical security. The existence of such clientelist political arrangements, which because of their secretive nature are difficult to identify definitively, would undercut Thachil’s claim that private service-delivery, not patronage, was the main technique for luring subaltern voters to the BJP.
These criticisms do not detract from Thachil’s achievement. Indeed, they attest to the book’s ability to stimulate debate. Elite Parties, Poor Voters is a major contribution to our understanding of how India’s parties court the poor, and will be an invaluable resource for researchers examining these questions comparatively.
Rob Jenkins, Hunter College, New York, USA
Northeast India, home to a hundred ethnicities and mutinies, remains highly complex, yet poorly understood. The dearth of good quality writing on the region is only recently beginning to be rectified. This volume, a collection of earlier, mostly published works of the author dealing with ethno-nationalist struggles in Assam and Nagaland states, promises hope, but only just. The puzzle the author seeks to explain is that of “how Assam, with its centuries old relationship with the Indian sub-continent could give rise to a militant movement with distinct secessionist overtones” (viii). The volume is organized into four chapters: Roots of Alienation; Course and Character of Naga Struggle; Assam: Insurgent Movements and Identity Politics; and lastly, State and Civil Society in Northeast India, each containing a number of shorter pieces on the subjects at hand.
The author uses three sites of examination to address his questions. The main arguments are summarized below.
First is the issue of identity politics, which forms the backdrop to much ethno-nationalist contestation. The author shows that these contestations have antecedents in pre-independence negotiations. It was post-independence developments, however, that set the stage for the Northeast’s confrontation with the Indian nation-state, whose “initial approach to the region was marked by a highly centrist approach based on security concerns and mono-cultural integrationist discourse” (3). In the case of Assam, the author shows, the key junctures were the discussions around the Cabinet Mission of 1946, and the “grouping plan.” Post-independence, the major sources of upset were: non-inclusion of Assam in the adopted national anthem; the pressure by central leaders on Assamese politicians to open up their doors wider to Bengali refugees from East Pakistan; and later, the central leaders’ perceived indifference to the influx of migrants from Bangladesh into Assam. A lack of financial autonomy further radicalized public opinion, with what was seen as a poor share for the state in revenues deriving from local produce (taxation on tea and petroleum), and poor development of industrial infrastructure (21).
As for Nagaland, the author argues, Nagas have always considered themselves separate from the Indian nation state. Administered lightly and directly by British administrators, the tribal elite from Nagaland and other tribal districts were not party to the national freedom movement. Naga National Council (NNC), the principal Naga political formation, had, even before Indian Independence, declared Nagaland’s independence. This, among other factors, led to the deployment of the military in the Naga district of Assam, with the army given unfettered powers over civilians, embodied in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) factions picked up from where the NNC left off in its armed struggle against the Indian state. Since 1997, a ceasefire has been in effect between security forces and NSCN (Isaac -Muivah), and peace talks have been underway, but without much prospect of a lasting solution.
These dynamics point to the second focus of the author’s examination: the state and its “dual role” of “repression” and “negotiation.” The author argues that “it would … not be an exaggeration to state that the seeds of the separatist movements … were embedded in the policies and prejudices of the central Congress leadership” (21). What followed further drilled in the problem: the AFSPA and its “normalisation” of the exceptional powers bestowed on armed forces personnel; the negative impact of the deployment of the army for long durations, with frequent human rights violations such as disappearances, tortures, arrests, “fake encounters” and the like.
The third and perhaps the most fruitful of the author’s examinations is of the civil society in the region, to understand how it has sought to engage as the interlocutor between the state and its armed opponents in an effort at seeking peaceful solutions, and the divergent outcomes in Assam and Nagaland. The author demonstrates that recently, it has been Naga civil society groups, principally Naga Hoho (literally council) and Naga Mothers’ Association that have led efforts at reconciliation between Naga factions (295), and negotiations with the state. “If the peace process in Nagaland continues today despite so many hurdles,” claims the author, “it is largely because of the collective opinion of the Naga people for a peaceful and negotiated settlement is so well articulated by the civil society groups of the state” (307).
In Assam, on the other hand, it is the author’s contention that civil society space has been constantly denuded by populist agitations and armed conflicts. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and the Asom Sahitya Sabha (Assam Cultural Association), key civil society formations leading the “Assam Agitation,” do not tolerate dissent. And the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the principal armed outfit, with its militaristic view, has further put off alternative voices, leaving it unable to garner much support among mainstream society (288). The outcome has been poor legitimacy, not just for the ULFA but also for civil society in recent peace talks aimed at the restoration of normality.
The papers in this volume provide a dense description of the antecedents and dynamics of the ethno-nationalist movements, in Assam and Nagaland in particular. Given that the papers are drawn from the author’s writing on the subject over the past three decades, the volume represent a significant tracking of the history of popular movements in the two states under review. It is a pity, then, that there has been no attempt to draw out any lessons from the set of papers; there being a lack of an overarching argument, a framework, or some attempt at developing thoughts on a comparative solution. Moreover, whilst empirical depth is helpful, the absence of any reference to theory, of ethno-nationalism or political theory, among others, whilst trying to understand and explain the phenomenon of ethno-nationalist movements, is a weakness of the work. And barring the section on civil society, nothing has been said here that has not already been said elsewhere, especially on identity movements. In that sense, then, the material presented in the volume only adds to cataloging further evidence of existing understandings of the socio-political scenario of northeastern India.
Sajjad Hassan, Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi, India
DALIT WOMEN’S EDUCATION IN MODERN INDIA: Double Discrimination. Routledge Research on Gender in Asia Series, 7. By Shailaja Paik. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xiv, 356 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-49300-0.
This book covers three different subjects: caste, gender, and education. As is evident from its title, it explores educational experiences and trajectories of women from Dalit communities, those who were once treated as untouchables in the Indian caste system and continue to experience exclusion and discrimination, albeit in changed form, even today. The focus on education helps the author raise many questions, ranging from the idea of Indian modernity, nationalism and social reforms to contemporary realities of intersecting social inequalities and discriminations.
Even though we have a fairly good volume of research on each of these subjects, and occasionally also on their intersections, the book shows that there still is much to be explored and understood. Another distinction of the book is its disciplinary openness. Even though a historian has written the book, it actively engages with sociological and political questions of the present day, and with scholars from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.
Renegotiation of gender relations and personal/public life during the colonial period through social reform movements has come to be widely accepted as one of the foundational moments in the history of Indian modernity. Drawn mostly from historical research on colonial Bengal, this common-sense understanding of the gender question concludes that male social reformers reinvented Indian identity through their interaction with colonial modernity. According to this “resolution” of the gender question, women were to be assigned the task of cultivating traditional Indian-ness at home while men modernized themselves in order to engage with the outside world of Western materiality. In the process, Indian women came to symbolize a new form of femininity and genteelness, invented by the reformers and the nationalists and cultivated through specific forms of education and training.
Paik questions such a thesis. While this could be true of the new middle-class Calcutta Brahmins, it was not the case for everyone or in every region of the subcontinent. However, this interpretation has tended to prevail. Even when a large volume of historical research has been produced on the subalterns in the colonial period, much of it has remained blind to the realities of caste and its regional diversities.
Paik’s own work focuses on the western region of India, urban Maharashtra, where she looks at the history of education of Dalit women. The category of Dalit is itself a modern construct. Even though it has come to be used across India for the ex-untouchable communities, its history is rather recent, embedded in the social movements in the western region that came up during the late colonial and post-independence period. It was here that, thanks to the efforts of some social reformers and with the opportunities opened up by the colonial policies, a new middle class began to emerge among the erstwhile untouchable groups. B.R. Ambedkar, who went on to become the first law minister of independent India, one of the most well-educated Indians during the later colonial period, has come to symbolize this new mobility among those located at the bottom of Hindu society. Not only did he become a symbol of “low-caste” mobility and political identity, he also emerged as the most vocal and radical critic of the caste system. He re-conceptualized caste and presented it in the language of power and discrimination.
Disagreeing fundamentally with Gandhi and other nationalists who invoked the idea of Indian tradition as a possible source of Indian nationalism, he, along with Jyotiba Phule, advocated the need for radical reform within Hindu society. Education, along with agitation and community mobilization, was a critical instrument of change for him. It was within this perspective that Dalit women began to be educated. Unlike the middle-class Bengali women, education of Dalit women was a clearly modernist political project that was directed against the idea of preserving “tradition.”
However, Paik recognizes that the identity of Dalit women was not weighed down only by their caste but also by their gender. Their experience of going to school was not very pleasant. They encountered strong prejudice and active discrimination, as did Dalit men. Their teachers and fellow students treated them differently, as untouchables, in the classroom as well as on the playground. The experience of education actively reinforced in them both the identities of gender as well as caste.
However, education was not simply a matter of formal learning. It brought them out of the village, to the urban slum, and occasionally to a middle-class locality. Even though Ambedkar had imagined and hoped that migration to the city and acquisition of modern education would liberate untouchables from their caste disability, it did not happen. But, it did change their identity and worldviews. They became political subjects. Their self-image was no longer that of untouchables, who willingly or unwillingly accepted their positions in the caste hierarchy. Even when modernity did not deliver what it promised, it transformed the Dalit women (and men) quite fundamentally.
It is this journey of gaining a new subjecthood that Paik explores in her book quite successfully. This story of education of Dalit women is fundamentally different from the popular historical narrative on the subject that draws almost entirely from the upper-caste Hindu experience. What seems to be almost missing in her book is a critical analysis of the new patriarchy within middle-class Dalit households in urban India.
Surinder S. Jodhka, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
THE DURABLE SLUM: Dharavi and the Right to Stay Put in Globalizing Mumbai. Globalization and Community, v. 23. By Liza Weinstein. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. xvi, 216 pp. (Illus.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8166-8309-3; US$25.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-8166-8310-9.
Liza Weinstein’s The Durable Slum: Dharavi and the Right to Stay Put in Globalizing Mumbai tells a fascinating story of Dharavi, a settlement that is considered the largest “slum” in Asia. The book contests the notion of totalizing transformations wrought by globalization, such as the flows of global capital, planning ideals, and entrepreneurial models endorsed by global and domestic developers. In contrast, Weinstein’s analytical lens focuses on “stability” and “durability.” As she argues, her project attempts to understand “the relationship between change and stability, ephemerality and entrenchment, in the context of urban development” (7). Drawing on Chester Hartman’s idea of “the right to stay put,” she illustrates that the politics of Dharavi entails attempts to resist displacement due to interventions designed by the state and the developers. According to her, the marginalized in Dharavi navigate party politics, judiciary systems, housing, transnational activism, and planning mechanisms in the city with the modest aim of the “right to stay put” rather than the Lefebvrian revolutionary ideal of the “right to the city.” Addressing the “right to remain in limbo” (20), she emphasizes the struggles necessary to maintain a “precarious stability.” In so doing, she provides a historical account of Dharavi by drawing on planning documents, classic studies, gazettes, and an ethnographic analysis.
Weinstein provides a historical account of the settlement by analyzing migration dynamics, urban planning and land use, population growth, caste- and community-specific occupational and social formation, and industrial development. In this light, she cogently maps the transition of a 535-acre fishing village into an informal settlement defined by working-class housing and unregulated industries. In chapter 1, her key argument highlights the “supportive neglect” on the part of the state and the interaction of the state with various other informal sovereignties and governance structures that shape everyday life in Dharavi. In chapter 2, Weinstein analyzes the interventions that have been targeted at Dharavi, especially once it was deemed Asia’s largest “slum.” She discusses how institutional and political fragmentation, diverse power arrangements, and contestations over the settlement have undermined the planning interventions. As a result, the durability of the settlement has not only meant successful resistance against state-led displacement and interventions, but also the existence of low-quality housing.
In chapter 3, the author maps the neo-liberal impetus behind the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP). She provides an insightful analysis of deindustrialization and the associated processes of “criminal involvement, violence, and abuses of state power entailed in the city’s emerging political economies of land” (91). In particular, she analyzes how the settlement’s prime location has invited attention for its transformation on the part of profit-minded developers and state bodies. Subsequently, she examines the intricate political and social processes that undermine this entrepreneurial aspiration and contribute to the durability of settlements like Dharavi. In chapter 4, she discusses the inability of Mukesh Mehta—the developer-entrepreneur who envisioned transforming Dharavi in pursuit of capital accumulation—to forge an effective coalition among various stakeholders to push forth his agenda. Mehta not only had to contend with political fragmentation and conflicts with activists but also had to grapple with criticisms regarding lack of public accountability and centralization of authority. As argued in chapter 5, the mobilization of the residents and the constraints of local politics undermined the DRP despite Mehta’s efforts. As Weinstein argues, the institutional and political complexities forced the potential developers to withdraw from the project. The book beautifully illustrates how the obduracy of local resistance against global visions of city-making forecloses the possibility of turning Mumbai into Shanghai. An ensemble of power relations, interests, and contingencies shapes the obduracy of resistance. Thus, resistance against global capital, developers, and profit accumulation is emboldened by the configuration of group interests among various stakeholders. Further, the fragility and unpredictability of resistance is reflective of the weight of capital, developers, and state power.
The strength of the book lies in its analysis of the worldview of the developers (ethnographic vignettes of salesmanship on their part), and the interactions among various stakeholders in the context of the changing political economy of land. However, the book could have gained from further ethnographic details on the everyday negotiation of community leaders and political mediators, and the residents’ mundane struggles for visibility. While Weinstein has done a splendid job of analyzing the diversity and specific community interests in the settlement, one also wonders about the nature of intra- and inter-community conflicts and solidarities among Kolis, Kumbhars, Dalits, and Muslims in the light of planning interventions, given the massive size of the settlement. It is also striking that there is inadequate gender analysis with respect to the language of planning, “political entrepreneurship,” and negotiation and resistance to the developers’ models. Nevertheless, this is a significant contribution to the literature on urban transformations and the durability of low-income residents and their settlements. In particular, the book calls for attention to the need for context-specific analysis of urban planning, the local power dynamics among various stakeholders, and the contingency of resilient politics, all of which have to be understood on a case-by-case basis with the caveat that not all cities may respond to the same globalizing processes to the same degree.
