China and Inner Asia
Australasia and the Pacific Islands
A Nation Rising: Hawaiian Movements for Life, Land, and Sovereignty. Editors, Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika‘ala Wright; photographs by Edward W. Greevy. Reviewed by Andrea Low
DOCUMENTARY FILM REVIEW
India’s Daughter: The Story of Jyoti Singh. Directed and produced by Leslee Udwin; an Assassin Films production; co-produced with BBC Storyville and DR; in association with Gamini Piyatissa Foundation, Vital Voices Global Partnership. Reviewed by Sharada Srinivasan
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF AFFECT AND EMOTION IN EAST ASIA. Asia’s Transformations, 42. Edited by Jie Yang. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xxiii, 247 pp. (Figures.) US$140.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-70970-5.
The book sets out to use affect (or emotion) as a fresh analytical tool for exploring the ways in which it can be used for achieving political and economic objectives, and for understanding dynamics of contemporary governance which are specific to East Asia. While these specific questions are well posited in the introduction, not all chapters in the book are in fact exploring them. However, as is well put by Sara Ahmed in the foreword, the book successfully delivers a sense of how affect studies pulls from different directions and how scholars engage it differently in an effort to theorize an emerging field. Put differently, this book is an engaging collective contribution to the exploration of the potential of affect as a social or socio-political practice.
In the introduction, Jie Yang outlines the goal of this book as stated above and offers an overview of relevant (mostly Western) literature. She emphasizes that the study of affect in East Asian cultures and societies may require adjustments of this literature because social relations in East Asia are more rooted and articulated in terms of affect than in the West—a point that some would find contestable. Yang organizes her introduction according to themes that aim to contextualize the chapters in the book but the result is not entirely convincing. Yang also uses terms that the reader may expect to find again in the book, such as soft power, that never reappear.
The book picks up momentum in the following chapters. In chapter 1, Zhang offers an ethnographic investigation of Yu Dan, a media studies professor who became the Chinese state’s star with her series of lectures on Confucian Analects from the Heart. Zhang interprets these lectures as effeminate, affective practices that are a response to the needs of the state, the market, and the consumer subjects. They are ideological but also emotive, giving instructions on how to feel and live as a modern neo-liberal individual in contemporary China.
In chapter 2, Yang presents an ethnographic study on Chinese state-led re-employment counselling programs for those who have been laid off from state-owned enterprises. Happiness, positive psychology, and self-reflection are used as therapeutic strategies for adapting to the economic transformations, in line with the state’s project of constructing a people-centred, socially and economically sustainable “harmonious society.” Yang shows that these measures also attract contestation.
Chapter 3 by Teresa Kuan discusses an ethnographic case on quality education reform in China. The author focuses on Zhou Ting, an education expert, who promotes the concept of affect education—i.e., creating opportunities for emotional-sensory experiences to an overly grade- and information-oriented education system. Kuan argues that while this project goes hand-in-hand with a neo-liberal market system which is best advanced by encouraging individual responsibility, there are in fact benefits of affective economy to the individuals as well.
The next chapter by Shiho Satsuka examines affective labour in the tourism industry. In this ethnography, the author describes how Japanese guides in the Rocky Mountains are trained to produce emotional attachment in their Japanese customers. For the tourists the guides become an embodiment of liberated cosmopolitanism. The author explores the limits and dialectics between the conflicting economies of gift and commodity in a competitive market.
Chapter 5 by Daneil White uses an ethnographic perspective on the relations between emotions (as they are embodied in tears) and the public sphere in Japanese media. Using two examples, White shows how media producers aim to secure a relationship between affect, emotions, and narration through reflexive practices, to ensure rating and capital. The author argues that contrary to the accepted theorization of the public sphere as thriving on rationality, affective intensity triggers moral reflection and therefore functions as integral rather than injurious to a flourishing public sphere.
Shuyu Kong, in chapter 6, offers a textual analysis of Chinese television dramas that deal with retrenchment and socio-economic transformations. Kong argues that these television dramas offer on the one hand a neoliberal message of inspiration and upward mobility in a new market economy, and on the other hand affective contentious voices from the point of view of the reform victims (who are mostly female in the case of television dramas), thereby complicating the resulting image, and providing the viewers with catharsis.
Next, Ayaka Yoshimizu analyzes the media coverage of a Japanese government trial in importing care labourers for the elderly from Indonesia. The author argues that this deployment of labourers is an example of biopolitical economy: individuals and collectives are scrutinized and controlled by state apparatuses. Yoshimizu demonstrates how the female and male workers are effeminized, socially marginalized, and portrayed as inherently fit to perform affective labour because of specific racial and cultural attributes. She suggests that these images may be connected to colonial images and neo-colonial images of Southeast Asian women in Japan.
In the following chapter, Toshiko Tsujimoto offers an ethnography of migrant Filipino domestic workers in South Korea. Using emotional labour as their tactic, these workers manage to juggle the roles of worker, mother, breadwinner, and community volunteer. Tsujimoto concludes that the delimitation of emotional labour to the discourses of femininity and gendered subjugation may result in neglecting its dynamic functions and potential to promote socio-economic status and fulfill personal goals.
Chapter 9 by Momoko Nakamura investigates the contemporary emotional attachment of Japanese people to women’s language in the context of its dwindling caused by socio-linguistic transformations. Through an informed reconstruction of the dynamically changing attitudes towards women’s language in Japan since the late nineteenth century, Nakamura shows that this emotional attachment is not natural but historically situated. Women’s language is today a felt space for recovering and ascertaining Japanese social order and identity.
Next, Sung Kil Min explores haan—a key word in Korean culture that refers to accumulated personal or collective feelings of frustrations and anger after experiencing a trauma, usually an injustice caused by human agency. The author argues that throughout Korean history collective feelings of haan have been mobilized by leaders for various objectives, including rapid economic growth and rehabilitation from colonialism and war. The result was haan-puri (the resolution of haan) that stimulated cultures of creativity and determination.
Lastly, Craig Mackie argues a comparative study of North Korean and American children’s cartoons representing the army. The author demonstrates how affective pedagogy is used to create a specific relationship between the North Korean national community as an extended family, the private family, and the role of the soldier as protector from within the national territory. The author wishes to point out that emotions can be wielded as a political technology to mobilize action and unify groups.