Sanjeev Routray, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
STREET CORNER SECRETS: Sex, Work, and Migration in the City of Mumbai. Next Wave: New Directions in Women’s Studies. By Svati P. Shah. Durham; London: Duke University Press, 2014. xviii, 258 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$89.95, cloth, ISBN 978-0-823-5689-9; US$24.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8223-5698-1.
Mumbai’s Kamathipura, Asia’s largest red-right district, is shrinking in the face of neighbourhood gentrification, and political haggling over prime land to accommodate housing and industrial projects in Mumbai. The area is vulnerable to excessive regulation from the police and interventionist NGOs, as well as to unannounced demolitions instigated by builders and bureaucrats. Daya, a brothel owner, sat with the book’s author, Svati Shah, and pointed to Kamathipura’s Thirteenth Lane. It was early evening, and instead of brightly dressed sex workers waiting for customers, the lane was filled with young men chatting and playing music. An exasperated Daya said: “What do you expect to do for the women now. There are no women. Look at this lane—there are only men, living seventeen to a room” (183). The decline of this red-light district has made the lives of its sex workers unstable in terms of access to housing, water, and social support, which in turn has impacted the kin networks dependent on the women for material sustenance. According to Daya, most dhanda (sex work) now happens in private apartments, five-star hotels and bars, and Mumbai’s infamous red-light district is no longer an alluring site for solicitation. This gripping dialogue is captured eloquently in Svati Shah’s timely book Street Corner Secrets. Daya’s lament illustrates the essence of the author’s journey through multiple spaces in Mumbai, where sex work is intimately related to women’s diminishing access to informal wages and basic infrastructural facilities.
Shah’s critical ethnography, an apt tribute to William Foote Whyte’s Street Corner Societies (1943), analyzes how rural female migrants in the city negotiate sexual services as one of many strategies for gaining a livelihood. These low-caste migrants are from economically deprived and drought-prone districts of India. Most women drift in and out of the urban workforce to escape poverty, caste discrimination, and the unavailability of agricultural work, in the hope of better earnings, schooling, and potable water in the city. Using multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, Shah persuasively argues that these female migrants turn to a range of legitimized and stigmatized activities while maneuvering through Mumbai’s casual labour sector.
According to Shah, prostitution is produced spatially in this search for economic survival in the city. The author states that “the production of public space in Mumbai must be understood in relation to discourses and histories of the urban geographies of sexual commerce” (4). She focuses on three primary field sites: the brothel, the street, and the wage labour market in Mumbai (known as a naka), where sexual commerce is solicited discreetly alongside other income-generating activities. A naka forms for a period of time in an outdoor space, where 150 to 200 people gather every day to seek contracts for manual labour in construction work. Yet spatial order is maintained within the chaos of vehicular and pedestrian traffic through people sitting in caste, kin, and gendered clusters. Shah observes that solicitation in the naka is less visible than in a brothel or on the street, even though the use of unemployed women from the naka in sex work is common knowledge. The strength of the naka ethnography lies in “the questions of unspeakability” (111) raised by the author. For example, workers use metaphors such as bura kaam (bad work), jawani loot liya (snatched her youth), and faltu baat (offensive language) to refer to women’s immorality. Unlike the brothel, a space historically designated for sex work, a culture of disapproval exists around naka women’s unethical use of public space meant for procuring legitimate work. And this subtle shaming of their transgression is critiqued by women labourers who do sex work to fill their bellies (pet ke liye), and avoid sitting at home hungry with their honour (izzat) intact.
The author creatively unpacks the politics of public space by exploring further the regulation of sex work on a busy street near a commuter railway station, and in Kamathipura. Her study highlights the role of the local police and shop merchants in sporadically harassing street-based sex workers in an effort to keep commercial areas safe for middle-class families. While women in Kamathipura receive important education from HIV prevention drives, they also remain fairly defenseless against aggressive developers, and police raids prompted by anti-trafficking NGOs. The author’s bold allusion to the flow of international researchers with their predictable questionnaires gathering stale data on poverty and sex work is an intriguing slice of life from Kamathipura. Shah argues that erratic policing by both the state, and people with moral and institutional authority against sexual commerce, puts forward a convoluted interpretation of citizenship and criminality. Migrant prostitutes are subsequently characterized as diseased encroachers in the global city. Despite the wide acknowledgement of their vulnerability, they are not recognized as a population to be protected (but rather protected against) within Mumbai’s drive towards unfettered modernity.
Street Corner Secrets rounds off by underlining the significance of representing sex workers through their multiple subjectivities: of migrant, slum dweller, construction worker, and sex worker. This complicates the nature of women’s agency, and the book convincingly contests gender analyses of sex work through choice/force binary frameworks. Shah has an experimental, expressive, and empirical style of writing. But the narratives of the chapters are slightly uneven: they move between a focus on the abstract dialectics of space and complex discourse analysis, and the stark worlds of women sex workers being solicited by drunks. Short and succinct theoretical explanations would have enhanced the fascinating ethnography. I was unsure why several vernacular words like naka were italicized in some paragraphs and not in some others. Overall, this book’s ethnography makes a vibrant contribution to urban anthropology. Crafting an understanding of sexual labour that reflects the intricacies of rural-urban migration, the book sheds light on the management of knowledge around sex work, from secrecy to the rehabilitation of “rescued” prostitutes, and shows how spaces occupied by women sex workers have multiple uses and meanings in Mumbai’s contested urban landscape.
Atreyee Sen, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
For anyone interested in the radical left in India, Bappaditya Paul’s The First Naxal is an important book. It is not that the book is an accurate history of the Naxalite movement, or that it is a well thought through sociological analysis of Sanyal’s life and works. It is, however, a sincere attempt to portray the emergence of the Naxalite movement as Sanyal wanted it to be seen towards the end of his life. Paul conducted more than 121 interviews with Sanyal over three years but more significantly we are told that Sanyal personally read and cleared all its chapters except for the last one about his death. As such, the biography itself is an important historic artefact of the Naxalite movement.
Paul covers the span of Sanyal’s life beginning with his birth in Kurseong in the Darjeeling hills in 1929 into a middle-class family (his father was a court clerk) and his initial recruitment as a revenue collection clerk. This early history is interlaced with his enchantment with the radical Indian Congress leader Subhas Chandra Bose, then the banned Communist Party which led to his political mobilization, and subsequently, inspired by Charu Mazumdar, giving up his family and becoming a party “whole-timer” in 1951.
His various stints in jail began a year earlier in 1950 and all of them fascinatingly led to Sanyal meeting different incarcerated communist leaders, intense political discussion, and his political formation. There are narrations of much of the organizational work that Sanyal and his co-workers undertook amongst peasants and tea plantation workers in Darjeeling District, though sadly we don’t get much of an understanding of those communities themselves, the contradictions and differences between them, and the challenges of working with them.
One of the most fascinating accounts of Sanyal’s life history is his trip with three other comrades in 1967 on foot across the Himalayas into China to meet the mystical Chairman Mao, their warm reception by the People’s Liberation Army there, the theoretical and military training they received, and their eventual meeting with the great leader and the advice they received from him. “Forget everything you have learnt here in China. Once back in Naxalbari, formulate your own revolutionary strategies, keeping in mind the ground realities over there” (130), Sanyal recalled Mao to have said.
Perhaps the most overwhelming theme that comes across is an attempt to correct historical representation of the leadership of the Naxalbari uprisings. Usually portrayed as an uprising of peasants and workers in 1967, here the rebellion is traced back to the organizing that Sanyal and other communist leaders undertook amongst tea plantation workers and peasants in Darjeeling District in the decade before. It is Sanyal that is shown as the mastermind and main force of this grassroots organization, challenging conventional accounts which portray Mazumdar as the architect of the Naxalbari uprisings, with Sanyal being his “lieutenant.”
A key rift between Mazumdar and Sanyal, unknown to both their grassroots workers and the “outside” world at the time, is unveiled as having chequered the history of the movement. Mazumdar is argued to have been against nurturing mass organizations, seeing them as “revisionist tools that would weaken the revolutionary zeal of the comrades” (86) and to have focused instead on the formation of small combat groups that would secretly annihilate those they saw as enemies (landlords and high-level state officials). Sanyal, on the other hand, proposed that armed insurrection and annihilation of class enemies should only take place after mass agitations and it is argued that it was this that was crucial to the success of the 1967 uprisings. It is Mazumdar who, however, became seen as the leader of the movement because of the “Historic Eight Documents” he wrote in 1965–1966 against revisionism and because throughout many of the crucial phases of the movement, when Sanyal and others were busy organizing the peasantry “underground,” he was bedridden and therefore easily accessible to the world outside, it is claimed. In Sanyal’s eyes, Mazumdar “exploited” this opportunity to propagate his version of the strategy and “wrongly projected this as the true spirit of Naxalbari movement, and for obvious reasons this got widely publicized in the news media” (105). Although Sanyal is keen to remove the heritage of Naxalbari from those who today are most visibly seen as bearers of its torch, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) (he discredits them as “left adventurists”), in the context of today’s extreme state repression, it is the tension between armed violence and mass organization which plagues today’s revolutionary struggle.
Scattered throughout the book are what appear to be the laments of a bitter old man wanting to correct history by sowing the seeds of doubt about the revolutionary credentials of Mazumdar into the potential Naxalite zealot. Mazumdar is portrayed as a “left adventurist,” a “dogmatic,” someone who willfully ignored and sidelined crucial comrades, and perhaps even had them conveniently jailed in 1966 (this is the suggestion on page 92). Perhaps none of this is entirely out of the ordinary—Sumanta Banerjee’s In the Wake of Naxalbari (Subarnarekha, 1980) has already presented the rift between them—but what is unexpected is that Sanyal wanted this to be the central feature of this biography and that he sought instead to be recognized as the “founder” of the movement. This is surprising because, apart from one exception to which I will return, the narrations of Sanyal’s life suggest that—like many of today’s Naxalites—he had sacrificed himself for the cause. This meant not only giving up his family, but also giving up any desire to be personally recognized or credited for his self-sacrifice, erasing the sense of an ego and replacing any individualism with the contentment and pride of being seen as just a point in the making of history.
Why, then, at the end of his life, the desire to wear the trophy of the “First Naxal”? Is this a consequence of the artistic freedom of the author? Or is it the pressures of a publisher to sell the book with a catchy hook? Or is it because, at the end of his life, Sanyal had finally given up on the revolutionary cause? Though he was seriously unwell, Sanyal is shown to have ended his life with an act which today’s bearers of the Naxalbari struggle see as the opposite of sacrifice, the ultimate act of selfishness, the killing of the revolution as embodied in oneself: suicide. Although the Central Committee of his party do not accept it, Sanyal is said to have hung himself from a ceiling fan at his office and home at Sebdella Jote, Siliguri, in March 2010. The irony is that of course in allowing Paul Bappaditya to author his biography as “The First Naxal,” Sanyal has given oxygen to the embers of the Naxalbari revolution that still live on by generating further interest in its revolutionary cause.
Alpa Shah, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom
SOUTHEAST ASIA AND THE EUROPEAN UNION: Non-Traditional Security Crises and Cooperation. Routledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series, 67. By Naila Maier-Knapp. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xvii, 140 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-877637-1.
Naila Maier-Knapp raises a set of interesting policy questions in this book on Asian-EU relations: one crucial question is whether the EU contributes to security in Southeast Asia. More generally, the book addresses questions such as the following: Are there crises that lend themselves better to promoting a truly cooperative relationship between regions? Does an engagement in so-called non-traditional security (NTS) increase the visibility of an external actor and change perceptions about it as a security actor? And: is crisis a mechanism contributing to greater integration on an intraregional level? In answering these questions, the book looks particularly at crises that have affected Southeast Asia, how the EU responds to such crises, what kinds of instruments it develops, what motivates its behaviour (instrumental interests or norms) and whether the engagement of the EU in Southeast Asia enhances not only its visibility in Southeast Asia, but also contributes to strengthening the interregional relationship between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As is evident, the book addresses quite a number of practical questions and provides even more answers to them, both of which pose a challenge for the depth of the author’s inquiry (see below).
The book is organized into eight chapters, including introduction and conclusion, and contains five case studies on Asian crises that have drawn the attention of the EU and triggered attempts to provide solutions to them: the Asian financial crisis, the Haze crisis, the Bali bombings and avian influenza, the Aceh Monitoring Mission, and non-traditional security crises since then. The case studies are chronologically organized, but the underlying logic for case selection— described only later in the book—is the following: the crises cover different issue-areas (financial, peace-building, humanitarian) and have been selected to evaluate whether there are issue-areas that principally lend themselves to greater EU visibility as a security-relevant actor or not. Each chapter is similarly organized. Maier-Knapp describes the nature of the crisis and its regional implications and how the EU has reacted. For example, in the financial crisis it provided financial assistance and set up an interregional trust fund and an expert’s network, and generally enhanced its cooperation, in the haze case it set up a number of development cooperation projects for the protection of rain forest, generally leading to an increase of competences of the EU Commission in external environmental affairs. These initiatives document, the book argues, that crises do have effects on inter-regional cooperation that lead to enhanced interactions and an increased visibility of the EU as security actor in the EU. An impressive number of interviews offer assessments and look at how Asian and European policy makers perceive their roles and the contribution of the EU. The findings, which are not presented very systematically in the book, refer to the ability of the EU to provide effective policy solutions across different issue-areas, with issue-area-specific variation. Maier-Knapp also discusses the implications of securitization for the EU’s status as a non-traditional security actor. Because it frames these crises as security threats, the EU’s own foreign policy becomes securitized. While the book offers rich empirical evidence, it is of less value to readers who are interested in answers to systematic questions. The most important point here is that the book lacks a convincing analytical framework that would allow a better evaluation (not to speak of measurement) of the significance of the individual crises for inter-regionalism between Asia and Europe. While the introduction and chapter 1 discuss various theories and concepts, such as integration theory, to understand the role of crises for the development of regional and interregional relations or the concept of securitization to highlight the construction of security threats by actors, none of these concepts is systematically linked to the ultimate research questions nor is the case selection justified in great detail. This has two implications. First, it becomes difficult to provide intersubjective measures for many of the causal relationships that Maier-Knapp is interested in, such as the relationship between the severity of the crises and the degree of EU involvement and ultimately also for the nature or deepening of the interregional relationship. Second, this makes it very difficult to vary some of these factors and therefore come to causal statements about the impact of crises, instruments, the visibility of actors, etc., on interregional relations. Maier-Knapp provides a number of ad-hoc evaluations, but these are not always intersubjectively comprehensible. To do justice to the author, she does not claim to develop such systematic linkages. Instead, she frequently speaks of the case studies as providing “illustrations” for more general phenomena, such as the EU’s approach to crises, its role conceptions (for example, as a normative power), and the EU’s status as a collective actor. From a systematic perspective, this remains unsatisfying, however.
This is not to say that the book does not offer insights. Empirically, the book provides interesting and little-known information, much of it drawn from interviews with EU and Southeast Asian policy makers on the breadth of EU activities in Southeast Asia and of its “toolkit” for approaching crises in the area of non-traditional security. Yet, this evidence could have been much better leveraged for answering the systematic questions raised above. Answering them systematically would have required much more reflection on the rationale for case selection and the operationalization of concepts. These are not just academic issues that need not be of concern for policy makers, but fundamental ones increasing our confidence in the reliability and robustness of the findings. They ultimately make the difference between empirical description and good social science. Policy makers will probably like the many original quotes from interviews; yet, as policy makers they should be cautious in drawing policy implications for EU-Southeast Asian interregional relations from this study or for interregional relations more generally.
Anja Jetschke, University of Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany
GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany
SLOW ANTHROPOLOGY: Negotiating Difference with the Iu Mien. Studies on Southeast Asia Series, No. 64. By Hjorleifur Jonsson. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Cornell University, 2014. xv, 154 pp. (Maps.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-87727-764-4.
Hjorleifur Jonsson is an anthropologist at Arizona State University with an interest in the Iu Mien going back to his doctoral studies at Cornell in the 1990s. For this book, Jonsson draws liberally from five of his previous articles published between 2009 and 2012 (listed on page viii) and as can be the case is such circumstances, some chapters end up not being as firmly integrated as they could be. In a nutshell, this short book, in an unconventional genre, appears from the title to be ethnography-heavy, but as one reads on, it feels gradually more like a reflexive essay on the discipline of anthropology, and the author’s strong views on it. It has four chapters plus a preface, introduction, and afterword. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 build on interview data gathered in Laos, Thailand and the USA and provide the book with its ethnographic material. The four other chapters are devoted to Jonsson’s pursuit, with the author himself taking the front stage as an anthropologist, an intellectual, and a social commentator.
Right off the bat, Jonsson seems to suggest that just about everybody but him agrees with James C. Scott’s thesis expressed in his 2009 book The Art of not being Governed (Yale University Press, 2009), which is a bit perplexing given that critiques have circulated for years. The first third of Jonsson’s book, which includes direct references to Scott and Zomia (these Asian highlands others call the Southeast Asian Massif) on practically every page, is devoted to rebutting the Scott’s thesis, with Scott thus posited as the force against which Jonsson’s originality is pitted. Jonsson declares on the first page that “[t]he label ‘Zomia’ overrides considerable diversity of peoples, cultures, histories, and social conditions,” but in saying so, he appears to ignore the fundamental explanation provided by Willem van Schendel’s 2002 original proposition on Zomia (consigned here to a footnote) stressing the importance of multiscalar consideration in order to free these highlands from the historical grip imposed by a “geography of ignorance” and to add layers of meaning to local as much as global phenomena (“Geographies of Knowing, Geographies of Ignorance: Southeast Asia from the Fringes,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 20, 6: 647–668). Overlooking van Schendel, Jonsson has thus free rein to set up Scott as his straw man: “The case for Zomia is in many ways a very educated white bourgeois US American theory regarding what happens across difference” (22).
Overall, Jonsson’s enterprise is ambitious and, faced with this challenge, he relieves himself of methodological complexities by stating that his approach is subjective in nature:
There are four main components to my book; the Mien people, who are one of the ethnic minority highland peoples of mainland Southeast Asia and southern China and also now refugee immigrants in the United States and elsewhere; anthropologists and related scholars in the United States and also from France, Japan, and other countries; Asian societies, particularly China, Laos, and Thailand; and myself. I make no attempt to be exhaustive or authoritative through endless citations or a literature review regarding the peoples of Southeast Asia or studies of them. […] I write instead to change our academic and other terms of engagement regarding self, other, and world. (xiii)
Jonsson thus locates his project well outside standard academic research and pushes it into the realm of essays. Logically, he elects to use the first person singular abundantly and this makes for engaging prose. More intriguing however, and probably less successful, is his copious writing in the first person plural (“us,” “our,” “we,” “ourselves”) suggesting an (unexplained) amalgamation between writer and reader, and ignoring the very diversity he argues for earlier. For instance in the preface, “A Sense of Where We Are,” he notes: “The problem is still with us. I try to change the ways in which Asian peoples and places have been our objects of knowledge”; likewise “only by seeing ourselves as somehow in the picture and implicated will we be motivated to change this”; and “where we, the readers, as the audience, come into our knowledge” (xi–xiv), and so on.
One senses that Jonsson is seeking to recruit likeminded readers to embark with him on his journey towards questioning the basis of the discipline, “our failure” (xiv), “our naïve empiricism and political posturing” (48), and “our blindness [and] pervasive denial” (25). But who precisely are these companions he co-opts? The closest I came to an answer was: “My hope is to reach a more general audience without lecturing at people” (xiv). This is an important and noble task. One, however, is bound to wonder if releasing a book with Cornell University might be the most effective way to get there.
I for one am not sure I fit within Jonsson’s “we,” or at least I am not entirely comfortable being drafted in this manner. And although I see value in the ethnography proposed here, I am not convinced it has been tested against the relevant literature as soundly as it might have been. But that is, one could argue, the nature of an essay. Ultimately, it is for the readers to decide if they are willing to join Jonsson in his quest. His prose is engaging, his thinking can unquestionably be sophisticated, and many side trips into parallel worlds, from Aristotle to Thomas Kuhn, do tickle the mind. Jonsson seeks to impress and often succeeds. Whether “the Iu Mien” come out of the exercise duly represented and better known to “us,” I am less sure.
Jean Michaud, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada
WOMEN AND SEX WORK IN CAMBODIA: Blood, Sweat and Tears. ASAA Women in Asia Series. By Larissa Sandy. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xv, 140 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-68159-9.
Women and Sex Work in Cambodia presents an overview of the sex work industry in Cambodia beginning with the period of French colonization (1863–1953) and progressing through post-independence Cambodia to the re-declaration of the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1993. Between 1953 and 1993, Cambodia experienced five different political administrations with different views and policies on sex work. The post-independence period and the status of sex work in Cambodia were also heavily influenced by Cambodia as a theatre for the American War in Vietnam (1955–1979), Pol Pot’s genocidal regime (1975–1979) and many years of bloody civil war (1967–1975; 1979–1998).
Over these years, the political inconsistencies and conflicted attitudes towards sex work in Cambodia as it became imbedded in the local cultural practice were eloquently summarized in Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s “Thesis A” and “Thesis B.” “Thesis A” argued for abolition of the sex trade industry because sex work was wrong and the state’s recognition of it lowered the dignity of women. “Thesis B” counter-argued for toleration because, although undesirable, sex work was inevitable and should be controlled for the sake of public health. Many countries in the world have struggled with these same conflicting viewpoints in their own approach to sex work and sex workers.
The author draws information from the Cambodian National Archive, newspaper articles, especially The Cambodia Daily, international development agency reports (e.g., World Bank, WHO, Oxfam), reports from Cambodian non-governmental associations (e.g., Cambodian Women’s Development Association, Cambodian Prostitute’s Union), books and publications from the peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed scientific and anthropological literature, and interviews with individuals involved in the sex trade in Cambodia, particularly sex workers themselves.
The book is organized into seven chapters that discuss what is known of the historical and factual events of the years covered in chronological fashion while weaving in important elements related to the social and cultural context, moral and political economy, regulations and enforcement and disease epidemiology, especially with regard to HIV/AIDS. Throughout the book, the author incorporates and highlights the views of individual sex workers and the hard realities of their lives, both leading up to and during their employment as sex trade workers.
In Chapter 6, the author discusses the results of ten years of attempts to regulate sex work from 1998–2008 with a focus on two key regulatory frameworks that have shaped Cambodia’s sex work industry. Cambodia’s 100% Condom Use Program (CUP) was designed to respond to the country’s worsening HIV epidemic. Instead, CUP led to de-facto legalization of brothels that were illegal in law; further compounded the stigmatization and marginalization of brothel-based female sex workers; subjected sex workers to harassment, extortion, and forced testing; and made sex workers the scapegoats for the Cambodian HIV epidemic. The Human Trafficking Law of 2008 equated trafficking with sex work, resulting in the outright criminalization of all sex work in Cambodia. This stark reversal of viewpoint was prompted by key policy changes in the US that defined which countries and which projects would receive funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). This law promoted brothel raids and rescues as the major form of intervention in the sector and forced sex workers to move through illicit channels, leaving them vulnerable, stigmatized, and illegitimate.
The book challenges the cultural myths and misconceptions surrounding sex work in Cambodia, especially the two predominant images of the “Cambodian Prostitute”; that she is ruined, destroyed, and victimized; and the other image, that she is herself a destroying body that threatens society. Variants on these images are commonly found throughout Asia and the rest of the developing and developed world.
The author makes a strong and logical case that, at least in Cambodia, sex work is legitimate albeit dangerous labour. This argument progresses in stepwise fashion from the opening thesis: that sex workers are humans who possess all of the same emotions, wants, and needs as other humans. The next step uses the personal stories of the women to show that they consciously engage in sex work primarily for reasons linked to strong family values of survival and support. That is, sex workers self-determine their work lives, although their career choices are clearly constrained. They are not victims to be saved or criminals to be punished. Most of the female sex workers interviewed were keen to assert that they are the “dutiful daughters” repaying the debt of gratitude that they owe to their parents, the “income generators” taking care of themselves and their extended families, and the “dreamers” beginning to realize their hopes for a better future. Finally, the Cambodian sex worker narratives indicate that the trafficking moniker needs critical rethinking. How can the voices of sex workers actually enter the debate when they are all falsely characterized as poor, helpless, and dependent “sex slaves”?
Even though working conditions are often deplorable and economic exploitation is common, many Cambodian sex workers agree to enter into debt bondage because of economic necessity. Some desire assistance leaving the industry but they do not all want to be “saved.” Many would prefer instead effective policies to counter labour exploitation, create safer working conditions, and uphold sex workers’ human rights.
The author builds to a central hypothesis that abolition of the sex trade in Cambodia is not a pragmatic strategy nor is it in line with the daily lives and realities of sex workers themselves. What sex workers really need is greater control of their lives and their labour. This clear and cogent argument could be applied to every country in which I have worked.
Michael L. Rekart, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
LIVING WITH RISK: Precarity & Bangkok’s Urban Poor. Kyoto CSEAS Series on Asian Studies, 10. By Tamaki Endo. Singapore: NUS Press; Kyoto: Kyoto University Press, 2014. xiv, 333 pp. (Figures, tables, photos.) US$32.00, paper. ISBN 978-9971-69-782-2.
This book focuses on the informal economy of Bangkok with respect to upward mobility and management of risk, which disproportionately affects the urban poor. The central argument is that risk response is a useful lens through which to understand the life-course of individuals and class stratification in low-income communities. A reworking and translation of the author’s Ph.D. dissertation and a subsequent previous edition published in Japanese in 2011, the monograph describes and analyzes two case studies in depth but also provides copious contextual information and a theoretical framework. The first case study is of women who became self-employed after losing factory jobs in the late 1990s and the second is of a community displaced by a devastating fire, which took place during author Tamaki Endo’s doctoral studies. Fieldwork for Endo’s dissertation was completed from 2003 to 2006 and she includes a thorough literature review drawing from Japanese, English, and Thai sources. The book is organized into 10 chapters, plus an introduction and includes numerous colour photos, maps, diagrams, and statistical tables.
This work is a useful contribution to a number of fields including development economics, urban geography and sociology, urban planning, policy studies and anyone with an interest in the “informal sector.” The focus on risk analysis and management adds significant value to the literature in this area and the author makes several recommendations not only for further research but for policy makers as well. The fact that Endo draws upon literature produced in three languages is extremely useful for those who do not read Thai or Japanese and her use of multiple qualitative and quantitative data sources including statistics, maps, structured and informal interviews and surveys makes it a robust analytical resource. She has also made what is a fairly long and complex text easy to navigate by including a list of abbreviations, clarifications on Thai terminology and measurements, as well as an index.
From a theoretical perspective, the author not only has a strong grasp of the classic literature related to Asian urbanization and the informal sector but also gives due credit to the work being done in the areas of gender relations and globalization and effectively bridges high-level concepts to the vast empirical corpus she has put forward. She also brings together the often disparate approaches of focusing on the micro versus macro levels. This is difficult to do successfully.
A few sections of the book that I found particularly compelling were entitled “People I have met in the field,” where the rhetorical style becomes far more personalized and the texture of the author’s experience in Bangkok comes to life. There are four of these entries all dealing with different topics ranging from the fluidity of gender identification in Thailand in an entry entitled “Is this Person a He or a She” on page 101, through living as a community hairdresser to the aspirations of university students.
Policy analysts and policy makers will also find this book extremely useful. Not only does the author do a great job summarizing academic literature, but she also synthesizes policy-related literature from international, regional, national, and Bangkok-based organizations (for example, the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation and Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific as well as the Thai National Economic and Social Development Board and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration). In chapter 2, she summarizes the important policy moments and draws out the mismatch between policy goals and intent and what exactly emerged as a result on the ground.
My only constructive criticism is the fact that the text is somewhat dry and sometimes loses the attention of the reader. This may be related to the fact that this is a translation and English is not the author’s mother tongue. In addition, I would have appreciated more sections such as “People I have met in the field,” as described above, in order to draw in the reader. Fortunately, the case studies also provide the kind of texture needed to engage the reader in what is, at times, a very heavy and abstract text. There are also some small stylistic issues that might have drawn in the reader more effectively, such as providing false names for some of the individuals profiled in the two case studies rather than simply using initials. This would have made it easier to follow the life courses of the individuals studied as it’s hard to remember and understand someone referred to as “K.”
Overall, in terms of the quality of the literature review, theoretical and empirical analysis and presentation, I highly recommend this book and am very impressed with the breadth and depth of knowledge demonstrated by the author. Tamaki Endo is obviously deserving of the 28th Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize for the 2012 Japanese edition and 6th Iue Asia Pacific Research Prize for her Ph.D. dissertation in 2007.