Michal Daliot-Bul, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
CULTURAL POLICIES IN EAST ASIA: Dynamics between the State, Arts and Creative Industries. Edited by Hye-Kyung Lee and Lorraine Lim. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. xi, 229 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$90.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-137-32776-5.
This collection of essays makes a strong case for the need to explicitly incorporate insights from the fast-growing, fast-changing nations of East Asia, and to extend conceptual understanding about cultural policy and the creative industries beyond the dominant Anglophone and European contexts. Drawing upon case studies from China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore, the thirteen essays in this collection aim to provide interdisciplinary insights into cultural policy formation in this region.
The essays work around three core themes and relate these to national cases: (1) cultural identity formation and nation building; (2) negotiations between culture and the state; and (3) the rise of creative industries policies. A feature of all essays is that they frame these debates around the implications of economic growth and modernization, and the greater role being played by markets in the allocation and distribution of cultural resources.
Considering the national framing of cultural policies, Terence Chong discusses how the “bureaucratic imagination” in Singapore has been forced to adapt from its historical suspicion of art as vaguely subversive of national culture towards a more active embrace of the arts and culture in the “Renaissance City” strategies of the 2000s. Li-Jung Wang observes that the strong Chinese nationalism of early Taiwanese cultural policies has given way to a more fluid understanding of multicultural Taiwan that recognizes indigenous cultures and cultural diversity within the nation. Anthony Fung locates strategies for games industry development in China in the context of the “big question” of how much control over culture the Chinese party-state is prepared to cede to the market and the private sector. In contrast to the Singaporean and Taiwanese cases, Fung concludes that a more market-oriented approach to culture has been linked to a relaxing of discourses of strong nationalism, the Chinese case is one where national discourses of Chinese identity and state hegemony remain paramount, and that exposure to the wider forces of globalization has had only a limited impact on the shape of China’s games industry.
Addressing the case of the “Korean Wave,” Ki-won Hong proposes that nation branding has been central to Korean cultural policy, with the cultural products of the Korean Wave being central to a reinvigorated Korean cultural diplomacy in the 2000s. The focus on the changing relationship between culture and the state is also central to Hye-Kyung Lee’s discussion of Korean cultural policy, although it focuses more particularly upon the arts, and the often-troubled relationship between Korean artists and the government.
A critical question in the collection is the degree to which state agencies are prepared to fund the arts and culture, and at the same time cede governance over cultural forms and products to civil society. Lorraine Lim discusses this in the context of Singaporean live theatre, which has become more popular as the nation has become more prosperous. The popularity of live performance opens up questions about its capacity to challenge governmental norms in culture and society, such as the question of equality for gays and lesbians in Singapore. Jerry Liu attempts an ambitious—and perhaps too ambitious—theorization of changing structures and discourses of cultural governance in Taiwan and China, arguing that “governance by culture” remains the norm in China, whereas Taiwan has been marked by a growing turn towards self-governing citizens working with and through culture. Mari Kobiyashi argues that Japan has been marked by a turn towards greater local autonomy in cultural policy and a partial democratization of culture as a result.
The essays by Keane and Zhou and Xin Gu address, in different ways, the impact of marketization on cultural policy in contemporary China. For Keane and Zhou, the new directions in Chinese cultural policy point towards a greater application of “soft power” concepts in relation to cultural exports, and a growing embrace of innovation and entrepreneurship in the arts, media, and cultural sectors. They express the cautious hope that the turn towards “creativity” in Chinese policy discourses (which extends well beyond the cultural sphere) opens up spaces for more bottom-up, participatory cultural forms. Xin Gu draws upon the Shanghai case study to argue that the promotion of creative clusters that occurred in the 2000s has exhausted itself, falling prey to rampant real estate speculation and the difficulties in reconciling artistic production with the demand for “urban spectacle” in China’s showcase global city.
Hsiao-Ling Chung refers more specifically to the creative industries, and to cultural and creative industries (CCI) policies in Taiwan in the 2000s. Drawing upon five urban case studies (Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and New Taipei City), Chung considers the tensions between industry development and cultural development strategies, and the ways in which local authorities seek to broker the relationship between global aspirations to develop “creative cities” and the need to engage local artists, entrepreneurs, and the wider community in urban cultural development. Nobuko Kawashima takes the specific case of the Japanese film industry, arguing that its creative and economic resurgence in the 2000s was linked to a more explicit articulation to creative industries strategies and the branding of genres such as anime as central to “Cool Japan.” Given the heavy reliance upon the domestic market, however, Kawashima questions the sustainability of such strategies, particularly as China, Korea, and Taiwan turn more towards branding the creative industries as being central to their soft power projections and cultural diplomacy.
This collection points to the vibrancy of debates in East Asia around cultural policy and creative industries, and the wider futures for cultural policy in a global knowledge economy. At the same time, all authors are cautious to not simply attribute cultural shifts to generic forces such as globalization or neoliberal ideologies, but rather to situate them in particular national policy settings, institutional contexts, and discursive formations.
Terry Flew, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
GREAT GAME EAST: India, China, and the Struggle for Asia’s Most Volatile Frontier. By Bertil Lintner. New Haven, CT; London: Yale University Press, 2015. vi, 343 pp. (Illustrations.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-300-19567-5.
In early June of 2015, Indian special forces carried out an attack across the Indo-Burmese border against an insurgent group that had previously attacked an Indian Army unit in the border state of Manipur. India’s willingness to use force beyond its borders in the northeast marked a new assertiveness on the part of the Narendra Modi regime. It also highlighted the fact that despite years of attempts to both repress and conciliate a host of insurgent movements in the region, the country was far from out of the woods.
The obvious strategic significance of this region to New Delhi cannot be overstated. It abuts India’s principal antagonist, the People Republic of China (PRC), Bangladesh, a country with which India has had a complex and occasionally troubled relationship, and Burma (Myanmar), a state where India is now involved in a competition for influence with the PRC.