Gisèle Yasmeen, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
This book originates with a 2013 conference on Myanmar at Johns Hopkins University. It is timely as that country had a national election in November 2015. The book comprises fourteen chapters arranged in three sections: the Political Realm, Issues of Socioeconomic Development, and Myanmar International Relations. David Steinberg, editor and contributor, notes that the volume will be of interest to those who follow Myanmar’s policy affairs. Excellent chapters provide historical reviews and current analyses, and are generally upbeat about Myanmar’s prospects. The contributors acknowledge that remarkable changes have taken place in Myanmar since the pivotal November 2010 national election. Flawed as that vote may have been, it triggered a new political and international reality, as gradual liberalization and freedom of political expression launched the restoration of the nations’ once esteemed (and wealthy) reputation in Asia.
Steinberg’s introduction reviews Myanmar political events, ethnic, political, and economic issues, and recent foreign policy initiatives that have moved the country into a more respected international space. Andrew Selth provides a chapter with an unambiguous title: “Myanmar’s Coercive Apparatus: the Long Road to Reform,” focusing on the intelligence community, police, and armed forces (Tatmadaw), all “feared institutions” facing reforms. The armed forces are “an autonomous institution not subject to civilian control” (15), the “internal workings” of the Tatmadaw simply unobtainable, and an officer cadre sees themselves as patriots charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the 2008 constitution of their making. This, along with the “opaque” thirteen-member National Defence and Security Council under the military commander-in-chief (General Min Aung Hlaing), guarantees the armed forces’ ultimate control of the nation’s destiny (75).
The 2015 elections seriously tested this sense of Tatmadaw privilege, though the armed forces retain control of several key ministries, and have substantial economic independence. Renaud Egreteau’s “Emerging Patterns of Parliamentary Politics” provides a rare glimpse of Hluttaw representatives, pointing out that despite their inexperience as lawmakers, they are responsible and keen participants in the new challenge of policy making. Elliott Prasse-Freeman analyses “Conceptions of Justice and the Rule of Law,” noting that “Anglo-American” notions of these ideals are not necessarily relevant to the Myanmar context (98). While “Rule of Law” has a certain universal application with reference to human rights, this phrase needs clarification in its current Burmese context, especially by Aung San Suu Kyi. In “Buddhism, Politics and Political Change,” Matthew Walton contends religion continues to be “the source of the conceptual framework within which most Buddhists in Myanmar think about politics” (115), identifying inhibiting factors in the traditional Buddhist worldview, such as nationalism and reinforcement of gender and status hierarchies, and concluding that “with a vocal Buddhist majority, the government has to be very cautious and restrained in its response to these trends” (117).
Chapter 7, on “Ethnic Politics in a Time of Change” (Martin Smith), provides a synopsis of ethnic political parties, ceasefire groups, and alliances. They seek “firm political commitment to the 1947 Panglong Agreement” that was drawn up at independence, but never implemented by subsequent governments (144). Especially important are attempts to honour ceasefire commitments between the government and a shifting, complex range of ethnic militias, some powerful enough to resist defeat. Ethnic representatives are aware that compliance with current ceasefire agreements drawn up by the government would signify acceptance of the 2008 constitution. In “Governance and Political Legitimacy in the Peace Process,” Ashley South furthers the discussion of armed ethnic groups, who still see the Tatmadaw as “a predatory and violent intruder” (159).
Lex Rieffel reviews planning challenges in agriculture, resource extraction, human resource development, foreign aid, and macroeconomic management. Myanmar’s economic backwardness is reflected by the reality that it has no major highway or rail connection with any of its five neighbours. Especially crucial is the nation’s lack of achievement in the human resources sector, evident in the “dearth of professional level expertise,” and, importantly, in the fact that apart from Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar personalities “of the likes of U Nu and U Thant do not exist” (206). Tin Maung Maung Than and Moe Thuzar’s chapter on “Economic Reforms: Expectations and Realities” describes how the banking and resource mobilization infrastructure is being built from scratch, and reflects on the paralytic impact of international sanctions imposed in 1990, which also crucially limited “the flow of new ideas … that have become international standards” (219).
In “Land Rights and Land Tenure,” Christina Fink reviews events leading up to the present legislation which grants landholders the right to sell, exchange, inherit, and lease farmland, although constitutionally the state is the ultimate owner of all lands and their natural resources. Land conflicts remain at the heart of development challenges, an especially acute topic in the forested and resource-rich uplands. In a twelfth chapter, “China and Myanmar: Moving Beyond Mutual Dependence,” Yun Sun argues that Myanmar is one of the rare cases where China’s diplomatic policy has encountered major setbacks (e.g., cancellation of the vast Myitzone hydro project in 2012). China is committed to an oil/gas pipeline that by traversing the country gives Myanmar some leverage, but Beijing still “remains capable of inflicting vital damage to Myanmar” (279). Jürgen Haacke reflects on international affairs in “US-Myanmar Relations,” highlighting the issues where the two governments “are not in sync” (289). Haacke reflects on Aung San Suu Kyi’s influence on US aims for bilateral reengagement, and discusses successful visits to the US of Myanmar political luminaries in 2013. But there are matters on which Myanmar has not compromised, notably reform of the “deeply flawed” 2008 constitution, and ongoing ethnic nationalism.
David Steinberg concludes by observing that we should watch for new institutions and leaders as Myanmar absorbs the impact of so many reforms, but that “sensitivities to Burmese history and national sentiment will remain the critical backdrop in any program or activity” (329). In all of this, “a sense of cautious optimism is not amiss” (331).
Bruce Matthews, Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada
CIVILIAN STRATEGY IN CIVIL WAR: Insights from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Politics, Economics, and Inclusive Development. By Shane Joshua Barter. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. xii, 245 pp. (Tables, Figures.) US$100.00. ISBN 978-1-137-40298-1.
The public perception of civilians in civil wars is, commonly, that they are passive victims. The proportion of civilian as opposed to combatant casualties tends to confirm this general understanding. Yet as Shane Barter points out in Civilian Strategy in Civil War, civilians are not always or even often passive in the face of civil war, but have active responses to the environment that confronts them.
Barter seeks to explore civilian responses to civil wars by examining three case studies: Indonesia’s Aceh province, Pattani/Patani in southern Thailand and Mindanao in the Philippines. Within the context of these case studies, he puts forth a categorization for civilian responses to civil war that can be broadly grouped into three, sometimes overlapping, categories. They are that civilians may flee civil war, they may speak out about it, or they may support one or other of the combatants.
Although not stated explicitly, each of these categories can be understood to exist on a sliding scale, from little activity to high activity. One category not addressed by the author, however, is that point at which “civilian support” actually morphs into, and back from, active participation in aspects of the conflict.
A case study of Timor-Leste shows that the underground resistance appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be comprised of civilians, but who in fact were actually members of the “Clandestine Front,” as part of the formal FALINTIL command structure. So too in Aceh, where the number of formal Free Aceh Movement combatants was stated in the Helsinki peace talks as only those in formed, mobile units but who, after the peace agreement was signed, were identified as including “civilians,” expanding GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka)forces by perhaps 300 percent.
In one sense, the set of categories identified is fairly obvious, as anyone who has experienced such conflict will have experienced one or more of the identified responses. Yet because most people, at least among the audience this book is aimed at, have not experienced such war first hand, they might not be aware of these almost instinctive responses.
From the beginning of the book the author has experience in the three research sites, each located in Southeast Asia and within Muslim communities. This is a useful case study, but would need to be recalibrated if the lessons drawn here are to be applied elsewhere.
It is also worth noting that, while this is a fairly comprehensive account of civilian responses to conflict, it is structured and reads like a PhD thesis, from which it appears to be drawn. Like some PhD theses, it over-reaches a little in the introduction, saying that its approach “promises to lead to new understandings.” Perhaps “contribute” to new understandings might have been more appropriate.
The author acknowledges that his main experience is in Aceh, Indonesia, which, since 2005, has not been the site of civil war. As the author notes, Patani and Mindanao are more difficult sites for research, because of the continuing conflict. He also notes this as being a reason why so little work has been done on the subject, including limitations upon his own research.
The potted histories of each of the conflicts provide some of the most interesting and readable parts of the book. They are succinct and largely accurate accounts. However, like all histories that involve conflict, aspects of the accounts presented are contested. Barter relies heavily on Aspinall’s understanding of the Aceh conflict which, while academically respected, is not agreed on by many Acehnese. Similarly, he suggests that there was a lack of continuity in Aceh’s separatist movement, a view that has been rejected by former GAM members themselves.
Barter also argues that the proportion of the Indonesian army that were ethnic Acehnese was higher than for other regions in Indonesia. This reflects a lack of understanding of the territorial organization of the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) and the establishment of the regional Acehnese command (Kodam), Iskandar Muda, named after the former Acehnese sultan and, in theory, being entirely comprised of Acehnese (it was not). So, too, the TNI used such a tactic in Timor-Leste, where they recruited Battalions 744 and 745 from the local community, as well as for proxy militias.
In relation to “ethnic cleansing” (52), Barter appears not to acknowledge that, as noted above, “civilians” can segue into combatants and that ethnic minorities in Aceh were regularly recruited into TNI proxy militias.
One other surprising observation of the author, taken from a secondary source, was that “secessionism is not part of the MILF vocabulary” (165). This is factually incorrect, given that the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) was formed in 1977 with the explicit intention of forming a separate Islamic state.
While no such study can be entirely comprehensive, it is also odd that there is no mention of the communist insurgency in Mindanao. Focusing on civil wars involving Islamic groups is topical and coherent, but seems geographically inconsistent.
In all, however, this is an interesting book and a useful resource for those wishing to understand why civilians in conflict zones do not always, or often, conform to stereotypical patterns of behaviour. Civilians always exercise some degree of agency, if sometimes within constrained parameters, and their responses reveal much about the nature of the conflicts in which they are engaged.
Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
INDONESIA’S CHANGING POLITICAL ECONOMY: Governing the Roads. By Jamie S. Davidson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xvii, 292 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-08688-3.
It is no secret among researchers who have followed Indonesia’s development since independence that the growth of the physical infrastructure has been insufficient to meet the demand of a modernizing state. Today, it is the most populated country in the region of ASEAN, with almost 50 percent of its population concentrated on the island of Java. This book focuses on the development of toll roads in the post-Soeharto administrations (1998–2014) that were heavily influenced by the belief that Indonesia was falling behind other Asian countries in the provision of physical infrastructure that was integral to development. It is a richly detailed account which describes the efforts to extend the toll road network of Java in this period, focusing on the construction of the 620-kilometre toll road connecting the two major urban centres of Jakarta and Surabaya at opposite ends of the island of Java.
In order to accomplish this task the author begins the book with a review of the conceptual concerns and debates that focus on the central question animating the book. “Under conditions of considerable uncertainty—political, economic and the like—how does a weakened democratic government with a checkered past of enforcing property rights and contracts establish a regulatory framework to promote private sector investment in infrastructure?”(8).
In addressing this question, he disagrees with the World Bank view that upgrading infrastructure is primarily a technical matter that can be fixed by political decisions establishing laws and institutions that can regulate the sector to prevent market failure. As an alternative, more effective strategy, he suggests a political sociology approach that takes into account government-business relations and variations in rent-seeking incomes, and extra-parliamentary rulemaking, particularly in the application of eminent domain rules that have been used in the acquisition of land for toll roads in Java. There is ample evidence in the chapters that follow that these elements have played a major role in the efforts to develop toll roads, particularly the power relations between the various stakeholders, government, private and civil society who are involved.
The book adopts a chronological approach, analyzing how various administrations have attempted to deal with the challenge of creating both inter- and intra-urban toll road systems in Java. Chapter 1 traces the antecedents of the toll-road system during the Soeharto administration, and shows how members of the Soeharto family and “connected native (pribumi) contractors” (17) benefitted from privileged access to concessions to the toll roads being developed in the Jakarta urban region before 1998. This was one issue that fuelled the growing popular resentment against the Soeharto regime as the fiscal crisis of 1997–1998 began to unfold. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 focus mainly on the first and second Yudhoyono administrations (2005–2014) dealing with the efforts to strengthen the law of eminent domain in 2005 and modified in 2006 and 2012 that continue to present problems until today. The two remaining chapters, 5 and 6, deal with issues of the role of ownership in the building of the Trans-Java mega project which was illustrated by rent -seeking activities of two of the largest and most powerful stakeholders at the time, Vice President Jusuf Kalla and businessman Aburizal Bakrie, who delayed construction of the tollway. The final chapter and perhaps the most interesting to me discusses the impact of the toll road construction at the local level and shows how the processes of political decentralization had created ambiguities over governance of the process at the national, provincial, and local level and opened up space for civil society negotiation in such matters as land compensation, routing of the tollway, and in particular access to land for industrial, commercial, and residential use. The conclusion summarizes the findings and the policy implications for mega-transportation projects for both Indonesia and other developing countries.
This rather cursory summary does not do justice to the study, which is rich in detailed examples and exhibits a wide-ranging grasp of the Indonesian and international literature dealing with the themes of the book as well as incorporating extensive interviews with key actors in the mega-project both within Indonesia and abroad. There are some issues that could have been introduced that would have strengthened the study. First, there is very little consideration given to the issue of the choice between transportation modes in overall strategies for improving transportation connectivity—for example, in the mix of rail, road, and air transportation development, particularly at the urban, inter-urban, regional, and local level. Why roads? Why not develop a Shinkansen (fast rail system, as in Japan) from Jakarta to Surabaya? Second, the author is remarkably circumspect in the discussion of the role of “corruption” as part of “rent seeking” in the problems surrounding the construction of mega-projects in Indonesia. Rent seeking is a very soft word that is accepted as a perfectly legitimate practice in a market economy. But when rent seeking involves privileged and unequal access to rewards provided by unequal access to the granting process, this is corruption which is enriching elites and enshrining poverty. Finally, the study does not pay enough attention to the important issue of the rapid urbanization of the population of Java centred around the mega-urban regions of Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya, and the island’s growing secondary cities. Increasingly, intra-mega-urban-region transportation will become one element of the wider expansion of inter-urbanized corridors such as the Trans-Java toll road project.
This is a valuable study that provides important evidence of the need to develop broader conceptual understandings of the processes of transportation development, understandings which will require a critical evaluation of some of the hegemonic approaches that have been developed, such as the approaches to transportation schemes advocated by the World Bank. Once again the island of Java, this intensely populated vibrant island, has provided a case study that is an important contribution to our understanding of the complexities of developing transportation systems in developing counties.
T.G. McGee, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
LAND’S END: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier. By Tania Murray Li. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014. xi, 225 pp. (Illustrations, maps, tables.) US$84.95, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8223-5694-3; US$23.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8223-5705-6.
Land’s End is a very fine book indeed. Tania Murray Li has written one of those studies—all too few in number—which, while empirically focused, builds an argument that will resonate with scholars working across widely differing contexts. She shows, through the lives of the indigenous Lauje highlanders of central Sulawesi, how market integration has reworked individual lives and wider society. The transformations that Li describes are usually problematic, often unsettling, and sometimes profoundly destructive. These, of course, will not be surprising conclusions to most critical scholars of development or agrarian change, wherever they happen to work. But while the broad conclusions may be familiar, how they are reached and Li’s interpretation of their origin, trajectory, and articulation is novel.
Li first visited the Lauje in 1990. Before she ventured into the highlands, lowlanders and government officials told her that the forests of the area were dense and the local people backward, lazy, and inhospitable. They tried to convince Li to stay away and, presumably, find some other subjects who would be more amenable to study. In good anthropological tradition, she chose to ignore their well-meant advice.
At a general level Li’s story, which stretches from this first visit in 1990 to 2009, and covering numerous returns, is one of dispossession, deepening inequality and polarization, and growing vulnerability. It is also one, puzzlingly, where the thirst for modernization among the affected people remained undimmed even while their subsistence security was progressively undermined. Far from being adverse to money and modernization, local people thirsted for such things. The Lauje, instead of seeking some alternative path to development, were avidly searching for alternative ways to enter the mainstream. The fact that so many were thwarted in these efforts is the tragedy that lies at the centre of Li’s account.
The opportunity to enter the mainstream came in the guise of cacao. The trouble was that it proved a productive route for only a subset of the Lauje, although this was not clear at the outset. Capitalist relations appeared in the highlands, as Li says, by stealth:
No rapacious agribusiness corporation grabbed land from highlanders or obliged them to plant cacao. No government department evicted them. Nor was there a misguided development scheme that disrupted their old ways of life. … Nor did [the highlanders] fit the role of victim, a central figure in the campaigns of many social movements and humanitarian organizations. There was no apocalypse, no famine, no natural disaster, no eviction, no dramatic event, and no villain to blame. Nor was there an obvious way out. (9, 16)
Until the expansion of cacao from the 1990s, land in the area was abundant and communally owned. The Lauje didn’t even have a word for land. By the time Li returned the word lokasi, appropriated from the English via Indonesian, was in widespread use. It signaled a profound change in the organization of society and the source of people’s living. Cacao meant that land, for the first time, was owned, and could be exchanged, sold, and inherited. It set the groundwork, quite literally, for new forms of social stratification. This privatization of land was not uncontested; who could plant ulat (secondary forest) to cacao and therefore lay permanent claim to that land was debated and struggled over. Those who could “prove” their genealogical rights were able to accumulate land at the expense of those who could not. The surprise is that this did not elicit much violence, or even a great deal of dissension.
By 2009, this process had created classes of land rich, land poor, and landless in the highlands, a situation that would have been “unthinkable” in 1990 (115). In 1990, Li writes, “one person’s prosperity was not gained, indeed could not be gained, at another’s expense” (152). At the same time as access to land became increasingly unequal, the traditional non-commoditized relations and interdependencies that used to see people through difficult times were gradually eroded, squeezing the poor from both ends of the subsistence equation. Surprisingly, however, few Lauje reflected back sentimentally on this preceding moral economy; there was little nostalgia and little recourse to discourses of morality. This refusal to romanticize the past was, perhaps, because people still told stories of extended periods of drought and struggles to survive. With traditional inter-household relations on the wane, class relations took their place, between the land-gaining and the land-losing classes. Wage labour increasingly linked the two.
The extension of roads into the highlands extended and intensified the inequality-deepening effects of cacao. Roads also permitted lowlanders easier access into the highlands. But even those who had lost their land through dispossession and then lost their work as porters because of the roads, could see the value of these connective threads. Without roads, how would their children gain access to the schools and education that would permit their engagement with the modern economy and wider Indonesia? While many Lauje may have been stuck in the highlands because their Indonesian language skills (or lack thereof) made it hard for them to move, this didn’t stop lowlanders and lowland tendencies from infiltrating the uplands.
By the close of Li’s book, which is as much a history as an ethnography, the impoverished Lauje have become a class without land, without work, and a class that cannot easily move. Some of them were, quite literally, dying before their time. “Shorn of teleological assumptions and optimistic win-win scenarios, land’s end,” for Li, “is a profoundly disturbing place” (173).
The wider point, which Land’s End so convincingly and evocatively captures, is that economic growth alone is not enough, even miracle growth. Those working on and in development, and especially those who believe that a rising tide will lift all boats, really do need to read this book.
Jonathan Rigg, National University of Singapore, Singapore
CARS, CONDUITS, AND KAMPONGS: The Modernization of the Indonesian City, 1920-1960. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, v. 295. Edited by Freek Colombijn, Joost Coté. Leiden: Brill, 2015. xiv, 351 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$148.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-28069-4.
Cars, Conduits, and Kampongs is an important addition to the literature linking colonial institutions to the shaping of post-colonial urban places in Indonesia. It derives (mostly) from a 2006 conference in Leiden entitled “The Decolonization of the Indonesian city in (Asian and African) comparative perspective.” As the editors put it, the collection “deals with people, technologies, and above all place … [in] a growing research interest … broadly referred to as ‘colonial modernity’” (1). Many selections draw upon excellent new research by emerging Indonesian scholars. Recognized topics such as kampong (village) formation and reform, public housing and the development of European residential enclaves, provision of water, sanitary, and transportation infrastructure, and the town planning movement are all given fresh treatments. The evolution of state health care, the unique case of Malang with its two traditional town squares (alun-alun) and a brief but compelling essay on the challenges facing Chinese cemeteries in Surabaya in the 1950s add new spatial and institutional themes.
A key promise of Indonesia’s modernization was addressing needed improvements in the indigenous urban communities. The volume devotes five chapters to this topic, including a comparative assessment of two notable colonial urban leaders, the European Johannes J.G.E. Ruckert, in Semarang, and the moderate Indonesian nationalist, Husni Thamrin, a member of Batavia’s local legislature. As Versnel and Colombijn show, both were central figures in a slow-moving reform movement aimed at addressing the multiple maladies of kampongs. Their tireless advocacy kept kampong concerns on their respective local governmental agendas.
In Yogjakarta (as in several Indonesian cities), the discourse between indigenous settlements and modernization of the city produced another response. The planned exclusive garden city of Kotabaru in Yogjakarta responded to European fears of having to live among the indigenous, what author Fakih refers to as a European “bulwark against indigenization” (152). Following independence, Kotabaru shifted from European to middle-class Indonesian occupancy although some areas descended into a depressed condition. Nonetheless, Fakih contends that Indonesians evidenced agency throughout Kotabaru’s transition from separateness to becoming part of the city.
Another response to the kampong problem was the public housing movement in Semarang in the late colonial period. Wijono depicts this as a success story since the housing built was favoured by the residents who could afford them. It served indigenous peoples with a modern alternative to the kampong. Esteemed Dutch architect/planner Thomas Karsten designed them. Failure in the kampong improvement initiative is the theme in Reerink’s case study of Bandung. Bandung’s problem, like in other large cities, was that kampongs resided outside of the control of municipal government. Given the scale (and cost) of the intervention, Bandung’s leadership opted to ignore kampong problems. The post-colonial period brought kampongs into the city but the massive population in-migration elevated the kampong problem beyond local capacity. Only later, and beyond the period covered by Reerink, did the nationally orchestrated kampong improvement program bring some relief.
Two unique cases, the oil refinery town of Plaju (outside Palembang) and the Uniekampong built adjacent to the Batavia’s Tanjung Priok harbour, introduced modern housing to local workers in the 1930s. In Plaju, this occurred long before the private oil company and its spaces were nationalized under Pertamina, the Indonesian oil conglomerate. The author Tanjung shows that the Indonesianization of the community progressed slowly. Residents resisted being absorbed into the larger Palembang community. In the case of Uniekampong, the intent was to ensure a more stable maritime labour force by providing a higher quality of housing than would have been available without company intervention.
Servicing kampongs was less successful. In the provision of clean water to Jakartans, Kooy and Bakker show that there were differentials in service delivery tied to race and class distinctions in the colonial era, a practice that carried over to the modern era. The processes of infrastructure modernization involving transportation in Surabaya also reflected spatial and social fragmentation given the differing modes of enhancing mobility across the classes. Nonetheless, as Khusyairi and Colombijn argue, the impacts were widely experienced. As they note, lower income people “had fewer opportunities to use modern means of transportation than rich people, but this did not prevent them increasing their mobility and pace of life by recourse to the new means of transportation” (269).
Coordinating modernization at the city scale was the intent of the emerging town planning movement, a process prompted by enhanced local responsibility following the 1905 decentralization act. Roosmalen traces the emerging planning movement from the turn of the century through the drafting of a Town Planning Ordinance in 1938 and its expanded version enacted in 1948, when the Dutch regained temporary control in Indonesia. As Roosmalen notes, “the enactment of the Town Planning Ordinance in 1948 underscores the continuity in town planning practice before and after Indonesian independence” (116).
Providing sufficient health care services to Indonesia’s burgeoning urban populations was another challenge of modernization. Murakami describes the diverging circumstances of medical personnel between the late colonial and early national periods. The new Indonesian state took on responsibility for determining how many health providers were needed and where they would practice. This newly legalized system in 1951 resulted in fewer care providers than before the regulated process.
Basundoro’s fascinating examination of Malang’s two alun-alun offers a cogent case of Indonesian resistance to the power expressed symbolically by Dutch appropriation (and then by the Japanese occupiers) of the traditional core of town life. Here the culturally sensitive Karsten is seen in his role as a colonial planner aiding in creating a place that engendered decades of resistance by the indigenous population, a place where the struggle for independence was conducted in everyday rituals.
The editors’ introductory essay skillfully weaves the observations of its contributors into a compelling critique of conventional interpretation of modernization in Indonesia. But it is much more than just a précis of the enclosed essays. They fashion a collective meaning to the individual contributions, and in the process tease out unifying themes such as the search for order, the various meanings of progress, differing modes of state intervention, the effects of modernization on urban spatial changes and on race and culture, and how colonial institutions weathered the stormy interlude of Japanese occupation between the colonial and post-colonial. The collection, considered as a whole, supports the notion that “integration of imported technical innovation [owing to modernization] often called forth novel social or organizational changes” (2). It is not modernization emanating from its colonial roots per se, but rather the agency of the Indonesians to harness modernization processes in the post-colonial world, that is celebrated in this very important work. This collection will undoubtedly inspire fresh new research on the colonial/post-colonial nexus.
Christopher Silver, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA
Kathleen Gleeson’s book Australia’s ‘War on Terror’ Discourse is a timely reminder of a very recent past. Since 9/11 and the beginning of the “war on terror” discourse, terrorism has become a highly charged national security issue that the Howard government, and now the Abbott government, have tended to over-inflate when political popularity begins to falter.
As a result, government focus on terrorism in Australia and the associated domestic and international responses to it have become disproportionate when compared to the attention given to other serious crimes. Australians are arguably more likely to be a casualty of drug or alcohol-related crime or domestic violence than being the victim of a terrorist act. Even so, Prime Minister Abbott has made terrorism, particularly Islamic State-inspired acts, the number one national security concern—even though there is very little empirical evidence in Australia to justify his concern.
But domestic policies are not the only aspect of countering terrorism commonly exploited by politicians to maintain popularity—their unswerving support for the global war on terror is equally capitalized on. Just as Howard showed his undivided support for President Bush’s “war on terror” in Afghanistan following 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Abbott government is about to send more troops back to Iraq to support President Obama’s US-led military action against the so-called Islamic State. This despite the endemic failures from military efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, which has become evident with the recent re-emergence of terrorism and militancy in both countries.
For the reader seeking to unravel how Australia has come to this unfounded or even counter-productive position, Gleeson provides an extremely constructive and empirically grounded explanation. Her book fills a significant void in the current literature about how the language used by Howard and his ministers shaped and continues to shape foreign policy and domestic national security in Australia. By placing terrorism at the top of the national security agenda and by relating it to “war” following 9/11, the Howard government set the scene for Australia’s response mechanisms to be over-reactive and perhaps counter-productive.
Gleeson skilfully conveys how Howard used “deep cultural grammar” that resonated well with the broader Australian community to maintain his popularity. However, this discourse became, as Gleeson posits, “dangerous in character, encouraging violence, exclusion, and fear and arguably not decreasing the incidence of terrorism” (3). Based on her analysis, I would argue that the Howard government’s hardline national security policies towards terrorism have been detrimental to social harmony and community relations, with some of Australia’s minority groups now feeling more alienated than ever.
Gleeson also highlights how Howard was able to cover up his immense spending on national security, including his contribution to the war in Iraq, by appealing to the broader cross-section of the Australian community’s core values of democracy, freedom, and justice. She describes Howard’s “tower of threat” posed by Iraq, which involved building a sense of threat by making the war more relevant to Australians with the goal of improving his chances of garnering further public support. But did our participation in Iraq make us safer? The answer is: probably not.
Gleeson cleverly shows how Australia’s “war on terror” discourse has hindered progress towards countering terrorism by branding the problem as “war,” which strongly implies that the terrorism problem requires a traditional military response. The ideological filter encased within the “war” metaphor is “militarism,” which sees the use of force as an appropriate means to solving problems. Gleeson establishes several key points: that metaphors play a central role in the construction of, and reaction to, social and political problems; they organize our thoughts, shape our discourse, and clarify our values; they can also increase the motivation for a particular action or remove inhibitions; and they legitimize particular policies by lending them force.