Yet substantial scholarship or even informed commentary on India’s northeastern states and their ties, both formal and informal, with China, Bangladesh, and Burma, is scanty. Quite apart from the geopolitical importance of this region, this lacuna is perplexing at various other levels. The region has long been politically volatile, laden with a host of movements ranging from autonomy to secession. It is the site of much regional migration across porous borders, with all its concomitant tensions, and it shares borders with the PRC, which has substantial territorial claims in the area. To complicate matters further, it is also a part of the world with substantial biodiversity. The fragile ecosystems that permeate it are now
under threat owing to extensive dam building projects both in the PRC and in India.
Given the paucity of reliable and insightful work on the contemporary politics of the region, Bertil Lintner’s Great Game East: India, China and the Struggle for Asia’s Most Volatile Frontier is a most welcome contribution. Lintner, a journalist of considerable repute, writes with authority, clarity, and verve about the tangled skein of ethnic tensions, state responses, and political chicanery that have long characterized this region.
The central argument of the book is that there is a long-term competition between the PRC and India in India’s northeast and its adjoining regions. Lintner argues that this contestation has intensified in recent years. Both states have expended considerable resources to garner influence, with varying results. The PRC, Lintner demonstrates, had long sought to exploit existing grievances in India’s northeast. To that end it had supported a range of ethnic secessionist movements, supplying them with weaponry, training, and organization, and even sanctuaries.
He also shows that Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate (ISI-D) has been active in Bangladesh in efforts to undermine India’s influence in the country. Specifically, like the PRC, it has sought to establish links with Indian secessionist organizations and has attempted to boost
their activities. Furthermore, it has fostered anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh and provided assistance to radical Islamist organizations in the country.
Of course, it is hardly surprising that India’s two principal adversaries, Pakistan and the PRC, would seek to sow discord and exploit existing grievances in a volatile region. It is to Lintner’s credit, however, that he is entirely unsparing in his description and analysis of the shortcomings of India’s policies that contributed to the emergence of various movements for autonomy and secession in the region. In his examination of the political movements in the northeast, he demonstrates a fine-grained knowledge of both their historical backgrounds as well as contemporary realities. His understanding of the role of key individuals, critical turning points, and flawed policy choices, all of which converged to create a combustible mix, is indeed exemplary.
Lintner’s discussion is not confined to the seven states in India’s northeast and Bangladesh but also extends to Burma. Once again, he brings to bear a keen understanding of recent Burmese history, its fraught domestic politics and its deeply blemished policies toward its ethnic minorities. He
also shows that the PRC, in its attempts to penetrate the country, may have now overplayed its hand. As a consequence, a backlash of sorts, especially within the Burmese military, is now emerging against its overbearing presence. To that end, Burma’s rulers have sought to court the United States to balance the PRC. Yet he contends that the PRC will not easily cede ground given its own strategic concerns in the region. The physical proximity that the PRC enjoys, its early involvement in the country and its determination to try and limit Indian influence will all conspire to render American efforts to establish a more robust presence within Burma difficult.
The considerable historical background, the careful description of contemporary developments, and the deft analysis of both the roles of domestic and external players in the region makes this book a most useful contribution to a very small body of existing work. Scholars, diplomats, and students interested in the complex politics of the region will all stand to benefit from Lintner’s discussion.
Sumit Ganguly, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
PUBLIC HEALTH AND NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION IN POST-WAR ASIA: International Influences, Local Transformations. Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia, 100. Edited by Liping Bu and Ka-che Yip. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xiii, 204 pp. US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-71905-6.
The 1957 poster “Methods of Prevention” on this book’s cover page presents three distinct scenes: left of the open door a male doctor takes notes as he talks with a patient; to the right a female nurse gives a bottle of medicine to an elderly woman sitting in a row with others; in the forefront, a young woman looks through a microscope at a desk where three slides lay ready for her to examine. As part of the Science and Technology Popularization Association of Zhejiang Province, the Shanghai Health Press published this poster five years into the Patriotic Health Movement that began in response to allegations of US germ warfare during the Korean War (1950–1953). It visually captures the two core themes that course through this edited volume: 1) how public health was a central aspect of national reconstruction in postwar Asia (i.e., the rural clinic was a central part of Chinese nation building); and 2) how international influences were locally transformed (i.e., the microscope and smear slides, both part of disease eradication programs, represent modern Western science).
The co-editors Ka-che Yip and Liping Bu’s earlier collaboration (with Darwin H. Stapleton) on the history of public health in pre-1950 Asia, Science, Public Health and the State in Modern Asia (2010), inspired this collection’s focus on postwar Asia. One of the authors in this volume, Akihito Suzuki, co-authored Reforming Public Health in Occupied Japan, 1945–52: Alien Prescriptions (2012). All three books were published within five years of each other in the same Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia series (#71, #73, #100). This indicates that since the series started in 1997 the history of public health has finally become one of the central themes of the “Modern History of Asia.”
The opening chapter “National Health, International Interests” serves as an entry point into the co-editors’ main argument that one of the most important developments in postwar Asian nations was the reconstruction, or rebuilding, of public health systems within the framework of new international public health institutions and Cold War politics. They also show how the political changes in the postwar period (decolonization, revolution, and national reconstruction) connected with these public health projects, effectively setting the stage for integrating Asian public health history into modern world history.
The introduction ends with a summary of each of the nine case studies, showing how the goals of national public health and nation building locally transformed those of international institutions in distinctly different ways. The coeditors did not write a separate conclusion. Nor did the separate contributors cross-reference their articles well. One is thus left with a sense that this book is not yet greater than the sum of its chapters. Nonetheless, the separate contributions remain well worth reading for the illuminating public health case studies as well as informative 30- to 60-year public health histories that they offer of a range of East Asian (mainland China, South and North Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong), Southeast Asian (Indonesia and Thailand), and South Asian (India) countries.
The two co-editors contributed several-decade-long surveys of a particular public health topic. Ka-che Yip traces a change toward more proactive interventionist British public health policy in Hong Kong from 1945 to 1985 in response to lowered British prestige, discontent among the Chinese subjects, and the rise in Chinese communism in a new postwar political context. Liping Bu examines how from 1950 to 1980 the Patriotic Health Movement developed in response to the US involvement in the Korean War, relied on Soviet models, and contributed to China’s Socialist reconstruction. Xiaoping Fang’s “Diseases, Peasants, and Nation-Building in Rural China” moves from national-level health policies to the many roles beyond patient health care that mass-line disease eradication and prevention programs played in integrating rural China into the Chinese nation-state. Gao Xi’s case study on the “Pavlovian Influence on Chinese Medicine, 1950s” returns to the Soviet influence on Chinese public health theme introduced in Bu’s chapter.