There is no doubt that the challenges posed by terrorism have tested the policing capacities of many countries and have threatened to expand the military influence into domestic law enforcement. Post-9/11 developments have manifested profound shifts in police and military roles. As a result of Howard’s posturing, counter-terrorism measures have seen law enforcement increasingly integrated into national security and military forces taking on law enforcement tasks as the lines between policing and military activities have become blurred.
Following the most recent siege hostage incident in Sydney on December 16, 2014, there has been considerable conjecture among politicians and community members alike about whether the military should have been called upon to resolve the siege more quickly. While Gleeson’s book was published before this incident, Howard’s “war on terror” discourse may be to blame for those considering a military response to such an incident, even though the police are clearly the most appropriate domestic response mechanism.
For scholars examining the causes of radicalization in Australia or those simply interested in the effects of certain narratives in national security policy making, Gleeson’s book is a must read. It should be equally appealing to those thinking about Australia’s current government politicking on terrorism because the further one reads Gleeson’s examination of Howard’s stance on national security and terrorism the more one sees history repeating itself. Gleeson thus provides a stark reminder that Australian policies to address terrorism need to change and the use of counter-productive language must end if we are going to truly defeat the threat—and not by war or military means.
Clarke Jones, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Writing this review in June 2015 feels a little eerie, as Australia is currently receiving a drubbing from other nations at the Bonn Climate Change Conference for its recalcitrance. Kofi Annan last week called it a “free rider,” and Angela Merkel is pushing hard for commitment to a carbon-free international economy by 2100, while Australia continues to issue mining licenses for ever more open-cut coalmines and natural gas fracking projects.
But only a few short years ago Australia was seen as a courageous trailblazer, introducing a carbon price mechanism and subsidizing the development of sustainable energy resources. What has happened? A change of federal and some state governments has seen a major ideological shift that has reversed these approaches, with the reversal proudly claimed as a victory. Which emphasizes that the future of the planet is too important to leave in the hands of politicians, who are driven primarily by their perception of electoral advantage, and hardly, if at all, by ecological concerns.
The many scientists who authored this seminal book examine the profound social, ecological, and economic implications a hotter world will have for Australia. The introduction explains what “four degrees” means. It comes, indirectly, from the UN Climate Conference held in Copenhagen in December 2009. Though international politics overwhelmingly triumphed over science there also, it was finally agreed to set a non-binding limit on global warming of 2°C above pre-industrial levels (my emphasis). This was what scientists agreed was “the highest level that could be endured before the risks of dangerous climatic change, including abrupt and catastrophic climate shifts, became too high” (4). The 2°C figure has consistently been misunderstood, and misquoted by the media to imply that it is 2°C above current levels. Since global temperature had already risen 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels when this book was being written a couple of years ago, what they should actually be talking of is at most 1°C from current levels.
Worse, the book points out that 2°C was always a wistful dream, as the “aggregate reduction pledged [by the signatories at Copenhagen] would make achieving the … global reductions necessary to keep below 2°C impossible” (5). Current global trajectories predict an actual 4°C increase over pre-industrial levels by or even before 2100. It already seems so inevitable as to become the de facto goal—and we are already a quarter of the way there.
The book is divided into 14 chapters: an introduction, four parts, and conclusion. The introduction and part 1 provide global historical context, survey Australia’s climate since records began, and foreshadow what may be expected in a “4° world.” Already evident terrestrial effects of warming are changes in extreme weather events, with severe flooding, record high temperatures, and frequency of wildfires, all shown to have increased significantly over the past decade.
Part 2 deals with ecological impacts, with chapters on terrestrial biodiversity, marine resources, and agricultural impacts. I found the second of these (“Australia’s marine resources in a warm, acid ocean”) perhaps the most unsettling chapter in the book, especially given that Australia has sovereign rights over a marine area of 16 million km2—almost twice its land area (84). Here, as on land, the impact of global warming is cumulative with other human impacts (fertilizers draining into the sea, mangrove clearing, etc.). The authors conclude that “[t]here is little evidence to suggest that marine resources are robust enough to resist current and projected climate-change driven environmental changes…[and] effective adaptation to these challenges is likely to be impossible given how extensive, and how expensive, the required interventions would most likely have to be” (96).
Part 3 concerns social and economic impacts. It looks at the limits to human adaptation, health impacts, and planning for urban impacts. Most disturbing here is chapter 11, “No island is an island: security in a four degree world.” We are already seeing unprecedented population movement globally because of war and poverty. When that is exacerbated by coastal storm surges and inundation, food and water shortages, disease, and the depletion or destruction of support ecosystems, the human misery and security issues can hardly be imagined.
Part 4 is optimistically called “Adaptation,” but the key chapter (chapter 13), “Can we successfully adapt to four degrees of global warming,” admits that “we do not yet know if we can … (be) successful” (216). Three storylines developed to try and visualize living in a world with a changed climate, would require altruistic political and social evolution to occur in a manner and at a pace that is nowhere indicated in Australia today.
Similarly, the conclusion sets out a range of principles and guidelines that it perfectly reasonably argues must be a “wake-up call to Australia’s policy-makers.” Sadly, virtually none of the evidence to date from Australia’s political leadership suggests that they would take the trouble to read this book, or that if they did, they would have the wit or the will to heed its messages or follow its suggestions. The editor warns that “whether we like it or not, things will change … The positive outcomes of exemplary action are never certain, but they are a vast improvement on the consequences of a powerful nation acting as a laggard” (255). Kofi Annan, and many others in the world today, clearly see Australia as that laggard.
Inevitably in a careful analysis such as this, most chapters are heavy on statistical data, charts, and tables that are difficult for the lay reader to fully understand. However, every chapter is written in pleasingly accessible language, spells out simply the analysis of the data, and has a conclusion. So it is perfectly possible for an intelligent lay reader to get a great deal from this book—as it turns out, probably a lot more than they would prefer, given the bleak message it contains. If only our politicians would read it!
Roderick Ewins, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
PACIFIC FUTURES: Projects, Politics and Interests. Pacific Perspectives, v. 2. Edited by Will Rollason. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014. vi, 248 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-78238-350-5.
In focussing on Pacific Futures, the ten authors of this edited volume intend to break with recurrent tropes in the regional scholarship. Their main collective contribution is in convincing the reader of the analytical limits of explanations based on essentialist culture or tradition that tend to locate Pacific peoples in the past, or in teleological discourses of development and modernity, which merely reflect the Euro-American present. For the editor, Rollason, present-day activities must be understood from “a perspective rooted in the aspirations or projects of Pacific people” (1). The essays that follow present a range of possibilities for envisaging the future, methodologically and ethnographically.
The first two chapters offer hope and imagination as alternatives to the explanatory limitations of cultural relativism. Illustrated with narratives collected amongst the Kewa of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Josephides understands hope as an existential human condition. Her speculative reflections on hope and imagination prove difficult to grasp in the abstract, and her essay is perhaps best read as an exploratory commentary on her ethnography, to challenge interpretations based on cultural continuity, or essentialist Melanesian personhood.
Whilst Josephides imagines hopeful horizons of “pure possibility,” Rollason unearths a sharply contrasting situation of extreme hopelessness. He reopens the case file of a historic incident, an apparent suicide by Buliga, a charismatic seer and leader of a movement reduced to a “savage cargo cult” by colonial observers. Rollason attempts to rethink Buliga’s motives for this drastic act from a postcolonial and postcultural perspective. Whilst it is impossible to know what was in Buliga’s mind when he resolved to kill himself rather than be killed, Rollason succeeds in so far as he demonstrates the limits of culturally essentialist explanations of action.
The remaining contributions present insights into Pacific projects on islanders’ own terms. One promising theme arising from the subsequent two chapters is the possibility of comprehending action as forms of creative play. Lind describes how urban migrants from Paama, Vanuatu, understand kinship as like a “game” (gem), in which inventive strategies, such as adoptions, open up “roads” (rod) for future prospective action (73). The challenges of urban living present new dilemmas and grounds for moral contestation; whilst some seek to contain their economic means through contraception, others accuse them of selfishly denying their obligation to “replace” their antecedents, and disrupting clan reproduction. Pickles shows how people deal with uncertainty in Goroka, in the Highlands of PNG, through betting on cards. For Gorokans, the right transactions made in good faith at the right moment, both within the game and in everyday life, can bring future prosperity. Everyday interactions and transactions understood as constituting “rounds” (raun) are like episodic instances of the tactical possibilities opened up by “roads.”
The two essays that follow present Christian reflections on ancestral pasts, in envisioning a successful and united future. Handman sees the “Lost Tribes” narratives of Christians in Waria Valley, PNG, who claim to originate from ancient Israelites, as aimed not at recovering an authentic past, but at the promise of a unity that can overcome denominational and ethnic conflicts, and a critical alternative to the failings of state nationalism.
Due to their ancestors’ rejection of Christianity, Ambrymese islanders in Vanuatu believe themselves cursed, and Eriksen contrasts their different projects and strategies aimed at a more prosperous future. Whilst one sought to lift the curse through Pentecostal healing and redemption, another hoped to achieve unity through a social movement that aligns ancestral kastom (traditional, or indigenous knowledge) with Christianity, to attract foreign investment in a development project.
In contrast to critiques of national and ethnic identities, Pascht shows how national elites in the Cook Islands renegotiate forms of traditional authority to legitimate political projects. Chiefly title is positively valued, and associated with well-being and the environmental management required for a secure future. Schieder also explores discourses of political elites, but these ones are associated with the endemic conflict and instability of the “coup culture” of Fiji. Schieder argues that powerful Fijians deploy and manipulate colonial categories of intra- and inter-ethnic, as well as class, identities as rhetorical devices in political struggles and rivalries.
Robinson provides the perspective of the Dread, a Rastafari movement within the Ngāti Porou tribe in New Zealand, who, like the “Lost Tribes” of PNG, see religious theologies and indigenous Māori worldviews as compatible, and promising a unified future. The Dread also see no necessary conflict in incorporating Pākehā skills and technologies into their custodianship of their ancestral lands.
In the final chapter, Hereniko brings an insider perspective to the heated anxieties and dilemmas arising with the sea level, and the reality of climate change, in Rotuma and Tuvalu. Hereniko calls on his fellow islanders to rise above their doubts and feelings of helplessness amidst the global scale of the problem, in order to make determined and concerted efforts to secure their future.
This volume will be of interest to anthropologists of the Pacific region, and to those exploring related themes of hope, faith, or desire. In addition to offering enticing ethnographic insights into contemporary concerns in the Pacific region, the major success of this collection is in showing the limitations of dominant explanations of people’s activities as either continuity of culture and tradition, or inevitable submission to homogenizing globalization.
The plural “futures” of the book’s title highlights the value of ethnographic research into the diversity of projects of Oceanic peoples, but also the indeterminacy and weakness of future as a singular or abstract analytical concept. But in their deliberate break from the slippages of dominant temporal tropes consigning people to a traditional past, or to a Western present, the authors of this collection make an important step forward, by allowing Pacific people to articulate their aspirations in their own terms.
Rachel E. Smith, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
BIOMEDICINE IN AN UNSTABLE PLACE: Infrastructure and Personhood in a Papua New Guinean Hospital. Experimental Futures. By Alice Street. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. xi, 290 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5778-0.
Medical anthropology in Papua New Guinea (PNG) has followed a path that reflects shifts in theoretical perspectives along with the realities on the ground. The pioneering works, dating from around the time of independence in 1975 to the early 1990s, focused on rural communities. Indigenous understandings of disease etiologies and curative actions were thoroughly investigated in a handful of case studies. Different as native ideas about the spiritual and moral basis of illness were from Western biomedicine, these studies also revealed that local people had no hesitation in using the forms of Western medicine available to them. The popular term at the time, “medical pluralism,” suggested a rather easy accommodation between the two systems. In more recent years, spurred in particular by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, anthropological research has focused on the delivery of health services by the state and international agencies. This work has revealed that there is some friction between indigenous and biomedical perspectives, particularly in educational campaigns for safe sex. More significantly, they have revealed just how shoddy what passes for modern medicine is for most people in the country.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in 2003 and 2011, Biomedicine in an Unstable Place provides a compelling portrait of the public hospital in Madang, PNG’s third-largest city. Alice Street draws effectively on archival and government sources and her intimate observations to give a rounded picture of history, daily routines, and problems faced by the hospital. The study gains much of its power from the vivid vignettes that run through most chapters. We meet the doctors who struggle to determine patients’ ailments, ordering X-Rays which are often unreadable (when the machine works at all) and tests which can’t be carried out because of missing chemicals, leaving them to prescribe treatments requiring drugs which just as often aren’t available. We meet the nurses and lab techs, scrambling to respond to the incessant demands of the doctors for tests that can’t be carried out and patient needs which can’t be met. We meet the foreign researchers and medical trainees whose presence is necessary to fund the new infrastructure that promises to bring the hospital up to First World standards but who come primarily because the Madang Hospital has typical Third World conditions. And, not least, we meet the patients who, with the aid of a few kin who often share their beds, reside for months at a time in a sweltering, overcrowded ward on rotting mattresses subsisting on barely edible food in hopes of drawing attention from the exhausted doctors and nurses to work out what ails them.
One of Street’s key themes is that public hospitals in PNG have long served as sites for imagining the state and, beyond that, modernity. The deep roots of the Madang Hospital lie in the German colonial period, when basic medical facilities were provided primarily to protect white bodies from tropical diseases and only secondarily to serve plantation workers. Segregation continued through subsequent Australian rule and, indeed, has become re-established in response to neo-liberal pressures in the present, where patients with money enjoy considerably better treatment, including housing, than everyone else. In the late colonial period, hospitals were reimagined as demonstrations of modernity, a theme that continues to be repeated at official openings of new facilities financed by Ausaid and other foreign benefactors. Yet, “ruination; inequality, depravation, and dilapidation were built into the new hospitals from the start” (78). The harsh climate, enormous expense of biomedicine technology—all of which must be imported—and endemic corruption that siphons off funds and medications to the elite or the black market, combine to force hospital staff to constant if largely ineffectual improvisations. And thus, the appalling conditions at the hospital feed narratives among conservative politicians in Australia of the failure of the postcolonial state and a pervasive sense among ordinary Papua New Guineans of abandonment by a government which should be taking care of them in a situation where only the elites benefit from the curative technology of “white people’s knowledge” (235).