The second half of the book moves to other countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and India. Shin Dong-won’s “Public Health and People’s Health” compares the different public health histories of South and North Korea in the immediate postwar period from 1945 to 1960 in which Cold War politics played out in contrasting socialist (N. Korea) and capitalist (S. Korea) approaches to public health. Kazumi Noguchi then examines the “Impact of Government-Foundation Cooperation” on the development of the postwar Japanese health-care system. Shirish R. Kavadi’s essay moves the reader’s gaze over to India by studying different visions of the relationship between “Medicine, Philanthropy, and Nationhood.” Vivek Neelakantan’s study of public health in Indonesia focuses on the WHO’s “Campaign Against the Big Four Endemic Diseases” during the 1950s. Finally, Davisakd Puaksom concludes the volume with a chapter “On the Politics of Health Care an Moral Discourse in Thailand, 1950–2010.” Together these final three chapters offer insights into little-known areas of public health history in South and Southeast Asia.
Because this edited volume’s intention was to provide a range of new public health history scholarship on postwar Asia, this is not yet the “history of public health in East Asia” book that I still seek to assign in my undergraduate course of the same title. Nevertheless I will draw on the rich material in chapters 2 through 7 for my lectures as well as assign some of the chapters. I thus recommend historians of modern world history, public health history, and, especially, the modern history of Asia, to do the same in their own courses. Historians of public health in the post-World War II period, anywhere in the world, would also find much to think about in this volume’s interesting range of contributions on modern Asian public health history.
Marta E. Hanson, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
THE GLOBALIZATION OF CHINESE BUSINESS: Implications for Multinational Investors. Chandos Asian Studies Series. Edited by Robert Taylor. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2014. xliv, 323 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$141.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84334-768-2.
As the second-largest economy in the world, China is playing an increasingly important role in the world economy. China’s latest initiative, namely, the “one belt, one road” (or the Silk Road) initiative points to China’s enhanced economic role and increasing national self-confidence. The editor is right in arguing that “[n]o region of the world is unaffected by the nature and volume of China’s trade and investment” (preface). An understanding of the globalization of Chinese business is thus a must for all who are interested in this rapidly developing and changing country. The editor of this volume made great efforts in bringing together a dozen or so scholars and examining key aspects of globalizing Chinese business.
It is worth noting that the globalization of Chinese business has been an interactive process between Chinese and foreign firms. In the early stages of the opening up in the 1980s and 1990s, China opened its market to foreign investors since the country was then suffering from a serious shortage of capital. After more than three decades of opening up, China today has successfully transformed itself into a capital surplus economy. This is the rationale behind the globalization of Chinese business today. Furthermore, foreign investors have been an integral and important part of the globalization of Chinese business. The stage of the interaction between Chinese capital and foreign capital is now expanding to the international front.
How the interaction between the two plays out depends on many factors. Among others, the development of Chinese businesses matters a lot. China’s economic reform is still an ongoing process and there are many serious obstacles to sustaining the high growth rates of the past. After the current leadership of Xi Jinping came to power in 2012–2013, China has initiated a new set of economic policies. As President Xi emphasized, China has entered a stage of “new normal.” This concept refers to a situation where China’s high economic growth is over and the country has come to an age of middle growth. This new set of policies is apparently aimed at responding to the ongoing transformation of the Chinese economy. No doubt, such a transformation has presented both challenges and opportunities for foreign multinational investors.
The book focuses on the operation of multinational investors in their interaction with Chinese firms. It consists of 13 chapters, and is divided into two parts. Part 1 focuses on the internal operations of Chinese firms and examines key aspects of the Chinese firms, including the evolution of Chinese management, China’s R&D and innovation strategy, endogenous and exogenous dynamics in China’s cluster economy, state-owned versus private enterprises, the influence of family control on business performance and financial structure, and internationalization strategies of medium-sized multinational firms. It is clear that Chinese firms have learned and matured from their interactions with foreign firms. The transfer of human resources management practices in French multinational companies experiences in China is a good example.
Part 2 focuses on China’s economic changes by sectors, including the services sector, the financial services sector, the Shanghai stock market, and the health-care system. It also examines changing household saving patterns, the growing consumer culture, country-of-origin effects on Chinese consumption of branded foreign products, advertising in the luxury sector, and competition among Asian growing markets. As in part 1, the authors also explore the evolution of these key industrial sectors and their interaction with foreign firms.
All the authors made a great effort to combine economic and business analyses, and to integrate micro and macro perspectives. They together provide an overall picture of the development of China’s economic reform and opening up in different stages and its impact on Chinese business and interactions with foreign firms. The reader will find this book more interesting and helpful in understanding China than other books which focus either on micro-level factors or macro-level factors.
There are also many detailed case studies. The authors were able to dig up deep-rooted problems when they looked into the operation of Chinese firms. Many of the insights they provide are very useful in guiding foreign investors in different sectors and from different perspectives.
All the chapters were written by scholars from different fields and in a very academic way. Many readers will find the book a bit too academic. It could have been written using simpler language and would thus have been more accessible. Overall, the book is very helpful in understanding key aspects of the Chinese economy and the operation of its firms, particularly their interaction with foreign firms.
Yongnian Zheng, National University of Singapore, Singapore
THE CHANGING POLICY-MAKING PROCESS IN GREATER CHINA: Case Research from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Comparative Development and Policy in Asia, 15. Edited by Bennis Wai Yip So and Yuang-kuang Kao. London; New York: Routledge, 2014. xviii, 233 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$160.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-71130-2.
This edited volume, with contributions by scholars from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, presents case study research on public policy making in the three Chinese societies. The book, consisting of twelve chapters, covers four areas regarding the role of civic engagement, legislature, mass media, and bureaucracy in public policy making in the three entities in the Greater China region. The chapters are rich in information. I applaud the contributing authors for following the same structural format, with the description of the case and discussion/analysis of the case. The most obvious commonality among the three entities is that they are all ethnic Chinese societies. Other features shared by the three societies, as pointed out in the preface of the book, are a high level of popular political dissatisfaction and the transitional nature of these societies. Differences among them are also obvious: recent history, political system, civil liberty, and political culture. Mainland China experienced a violent revolution in the late 1940s and went on a socialist experiment for three decades before adopting market-driven reform in the late 1970s. Both Hong Kong and Taiwan had colonial experiences, with the former being a colony of Great Britain for over one hundred years and the latter being colonized by Japan for fifty years. While Mainland China remains an authoritarian state with limited civil liberties, Hong Kong can be classified as a semi-democracy with extensive civil liberties while Taiwan has been a full-fledged Western-style democracy for over two decades.
Despite the differences, one can conclude several similar developments in these three Chinese societies with regard to the public policy-making process. Public participation in public policy making has increased in all three societies, even in authoritarian Mainland China. It should be pointed out that other than legal civic engagement, unconventional political participation acts such as street protests, public petitions, and Internet discussions have become major forms of public participation in public policy making in Mainland China. In fact, street protests have become an extremely effective way for the public to “get things done.” Chinese local government is quite sensitive to public street protests due to its concern with maintaining local political stability. The most cited official figure for street protest occurrrences in China was 87,000 in 2005 (Zhao Peng et al., “The Warning Signal of ‘typical social protests’,” Outlook Weekly, September 8, 2008, 36). According to a Wall Street Journal report, the figure reached 180,000 in 2010 (Tom Orlik, “Unrest Grows as Economy Booms,” Wall Street Journal, http://tinyurl.com/pcktp5l). Elizabeth Perry, an influential scholar on contentious politics in China, even argues that social protests have become a normal form of political participation for ordinary Chinese in Chinese politics and these activities actually contribute to social stability in China because protesters use these occasions to vent their anger and have their demands met (Challenge the mandate of heaven: Social protest and state power in China, Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2002). Another similar development among the three entities is the increasing role played by mass media in governmental decision-making processes. While media behaviour in both Taiwan and Hong Kong is similar to that in any democratic setting, how media functions in Mainland China is somewhat interesting. For example, due to their need to appeal to the market, Chinese central media organs have carved out a critical role for themselves in exposing the wrongdoings of local governments in China. This is fully demonstrated in the case study of the “big-headed babies” incident in the book.
Though informative, this edited volume also suffers from several deficiencies. First of all, the book needs a strong introductory chapter. Currently it only has a weak preface. Ideally in the introductory chapter, the editors would lay out an overarching theoretical framework to connect the case studies. Second, it is never clearly stated why Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong were chosen for this edited volume, other than the fact that all three are Chinese societies. Were they chosen for comparative purposes? Was “most similar system design” the main consideration for the selection of the three cases? If so, culture should be the common ground for the three societies. Yet, culture is not explicitly used as an explaining variable in the case studies from the three societies. Similarly, political system is an obvious difference between Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Again, it is not treated as a key explaining variable by the contributing authors in their case studies. This brings up my last criticism of the book: the chapters do not “talk” to each other. It seems that specific case studies in the book were chosen randomly, without an attempt to relate them to one another. The three chapters in the bureaucracy section are cases in point. The Mainland China case is about selective policy implementation or policy non-compliance by local Chinese government. The Taiwan case discusses bureaucratic neutrality, while the Hong Kong one talks about the continuity of Hong Kong bureaucracy before and after China’s takeover of Hong Kong in 1997. Readers cannot find much to connect the three cases. They could have been much better connected with each other if political system had been used as an explanatory variable.
Yang Zhong, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA
THE GOVERNMENT NEXT DOOR: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China. By Luigi Tomba. Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 2014. x, 225 pp. (Figures.) US$75.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8014-5282-6; US$22.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8014-7935-9.
Any visitor who stays in mainland China for a while might wonder about the country’s seeming stability. Ordinary Chinese rarely conceal their grievances about increasing inequality, corruption, and the near death of society as we imagine it. Media reports about peasants’ struggles against land expropriation as well as workers’ protests against labour exploitation have dramatically increased over recent decades. Nevertheless, these class-specific incidents are isolated while everyday conflicts remain “contained,” relatively peacefully, in local neighbourhoods.
The Government Next Door is a significant contribution to interrogating this puzzle. With a sophisticated eye to neighbourhood politics, the book shows how political legitimacy is cultivated and grounded among local residents with various interests and status. Neighbourhoods, the primary research sites of this book, serve as “a window on the flexibility and variations that characterize governmental practices in present-day China” (5). They are places where social structure, ideology, and policy focus are elaborated and concretized through grassroots governances and everyday interactions.
Luigi Tomba analyzes China’s changing political practices and rationalities by focusing on two types of neighbourhoods. One is a working-class neighbourhood in Shenyang, the one-time cradle of socialist industrialism in northeast China, while the other is a gated community for newly emerging middle classes in Beijing. Despite their disparate condition under the nation’s market-driven reforms, impoverished workers in Shanyang and wealthy homeowners in Beijing share in common the fact that their residential areas are no longer subject to old socialist governance of urban space. Urban workers, the one-time representatives of the socialist project, have been plunged into dispossession; their neighbourhoods have been shifted to moribund slums amidst the breakdown of the work-unit system. Middle-class professionals in newly-built gated communities insist on their autonomy from state interference while struggling to maintain their property rights and privatized space. Nevertheless, Luigi Tomba argues that the two parties’ relationships with the state have been not so much weakened as reconfigured. Laid-off workers in Shenyang’s public housing compounds are subject to state intervention and required to raise their “quality” (suzhi) in exchange for access to residual welfare and assistance. Salaried middle-class residents in Beijing’s commercial apartment complexes seek social stability and enhance their entrepreneurial consumer identity, which is beneficial to both the state and the market.