Street argues that care-givers and patients alike in the public wards experience the decrepitude and chaos of the Madang Hospital as an ontological crisis. In their various roles, they struggle to make themselves visible to others “as particular kinds of bodies or persons in the expectation of eliciting a productive relationship” (24). This formulation is drawn in equal measure from Marilyn Strathern’s influential writings on Melanesian constructions of personhood and her later studies of reproductive technology. The framework is effective, but despite Street’s extended discussion of Melanesian “dividuality” and occasional references to sorcery and Christian spirituality, by the end of the book I was stuck more by the commonalities of the Madang public hospital in an age of neo-liberalism than the cultural distinctiveness of its placement in Papua New Guinea. Even with the best of technology, diagnosing severe illnesses is an uncertain guessing game (providing the theme for the hugely popular television series, House). The experience of being a patient is often profoundly alienating and terrifying. And, increasingly, hospital priorities are dictated more by well-heeled donors, contributing funds for vanity research labs, rather than investing in patient care. This is not to claim that indigenous cultural orientations do not shape the ways workers and patients experience Madang Hospital. Indeed, Street might have done more by investigating the views of the rural folk served by the hospital, as hinted by a short vignette that concludes the book. She does a greater service by focusing on the experience of people within the hospital system. The poverty of the Madang public hospital serves to unmask fundamental truths about hospitals in general. Anyone interested in understanding the challenges faced by public hospitals will profit from the incisive, empathic, and compelling insights of this superb study.
John Barker, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
DISASSEMBLING AND DECOLONIZING SCHOOL IN THE PACIFIC: A Genealogy from Micronesia. Contemporary Philosophies and Theories in Education, v. 5. By David W. Kupferman. Dordrecht; New York: Springer, 2013. xxii, 182 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$129.00, paper. ISBN 978-94-007-9573-0.
Kupferman’s book is an impassioned and theoretically rigorous deconstruction of schooling in Micronesia, specifically as a colonial vestige of the former American administration introduced in the 1960s. As a primarily philosophical investigation, it is an incisive analysis of the normalization of an American-derived educational model that has been imposed upon and is usually adopted and embraced unquestioningly by different Micronesian island nations, including the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Kupferman challenges the construct of the “school” at an ontological level and argues that regional efforts to localize foreign-inspired curricula to be more culturally appropriate, what he calls “cultural window-dressing” (7), are an inadequate measure to realize ontologically grounded indigenous pedagogies. In this regard, his approach aligns well with the views expressed by Isebong Maura Asang in Epistemological Articulations: Blebaol, Klomengelungel, ma Tekoi er a Belau (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, 2004), who advocates a distinctly Palauan epistemology in direct opposition to Western discourse. Taking recourse to Foucauldian and postcolonial theories, Kupferman opens up a much-needed discursive space to interrogate the simultaneous construction of the student, teacher, and family within a colonially-based paradigm of schooling.
In an effort to position himself and his “locus of enunciation” (14), that is, the place from where he speaks, Kupferman wishes to transcend the static parametres of the Islander/non-Islander dichotomy. Such “insider-outsider” binaries (19) are considered restrictive since they do not encompass interstitial positions, such as the one he occupies of being a privileged, American-born, white male, married to a Kosraean, with children of mixed descent. Neither do such definitions allow for temporal dynamism and shifting positions. The complexity of establishing positionality is therefore the central focus of his first chapter.
The second chapter lays out his analytic apparatus, namely, poststructuralism, postcolonial discourse, and a Foucauldian conceptualization of power and knowledge production. These theoretical approaches inform his critique of agencies such as Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) that discursively normalize a particular “regime of truth” with regard to “at-risk” students (37), and legitimize the application of American policies such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to the Micronesian context. Such initiatives further consolidate the power of the school as an instrument of governmentality. In the following chapter, Kupferman situates the practice of schooling as a product of Micronesian colonial history, specifically that of the American administration.
Through sharp semiotic analyses of various kinds of textual materials—public banners, historical records, personal accounts, websites, cartoons, and a statue, among others—Kupferman foregrounds the subtle and overt indices of a persisting colonial influence in the normalized construction of the student and teacher. The fourth chapter spotlights the Palauan figure of Lee Boo as the “originary student” (75) who set the precedent for a foreign-educated Micronesian scholar as early as 1783. A statue in his honour that stands on the premises of Palau Community College in full public view in the commercial centre indexes its significance as a construct of an ideal type of student in search of Western Enlightenment, implicitly conveyed in the plaque inscription. Kupferman presents an intriguing postcolonial interpretation of this monument, which resonates with Homi Bhabha’s idea of colonial mimicry in his article, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”(Discipleship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis, vol. 28 : 125–133). Stark white and dressed in Western attire, the figure of Lee Boo normalizes an essentialized image of a white, privileged male scholar who has “an air of cosmopolitanism” and is worthy of emulation. This “global citizen” promotes a particular racialized and gendered subjectivity. In effect, it “leaves us with an imputation of the Palauan native as somehow provincial and unsophisticated” (77).
While Lee Boo’s statue is the embodiment of the model student, American volunteers from WorldTeach and the Peace Corps are described as typecasting the teacher in the following chapter. Kupferman presents a scathing review of former WorldTeach volunteer Peter Rudiak-Gould’s personal account of his year spent on a Micronesian island, underlining his patronizing attitude towards Islanders and the reification of “otherness between cultures” (103). He is equally critical of the paternalistic benevolence that characterizes the image of the Peace Corps volunteer teacher and argues that such stereotypes represent the white teacher as “both knowledge expert and agent of western schooling” (111). This results in the erasure of the local Islander as teacher who is regarded as a deviant from the standard American construction. Thus, the Micronesian teacher is rendered “incapable of ‘real’ teaching” and must compensate for his/her inadequacies by earning certifications and qualifications (124). Moreover, the involvement of Peace Corps volunteers is sanctioned by a development discourse that relegates Micronesian entities to a considerably lower rung on the developmental ladder. With regard to curriculum development in different regional colleges, Kupferman problematizes the primacy of English and the “disciplining of knowledges” (118), yet acknowledges his own complicity in the production of such curricula.
In addition to the student-teacher binary, the schooling system also presupposes a nuclear model of the family as evident in events such as parent-teacher conferences. Indeed, the main goal of initiatives such as the Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC) is the construction of parenthood. In the sixth chapter, Kupferman underscores the delegitimization of the Island parent by agencies such as the PIRC that intend to educate parents on how to play their role appropriately in the schooling process. In closing, Kupferman calls for a counter-discourse to destabilize such colonial constructions embedded in the schooling system. He emphatically states that the school precludes the realization of other avenues of self-determination.
Kupferman’s book is a trenchant and thought-provoking critique of schooling in Micronesia that strongly contests its widely accepted role as the primary axis of development. It invites continued dialogue about the purpose and effects of schooling in the region. It would be a stimulating read for educators, anthropologists of education, postcolonial theorists, and scholars of Micronesia and the Pacific at large.
Rachana Agarwal, Independent scholar, Cambridge, USA
HOUSEHOLD VULNERABILITY AND RESILIENCE TO ECONOMIC SHOCKS: Findings from Melanesia. Ashgate Economic Geography Series. Edited by Simon Feeny. Farnham, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014. xvii, 148 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$109.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4724-1919-4.
This volume presents primary research data on how households and communities respond to economic and environmental shocks. It challenges the prevailing macroeconomic notion that urban households with access to cash will be more resilient to shocks than their rural counterparts. The authors analyze the various components of an expansive research survey of households in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Data were gathered during fieldwork that took place in 2010–2011 involving over 1,000 household surveys, over 50 focus groups, and several interviews with key informants. Six locations in both countries were selected to represent a diversity of urban and rural areas.
Like many Pacific Island countries, both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are experiencing rapid urban growth as people move from rural areas to cities in hopes of accessing the cash increasingly required to pay for school-related fees, imported foods, transportation costs, clothing, and other goods and services. The authors carefully examine the differences between urban and rural populations and the divergent strategies for maintaining well-being and resisting economic shocks. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the research problem, methods, and rationale for the selection of research locations. Chapter 2 explains the concepts of vulnerability and resilience and their influence on livelihoods and well-being, situating these concepts in a broader literature, and explaining that both qualitative and quantitative data are required to garner a comprehensive picture of the monetary and non-monetary resources families utilize in times of stress.
From the research design through the data analysis the authors consider how gender impacts measures of vulnerability and resiliency, and report that in times of shock, women typically bear the brunt of increased labour. Chapter 3 specifically presents data describing how women “absorb the household’s hardship” (62). The authors call for gender-inclusive policies that promote social protection by encouraging the enrollment of girls in school, and the protection of women who report increases in domestic violence and reduced food consumption during times of stress. While the role of gender is examined throughout the text, the authors emphasize this theme again in chapter 7, arguing that “social protection policies should not reinforce traditional gender roles by only targeting women as mothers” (137). While their careful consideration of the role of gender is refreshing, unfortunately they do not offer concrete recommendations on how to create and structure new policies that help women beyond their role as mothers.
Chapter 4 discusses mobility. The authors describe the strong ties that remain between those who have relocated to urban centres and family members who remain in the rural areas. Drawing heavily on previous ethnographic research, the authors describe the role of kin networks as key support structures for families coping with shocks. In an effort to provide culturally significant data, the authors developed the Melanesian Multidimensional Poverty Index (MMPI), which is the focus of chapter 5. The MMPI adds the new components of access to garden land, services (including proximity to secondary schools, health care clinics, or markets), and social support networks to the existing indicators of poverty that include health, education level, and standard of living as measured by access to electricity, sanitation, water, food, and financial assets. Expanding upon the data presented in chapters 4 and 5, the authors analyze the role of the customary economy today in chapter 6. They describe the significance of the customary economy as both an important cultural ideal that can strengthen family resilience in times of shock, and an increasing burden to urban families who lack access to land and face “[n]ew social obligations that include giving donations and tithes to churches and looking after wantoks [extended relations] outside the immediate family” (113).
Chapter 7 presents the research conclusions together with a series of recommendations for policy makers. While the title implies research throughout Melanesia, only Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were actually researched. The authors do situate the text in a broader Melanesian literature; yet, they themselves argue that the nuance brought forth in their data analysis is not likely to be broadly applicable. However the model for calculating the MMPI could be applied using new data collected in other Pacific Island nations, and may be altered for use in other countries based on the development of similar culturally appropriate measures for well-being. Their efforts to include cultural variables, particularly access to garden land, in the MMPI is one of the more significant contributions of this research.
This book is particularly timely due to the very recent data concerning Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam, a category 5 cyclone that passed directly through the southern half of Vanuatu on March 13, 2015. While the primary focus of the text is on expected resiliency to significant economic shocks, the authors discuss the entanglement of economic and environmental shocks in less developed Pacific Island countries. Vulnerability to abrupt natural disasters and the related long-term effects of climate change are presented as critical to understanding household resiliency and well-being. The first applications of the theories and MMPI data outlined in the text will likely come from post-Cyclone Pam research examining how households have coped in the wake of this disaster.
Ultimately, this text provides valuable primary source data about coping mechanisms for economic and environmental changes. The text could benefit from more detailed qualitative data, particularly focus group and key informant interview quotes, which were part of the data collection but are largely absent from the text. While the chapters are expertly linked, each chapter is written with enough background at the beginning to stand alone. The volume will be most valuable to researchers who can reference it as baseline data, use this quantitative data to inform further qualitative research, and for policy makers, NGOs, and aid organizations seeking to design interventions informed by cultural variables.
Chelsea Wentworth, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
DOCUMENTAY FILMS REVIEWED
农家乐 PEASANT FAMILY HAPPINESS. A film directed and produced by Jenny Chio; camera, sound, editing, Jenny Chio. Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Media, 2013. 1 DVD (70 min.) Sale: US$275.00; Rental: $95.00. In Chinese with English subtitles. Url: http://www.berkeleymedia.com.
The film title Peasant Family Happiness is quite suggestive. We may wonder: What does visiting peasant homes have to do with happiness? Are peasant hosts happy, too? Jenny Chio’s film shows that both the visitors and the peasants being visited seem to be quite happy about the benefits tourism has brought or is expected to bring. This is highlighted by the lyrics of the song sung by a woman from Ping’an Village at the start of the film: “today tourism has arrived at every home, every life has become a happy one.” However, some peasants are not equally happy, or at least not happy all the time, since tourism has also had a great impact on locals’ minds, traditions, and day-to-day living in a way that does not always appear to be rosy or positive.
At its initial stage of development in the early 1990s, the notion “Peasant Family Happiness” had no particular ethnic context. It was the time when the suburbs of big cities started to appeal to urban residents for the imagined rustic and simple life to be found there. Very soon the notion of Peasant Family Happiness spread all over China, including small cities and towns. Ethnic tourism in China incorporated this model. The incorporation reflects great sociopolitical changes in the last two decades that have contributed to intensive negotiations of rural, cultural, ethnic, political, regional and other identities among ethnic minorities. As (ethnic) tourism is both a product and agent of social transformations, many ethnic regions have taken on a new look with an influx of tourists. The locals hope to take advantage of tourism to live a better life but have to deal with its consequences at the same time, such as an exploitative development model that benefits outside investors by sidelining the locals, dilution of traditions or conventional bonds, fierce competition among the locals, sexualized objectification of local women (and men), environmental degradation, and so on. This film doesn’t explore all these aspects in the same intensity or detail, but it provides a snapshot of the unprecedented changes the local societies are going through.
Peasant Family Happiness in ethnic areas appears to be even more appealing to city people. With the rapid economic growth and accelerated urbanization, the countryside embodies an “authentic” and “pure” past that the cities are leaving behind. Since most ethnic communities live in mountains, valleys, and grasslands that are supposedly remote from modernity and urban civility, they are conceived as being even more “traditional” and “natural,” and thus “primitive.” As a result, Peasant Family Happiness is booming in ethnic regions. The two villages in the film, Ping’an in Guangxi, with predominantly ethnic Zhuang people, and Upper Jidao in Guizhou, with primarily ethnic Miao people, are two of the thousands of such ethnic villages engaged in tourism throughout the country. Ping’an is congested with tourists and more hostels and shops are being constructed to receive them, but Upper Jidao is still finding its way, trying to upgrade its tourism and attract potential investors and more tourists. Through a comparison, the film identifies various differences in the two villages, ranging from the degree of development and commercialization to the locals’ attitudes towards undergoing changes.