Consensus is a primary concept of this book, which provides a clear-cut analysis of the two classes’ contentious but close relationship with state governance. The concept guides us to “a space where bargaining between state and society and within society is made possible through formalized institutions, routinized practices, and discursive boundaries” (169). Neither indicative of political support nor the outcome of good governance, consensus opens a space for bargaining and contestation, in which social actors (are engineered to) accept certain hegemonic values and practices even though they do not entirely approve of the rule of the party-state. Emphasis on social order, evolutionary ideas of development, and aspirations for “modern” citizens and communities permeate a series of discursive activities such as public media, community activism, marketing strategies, and personal interactions, thus producing legitimacy for daily practices of government. The strength of this concept is that it goes beyond the dichotomy of acceptance and resistance. Luigi Tomba tries to capture the tension of state-society relations by asserting that consensus is not forced by the authoritarian regime but constructed through endless negotiations and contestations.
Chapters of this book introduce governing strategies of neighbourhood politics in Shenyang and Beijing: social clustering, micro-governing, social engineering, containing contention, and exemplarism. Each technique acts upon territory, one’s position, housing policy, activism, and one’s conduct, providing a kaleidoscopic topography of neighbourhood governance. Although the summary of each technique is kindly provided in the conclusion, I suggest that the reader not miss the vivid ethnographic descriptions and in-depth analyses in each chapter. What I found most illuminating among the various strategies described in the book was the section in chapter 3 on social engineering, which explains why the new propertied middle class never separate their love for market interests from their approval of state power. This chapter traces the formation of the “salaried middle class” as one of the foundations of the neighbourhood consensus. It delves into a selective redistribution of public assets (especially of housing) for professionals in public sectors and shows how such coordinated policy making helped to associate their interests with those of the state.
I am certain that this book will be discussed enthusiastically by scholars who engage in urban space, class politics, and governmentality in contemporary China. To stimulate this discussion, I want to conclude my review with a few remarks.
First, the analysis of neighbourhood consensus would face compelling complexity if it also includes urban village enclaves (chengzhongcun) other than working-class public housing compounds and middle-class gated communities. Full of migrants whose ties to the state are fragile and who are mostly excluded from the provision of public services, these peripheral enclaves prompt us to question how “the boundaries of a ‘consensual arena’ of interaction between state and society” (20) are to be set when local state agents struggle with a gap between the will to govern and the inability to govern.
Second, the working-class politics in Shenyang’s neighbourhood might be more dynamic and contentious than the author describes. As I argued in my book The Specter of “The People” (Cornell University Press, 2013), impoverished workers in northeast China invoke the claim of “the people,” i.e., the very language with which the party-state had once identified. This contingent claim not only legitimizes their “rightful” dependence on state paternalism, which Luigi Tomba particularly focuses on in his book, but also prevents these workers from being reduced to nameless, ahistorical “urban poor.” Neighbourhood politics are often caught in the oscillating tension between “the people” as a class and “the people” as a nation.
Finally, what kind of politics does the analysis of consensus lead us to imagine? The author writes, “What is interesting is not how much impact conflicts in such consensual arenas have on democratization or the substantial reform of China’s political system but rather how they contribute to reconfiguring the practices of power and authority” (171). Although I side with his opposition to evolutionary ideas of democracy, I still wonder if consensus cannot but remain as “policing,” borrowing Jacques Rancière’s terms, as a governing process of creating community consent, or if it has the potential to expand the realm of “the political” by invoking new forms of political imagination.
Mun Young Cho, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea
LOCAL GOVERNANCE INNOVATION IN CHINA: Experimentation, Diffusion, and Defiance. Routledge Contemporary China Series, 122. Edited by Jessica C. Teets and William Hurst. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xvi, 181 pp. (Illustrations, maps.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-74785-1.
This edited volume makes a significant contribution to a burgeoning literature on sub-national policy experimentation and diffusion in China. Bringing together nine rich and varied case studies, the volume sets out to more systematically theorize the pathways and processes of local policy innovation and diffusion, important for their potential to effect large-scale change. Four distinct patterns of policy diffusion are identified: top-down, bottom-up, inter-regional and intra-provincial. Each of these is found to have a different relationship to factors that commonly explain policy innovation and diffusion: persistent local governance challenges linked to cadre promotion criteria are found to drive most cases of local innovation, but only cause subnational diffusion. Central support can rapidly spread local initiatives nationally, but absent local need, centrally driven policies can encounter local resistance and innovative reinterpretation, behaviour which can spread regionally. Bureaucratic competition between government branches can also affect the speed of diffusion.
The case studies reveal how widespread local policy innovation and diffusion are across different policy areas. Highlighting the flexibility sub-national authorities can have, Ciqi Mei and Margaret Pearson’s chapter explains a case of defiance of Beijing`s attempts to curb local steel production. The authors show how a dynamic process of action, learning, and reaction shapes local behaviour. Observing how Beijing punished one offending steel producer to deter others, local governments and other producers calculated that the rewards of continued growth outweighed the probability and costs of punishment. Defiance thus spread, and steel production grew. Anna Lora-Wainwright also highlights how iterated, strategic interaction influences innovation and diffusion. As national urbanization policy extended to a Sichuan village, it was met not with resistance but with innovative individual responses to capitalize on the process. In response to a proposed development plan requiring village relocation, many villagers increased their house sizes in hopes of winning additional compensation. This strategy spread to such an extent that it ended up risking implementation of the plan due to higher compensation costs.
Kun-Chin Lin and Shaofeng Chen analyze another instance of strategic central-local interaction, this time in the area of state-owned enterprise (SOE) restructuring. The authors present two cases where centre and locality block each other’s initiatives and try to impose their own. When centrally mandated enterprise restructuring cut local governments off from enterprise-generated revenues, local governments developed countermeasures to preserve access to these revenues. One municipality leveraged its regulatory authority to extract side payments from a restructured firm. Another managed to implant its loyalists into a privatized firm’s new management to protect the locality’s claim on revenues, foiling part—but not all—of the intent of the central policies. William Hurst outlines a similar outcome in his chapter on privatization of a county-level SOE. He describes how local elites, faced with the centrally mandated privatization program, bent the policy to their advantage in order to retain access to the firm’s resources. Through a complex set of political and economic maneuvers, local officials orchestrated what Hurst calls a partial reform equilibrium under which local elites extracted benefits at the expense of both workers’ and central policy makers’ interests. While the objective of privatization was formally achieved, other central objectives of ending local political interference and access to firm resources were not. These cases demonstrate the dynamic, interactive nature of local innovation and policy diffusion, underpinning a key argument of the volume: that policy outcomes are a product of political compromise which may not yield socially optimal policies. Many cases highlight the formal institutions and structures shaping these interactive processes, and how informal institutions are developed to mediate between central dictates and local realities. Meina Cai describes how Zhejiang and Chongqing officials facing conflicting mandates (economic development and centrally imposed land-use restrictions) created land-use quota exchanges. Less developed counties traded their land development quotas for payments and investment from more developed counties, allowing the latter to build on more land than normally permitted. While central land-use quotas were violated at the county level, at the provincial level they balanced out to remain compliant with central rules. Similarly, Marie-Eve Rény outlines how some localities developed a more flexible policy of containment for unregistered Protestant house churches than Beijing’s harder-line policy of cooptation or repression. Containment is an informal agreement where house churches provide information to local police in exchange for a permissive approach to their activities, so long as they don’t threaten social stability. Rény argues the practice makes governance more effective and less costly, although the stricter central policy is an obstacle to wider diffusion.
May Farid’s chapter underlines another key argument of the volume, that the fragmented structure of the political system opens spaces for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support “system innovation.” Farid argues that NGOs can affect discourse on issues or pursue direct advocacy, but cannot mobilize opposition. An incremental process of micro-influence is described, whereby NGOs support local officials with expertise and capacity, offering advice, feedback, training and service delivery, and even policy solutions and demonstration sites—bearing some of the risks of local experimentation.
Finally, John James Kennedy and Dan Chen’s chapter details how local innovation has become an end in itself for many local cadres, as it may be rewarded—and influenced—by superiors. Looking at electoral process innovations, the authors note that innovations challenging Communist Party authority (such as direct elections for township head) are quickly halted. On the other hand, they observe an explosion of less significant “innovative” adjustments of electoral procedures, particularly those which strengthen grassroots Party control—in line with current central preferences.
This volume firmly establishes the frequency, diversity, and importance of local innovation and diffusion in China’s broader policy process, noting China’s capacity to effectively address its myriad governance challenges is at stake. It begins to lay theoretical groundwork to explain this diversity with its typology of diffusion patterns, and their relationship to several key structural, agent-centred, and contextual variables. Given its specialization, it is most suitable for those with some prior understanding of China’s political system. Having advanced our understanding of the intertwining structures and processes involved in local initiative, the volume rightly calls for more research which emphasizes disaggregating the state, the interaction between its different levels, and the role of non-state actors.
Stephen Trott, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
A MIDDLE CLASS WITHOUT DEMOCRACY: Economic Growth and the Prospects for Democratization in China. By Jie Chen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, c2013. xvi, 210 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$50.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-19-938561-4.
Jie Chen has written an accessible contribution to the theoretical debates on the relationship between development and democracy, with findings that are relevant to issues of late and late-late developers, post-Communist transition, and authoritarian states in general, as well as to the crucial questions of the role of middle class in democratic transitions and in China in particular. Using excellent probability sample survey data and in-depth qualitative interviews, Chen runs bivariate and multivariate regressions to rigorously test a set of hypotheses common among academics, pundits, and policy makers about the inevitability of democracy in middle-level income countries. His findings should make scholars and politicians alike sit up and take notice.
While not completely comprehensive in its treatment of debates around democracy, leaving out recent discussions of the meaning of the zigzag in democratic development in Latin America and elsewhere and only briefly mentioning the debates about premature or illiberal democracies (overlooking Guillermo O’Donnell’s contributions entirely), the book still provides excellent summaries of debates such as the role of economic development and the middle class in creating democracy (3–10), definitions of “middle class” by subjective or objective criteria, and by quantitative vs. qualitative measures (30–33), and models of China’s new middle-class
growth using market-transition vs. state-centric models (43–44). Chen conducted well-designed random surveys and interviews in Beijing, Chengdu, and Xi’an to test a wide range of hypotheses related to Chinese classes’ political views. Chen’s definitions and operationalization of relevant concepts such as “support for democracy” (67–75) and support for the state (both diffuse and specific) (80–86) are comprehensively justified. He breaks with many who identify China’s middle class based on income, and convincingly explains his choice of occupation for identifying the middle class (managerial personnel, professionals, and office workers, 35, 64).
Chen’s excellent bivariate and multivariate analyses result in wonderfully well-supported findings, which this short review cannot fully explore. Most dramatically, the Chinese middle class as a whole is shown to be less supportive of democratic principles and institutions than the lower class (77, 112). Chen’s cross-tabulations between the indices of democratic support and political support show that those within the middle class who both support the current CCP regime and who gave high scores for their policy performance are much less supportive of democracy and democratization (89). This negative view of democracy and political change is even stronger among the middle class who work in the party/state or in state-owned enterprises.
Thus Chen finds that the attitudes of the new middle class toward democracy in China today are “contingent”—dependent on the class members’ moral and material connection with the party/state. Those directly in the state bureaucracy or state-owned enterprises (60 percent of the sample) are even less supportive of democracy than the middle class as a whole, confirming what has been found across the developing world (89 and chapters 4 and 6). Those in the middle class who work within the state sector only have a “high” support for democracy in 11 percent of the sample, while those outside the state sector have a high support for democracy 49 percent of the time (101). Interestingly, the middle class is more inclined to vote in elections the more they dislike democracy (133). Among all respondents, by contrast, supporters of democracy were dramatically less likely to vote than those who supported the current party/state system. Students of democratic developments in China would be well served to keep this in mind when crunching numbers and positing implications of electoral participation in China. Chen also shows that the middle class has much greater support for the political regime and its fundamental values, norms, and institutions (84), making it highly unlikely that this class will be a source of democratic pressure. Chen points out that contrary views of the Chinese middle class have not used probability surveys as he did, thus his findings are more robust (80).
Chen argues that all the so-called democratic institutions of current-day China are not only pseudo-democratic, but have been carefully designed by the CCP to be politically, structurally, and ideologically constrained to serve the ultimate political goal of state legitimacy, not democratization (chapter 5). “Not only has the CCP severely restricted the scope and format of electoral activities and deliberations, but it has also made relentless efforts to control the substance of the activities and deliberations to make sure that no political view contrary to the CCP’s ‘four cardinal principles’ sneaks into the local elections” (126). Unfortunately, the citations Chen’s literature reviews on China are often drawn from the 1990s and do not include recent developments and innovations. Relatedly, the “Chinese party/state” is portrayed quite monolithically, ignoring long-standing debates about the fragmentation of its authoritarianism.
The entirely urban focus of the book should have been repeated in text and in tables to make sure the findings were appropriately qualified. Chen does not cite any current proponents of modernization theory, but still makes shooting down its prediction of development leading to democracy one of his key points, missing an opportunity to engage policy and popular debate, where the theory is alive and well.
In the conclusion, Chen includes a broad pan-Asian comparative analysis of the role of the middle class. It appears clear that so long as the majority of China’s middle class remains tied to the party/state, both institutionally and ideationally (160), formal channels of political participation will continue to be used in ways that support the party/state. Written in a clear, engaging style, with effortlessly readable literature reviews of academic debates, this volume should be considered a must-read for those directly researching issues of development and democracy as well as those teaching in relevant undergraduate or graduate programs. This reviewer has decided to use parts of the book both in a China-specific upper-level undergraduate Chinese politics class and in a development-oriented class this year.
Michelle S. Mood, Kenyon College, Gambier, USA
DAMS AND DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA: The Moral Economy of Water and Power. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Bryan Tilt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. xv, 259 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-231-17011-6.
Dams and Development in China is a succinct and very useful introduction to the complex issue of hydroelectric development in China’s strategic southwestern region. Geopolitically, the Nu and Lancang rivers, the focus of the book’s case studies, drain through several southeast Asian countries. Development of the water resources in the upstream of these rivers has potentially critical consequences for downstream riparian communities. Domestically, the hydroelectric potential of these streams holds the promise of augmenting energy resources to the fast developing eastern regions of China, as well as the promise of clean energy in a country where heavy reliance on coal-fired power generation has resulted in extraordinary air pollution in urban areas. Subtitled “The Moral Economy of Water and Power,” the text examines these competing interests by elucidating “the normative choices that must be made when various objectives—economic development, energy production, biodiversity, conservation, and the protection of the rights of vulnerable people, among others—comes into conflict” (xi). Divided into seven chapters, Tilt endeavours to elucidate how different social interest groups devise deliberate strategies that reflect particular moral perspectives on the management of water. The issue of water development in Yunnan Province has been a topic of some scholarly attention over the past decade or so, often facilitated by a robust presence of international NGOs in the region, but the particular value of this text is its success in translating critical fieldwork into an effective text that synthesizes the multiple dimensions of hydro development in China.
In addition to examining the Lancang and Nu River development through the lens of a variety of stakeholders, the remaining chapters examine the interests of a specific set of social groups that impact and/or are impacted by the development of water resources in China’s southwest. First, the author explores scientific and developmental terrain traversed by technical experts in China’s vast water bureaucracy as they engage the “epistemological processes involved in high-level decision making” (108) on water issues. Frameworks of decision making, modelling, modes of environmental assessment, and feedback mechanisms are all components of a bureaucratic process that shape conclusions and decisions. The author reasonably argues, however, that such bureaucratic processes are of little value if they do not “fit into a larger system of equitable, transparent, and accountable decision making” (132). And it is here that the inevitable question of the resettlement of rural communities is broached. The author is well aware of the oft-cited stories of inequities around the globe implicated in large dam construction, but nevertheless argues that the outcomes of resettlement in China require “a close look at the details of policy governing resettlement and at the ways individuals participate in the decision-making process. It also requires an examination of the changing nature of land-use rights in contemporary China” (135). Such a careful examination leads to conclusions that are not always predicable. On the one hand, large institutions in China, including government agencies and quasi-private/public financial institutions, render policy decisions that are clearly distanced from the lived experiences of rural communities. Indeed, the author argues that the hybrid nature of China’s political economy (“market socialism”) results in very little local input into resettlement policies and processes. On the other hand, the author’s fieldwork points to differentiated outcomes of resettlement policies on the denizens of displaced communities. The last constituency that Tilt examines is the role of international conservation organizations in China’s dam-building enterprise. Of particular interest here are the different tactics INGOs have adopted in adapting to the Chinese political landscape. Having to negotiate pragmatism versus ideology, the author argues that organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, which indeed promote the notion of minimizing the negative effects of dam construction (as opposed to outright objections to projects), have maximized the potentialities of INGOs to shape China’s water development policies. Of course, this landscape is shifting literally as we speak. Although the author “highlights the increasingly important role played by international conservation organizations in contemporary China” (166), only in the very recent past couple of years (i.e., since this chapter was written), have we witnessed the playing field for international advocacy and development organizations in China circumscribed in significant ways.
With roughly half of the world’s 50,000 large dams, but with perhaps the greatest potential for further development of surface water resources of any country in the world, China is unlikely to see the end of its dam-building era end any time soon. This is particularly true when a variety of constituencies within China see hydroelectricity as one important option to the burning of fossil fuels for energy production. Given this reality and the further reality that the rivers of China’s southwest region are critically important transnational waterways, an understanding of the complex dimensions of China’s water development landscape are vitally important. Dams and Development in China does a superb job of providing a succinct and even-handed exploration of these dynamics. The author has avoided making certain judgments about the correctness, or otherwise, of particular water development policies, and their implementation in China. Instead, Tilt’s goal is to “elucidate the goals and strategies of key constituent groups as they relate to balancing conservation and development objectives . . . and to show how these strategies are grounded in moral, cultural, and historical precedents” (193). The analysis succeeds in these ambitions and serves as a superb introduction to the complexity of water development politics in contemporary China.
David Pietz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, USA
FANTASY ISLANDS: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis. A Philip E. Lilienthal Book. By Julie Sze. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. 235 pp. (Figures, map.) US$26.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28448-7.
The pace and scale of urban development in contemporary China is unmatched in human history. The social and environmental implications of this are hotly debated. Many decry the forced displacement of long-time city residents or periurban farmers to make way for new construction, or the increased resource consumption that now makes China the world’s largest carbon emitter. Others point to the opportunity to build energy-efficient technologies and resource-conserving designs into new buildings and entire city plans. Such plans for an “eco-city” on Chongming Island, outside of Shanghai, inspired Julie Sze to apply a critical view to