For instance, while many a migrant worker from Ping’an has chosen to return to his or her native village thanks to the increasing tourism-driven profits at home, men (and women) at Upper Jidao continue to go to cities to search for odd jobs. While charging tourists for taking photos with local women is largely accepted as a normal practice at Ping’an, doing so is not yet counted as reasonable at Upper Jidao. While some people at Ping’an complain about the unfair development model in which a corporation manages and leads tourism, Upper Jidao villagers are looking for the opportunity to have the first company come and invest. While the profit-oriented focus is starting to disconcert some locals at Ping’an, a critical local concern at Upper Jidao is how to leave behind poverty. However, both villages are conscious of the fact that their ethnicity is a major tourist attraction that they can promote through colourful costumes, “exotic” songs and dances, traditional buildings, and so on. At least, we can ask why it was normally male tourists that were “invited” by the girls with ethnic costumes (who could be Han, too) for photos. What is the implication of this? In a way, it is a reflection of unequal power relationship between tourists and tourees (host population) as much as that of between the Han and ethnic minorities (this aspect is thoroughly discussed in my book: In the Land of the Eastern Queendom: The Politics of Gender and Ethnicity, University of Washington Press, 2014).
I am personally interested in the role of Jenny Chio in it. She arranged a learning trip to Ping’an for villagers from Upper Jidao. The latter is now catching up in developing ethnic tourism or Peasant Family Happiness, and Ping’an appears to be an excellent model for it. Will her intervention be successful? In what way? One possibility is that Upper Jidao villagers will become more skilled at attracting tourists and making money. In the last two decades I have witnessed so many changes in Sichuan’s Tibetan area, where I am originally from, partly as a result of tourism development, and one notable change is that many locals are learning “smart” tricks, including cheating and coercive dealing, for the sake of more tourism income. Would Upper Jidao’s tomorrow be different? Surely, with or without tourism, with or without Jenny’s intervention, Upper Jidao will change. Can we say with certainty that learning to play tricks or becoming profit-oriented is a bad thing? There are always different ways to interpret the locals’ or the marginal population’s strategies and concerns, as well as the role of an ethnographer in the field.
In a nutshell, the film opens a whole range of important questions to be further discussed, debated, and reflected upon. Therefore, I strongly recommend it to an audience and students who are interested in indigenous responses to and consequences of tourism development, as well as in ethnicity and rural development in China. I also suggest that you read her newly published book A Landscape of Travel: The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China (University of Washington Press, 2014) for more contextualization and deeper analyses.
Tenzin Jinba, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China
THE VANCOUVER ASAHI = バンクーバーの朝日. A film directed by Yuya Ishii; screenplay, Satoko Okudera; producers, Inaba Naoto, Kikuchi Miyoshi; cinematographer, Ryuto Kikuchi; editor, Fushima Shinichi; music, Watanabe Takashi. Tokyo: Distributed by Pony Canyon; produced by Film-makers Inc., 2014. 1 online resource (134 mins.) In Japanese and English with English subtitles. Url: www.vancouver-asahi.jp.
Nikkei baseball is perhaps one of the most overlooked and underappreciated chapters in baseball history. Thanks to director Yuya Ishii and his excellent work on the award-winning film The Vancouver Asahi, one of the most important and celebrated Nikkei teams is introduced to a new generation of baseball fans in both Japan and North America.
The movie is based on the true story of the Vancouver Asahi, a Japanese-Canadian baseball team founded in 1914. Ishii and screenwriter Satoko Okudera collaborated to tell a story that compresses the team’s 27-year history into a 134-minute script.
The Asahi played their games at the Powell Street Grounds in the heart of Vancouver’s Japantown. Today their former ball field is known as Oppenheimer Park, where a commemorative plaque was unveiled in 2011. The plaque summarizes the team’s significance and inspiration for the film:
Asahi Baseball Team – Between 1914 and 1941, at a time when Japanese Canadians faced racism, Vancouver’s Asahi Baseball team thrilled fans by winning championships in senior amateur leagues. Its signature offensive strategy, “brain ball,” emphasized bunting and speed on the bases, reflected the values of discipline and team work, and, coupled with sparkling defence, levelled the playing field with more powerful opponents. The Asahi became a symbol of the Japanese Canadian struggle for equality and respect, and despite being disbanded during the Second World War internment, left a legacy of inspiration for future generations.
The movie begins in 1937 Japantown of Vancouver, British Columbia, where racial tension and a lack of economic equality create hardships for Japanese Canadians. The hero of the film is fictitious ballplayer Reji “Reggie” Kasahara (Satoshi Tsumabuki), the son of a hardworking, seamstress mother (Eri Ishida) and an alcoholic, labourer father (Koichi Saito). Reji works at the local sawmill and plays shortstop for the Asahi. Despite being perennial losers, the Asahi are the pride of Japantown.
Other members of the Asahi ball club include Roi “Roy” Naganishi (Kazuya Kamenashi), the team’s ace pitcher who works as a fisherman; Kei Kitamoto (Ryo Katsuji), the team’s second baseman and co-worker of Reji; Tom Miyake (Yusuke Kamiji), catcher and tofu shop worker, and third baseman Frank Nojima (Sosuke Ikematsu) who works at a local hotel. With the exception of the film’s star Satoshi Tsumabuki, all of the actors cast to play Asahi team members are experienced ballplayers in Japan.
Despite being disciplined and determined, the members of the Asahi team are physically outmatched by their taller and stronger white opponents. As the new team captain, Reggie recommends that his teammates adopt a strategy that involves more bunts and stealing bases. The Asahi team finally starts winning, and the local sportswriters soon call the Asahi smarter style of play “brain ball.” Fans of all races eventually start to cheer for the Asahi and buy tickets to watch their gutsy, entertaining brand of baseball.
Despite their success on the field, off the field struggles for equality continue. Reggie’s sister Emmy (Mitsuki Takahata) tries to assimilate by working and making friends within the Caucasian community, but is still treated like a second-class citizen. Reggie’s father seeks work to make enough money to send back home to relatives in Japan, but finds that his job opportunities are limited due to his age and failing health. Racial tensions are made even worse when the Asahi players get into a fight with the opposing white team after one of their batters is beaned with an inside pitch.
The climax of the film centres on the championship game between the Asahi and the formidable Caucasian team from neighbouring Mount Pleasant. By the end of the game, the Asahi have won the hearts of fans—Nikkei and Caucasian alike. With the game tied and runners in scoring position, the Asahi batter hits the ball over the head of a charging third baseman to score the winning run and secure the championship for Japantown. The movie closes with the outbreak of World War II, the immediate hostile reactions of the Caucasians, and eventual incarceration of the Japanese-Canadian community.
The Vancouver Asahi movie is a must see for baseball fans or anyone with an interest in WWII-era history and North America-Japan relations. The recreation of late 1930s Vancouver Japantown, throwback baseball uniforms and equipment, and wardrobe are both visually stunning and historically believable. Aficionados of Japanese baseball will also appreciate the finer attention to details like the Asahi coach taking time to clean the bats and equipment, a practice not commonly found in North American baseball.
Unfortunately, this attention to detail is not consistent throughout the film. For example, viewers are given the impression that the ballpark is the home field of the Asahi, yet the Asahi are listed as the visiting team on the scoreboard. Also, in what appears to be a tribute to pitcher Hideo Nomo, actor Kazuya Kamenashi mimics Nomo’s trademark “Tatsumaki” (Tornado) windup delivery when portraying Asahi ace Roy Naganishi. For those who know the modern game, seeing Nomo’s windup on a 1930s-era pitcher is both anachronistic and somewhat distracting.
Film critic Mark Schilling of The Japan Times suggests that the “for all the rah-rah moments of Asahi triumph … the subplots occupy much screen time and make the film a rather downbeat viewing experience.” Moviegoers in both Japan and the US appear to agree with Schilling’s assessment, rating the film three out of five stars.
Perhaps like anyone who plays the game of baseball, The Vancouver Asahi is not perfect. It is, however, excellent. Despite its few moments of failure, the film is a winner, especially for those who love baseball and stories about the underdog coming out on top. Ultimately, director Yuya Ishii’s homage to the Vancouver Asahi is an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with their story and their legacy.
For those wanting to take a deeper dive into the history of the Vancouver Asahi after watching this film, they are encouraged to view the 2003 documentary Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story (National Film Board of Canada), read the book More Than a Baseball Team: The Saga of the Vancouver Asahi, by Ted Y. Furomoto and Douglas W. Jackson; visit the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (where the Asahi were inducted in 2003), and visit Oppenheimer Park, in Vancouver, British Columbia (Japantown).
Bill Staples, Jr., Nisei Baseball Research Project, Chandler, USA
DON’T THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll. A film directed and photographed by John Pirozzi, produced by John Pirozzi and Andrew Pope; film editing, Daniel Littlewood, Matt Prinzing and Greg Wright; original music score, Scot Stafford; executive director, Youk Chhang. New York; Argot Pictures; presented by Harmony Productions/Primitive Nerd/Pearl City, 2014. 1 online resource (106 mins.) In English, French, and Khmer with English subtitles. Url: http://www.dtifcambodia.com/.
At first blush, Cambodian rock music might seem like an unlikely topic of fascination for North American listeners. Until fairly recently, few outside of the Khmer diaspora knew that a full-blown rock-and-roll culture had developed in 1960s Phnom Penh, or that this music was still widely remembered in contemporary Khmer communities, and painstakingly maintained as a cherished archive representing a golden era of prewar Cambodian popular culture. Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll (2014; director John Pirozzi) reveals a hidden history of musical innovation, bringing viewers into the rapid efflorescence of a shimmering creative and social world just as abruptly torn apart by war and genocide.
In the course of exposing viewers to this little-known musical scene, the film presents an engaging and informative history of modern Cambodia. Norodom Sihanouk, crowned king of Cambodia in 1941 at the age of 18, represents a poignant and recurring through-line in the film’s development, which traces his tragic path against the country’s sickening disintegration into violence. In the 1950s, immediately after having successfully negotiated a peaceful transition from French colony to independence, Sihanouk appears as a dapper cosmopolitan, proud of his country’s dedication to the arts, and to peace and neutrality during the nascent Cold War. The music reflects the mix of forces shaping mid-century Cambodia. As a composer, singer, and saxophonist himself, Sihanouk was deeply passionate about music, forming Western-style and Cambodian traditional orchestras, and also encouraging the local production of pop music that emulated the French chanson and pop styles of Edith Piaf and Johnny Hallyday, as well as the Afro-Cuban influences of cha-cha-cha. Nightclub culture thrived in Phnom Penh throughout the 1960s, where vocalists Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Serey Sothea were the undisputed stars of the scene; guitar bands like Baksey Cham Krong brought the surf sounds of the Shadows into circulation; and by the early 1970s groups like the Drakkar Band and Yol Aularong tuned into the hard rock and soul influences (Santana, Wilson Pickett) flowing in from US Armed Forces radio in Vietnam.
The atmosphere of the film slowly tightens as the escalating war next door begins to simmer, and then boils over into Cambodia. As Viet Cong forces pour across the border in 1970, Sihanouk’s thinly veiled police state is deposed by US-backed Lon Nol. Musicians are forced into writing propaganda songs for the newly militarized society: one chilling lyric demands, “My friends/don’t be afraid to kill/chase and slaughter/pick up a weapon now.” The urban culture of Phnom Penh becomes increasingly isolated, as the Khmer Rouge slowly builds (joined by the desperate Sihanouk) in the wake of massive US bombing campaigns, and eventually overruns the city in 1975. The film is perhaps most effective in having built up so slowly to the horror of the genocidal purge that drove musicians, artists, and intellectuals into exile, and in many cases, execution.
The emotional climax, then, seems to arrive suddenly and shockingly, as surviving musicians and fans capture, in few but powerful words, the traumatic destruction of their lives. As they remember families slaughtered overnight and a world silenced by violence and the brutal authoritarian social order of Pol Pot, Pirozzi juxtaposes their brief testimony with increasingly abstract images of violence, backed with eerie original soundtrack music that heightens the sense of incredulity and displacement. When the Khmer Rouge are finally driven out in 1979, Sihanouk, disgraced and in exile, appears in a tragic coda on French television, voice shaking at his deception and enumerating his own numerous losses of children and grandchildren murdered by the Khmer Rouge.
Director John Priozzi dedicated over a decade of work to the production of Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten, and it shows: the film’s rapport with its subjects is far deeper than the less substantial examples that dominate the growing field of music documentaries over the past decade. Having first come to the region as a camera operator on the 2002 noir City of Ghosts, shot in Thailand and Cambodia, Priozzi returned to document the popular LA-based Cambodian rock revival band Dengue Fever in Sleepwalking Through the Mekong (2007), which chronicles the group’s 2005 tour of Cambodia. Simultaneously, he worked with the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and other archival sources to uncover a trove of footage that reveals the sophisticated urban world of mid-century Phnom Penh, conducting interviews with surviving musicians and fans, and gathering rare recordings to flesh out the vibrant and tragic story of the city’s music scene in the 1950s and 1960s (many of which are featured on the film’s soundtrack, released by the award-winning Dust-to-Digital label).
Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten will undoubtedly spark interest in this music, but also in the personal history of the lives pushed underground by genocide and war, and the survivors who have begun to emerge to speak, and sing, through this film. Several premiere screenings of the film in spring 2015 featured performances by surviving members of Baksey Cham Krong, The Drakkar Band, as well as Chom Nimol of Dengue Fever and Sinn Sethakol, grandson of Sinn Sisamouth. When I spoke with Pirozzi in May 2015 for a radio interview, he told me that at the Los Angeles screening, one of the audience members approached him after the film and identified himself as Yol Aularong’s brother. Other recent screenings have brought Khmer families together to recollect, and reconsider Cambodian rock as part of a diasporic legacy.
The film, then, does more than document a lost moment in time—it may also generate new knowledge and connections through its circulation, as the historical picture continues to be filled in by survivors and Khmer populations. Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten is a moving and valuable project that works on many levels: as a “Cambodia 101” for those unfamiliar with the nation’s tragic modern history, as a touchstone of memorialization for survivors and their families, and as a well-deserved celebration of a classic, and surprisingly fresh-sounding, repertoire of Cambodian rock music.
David Novak, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA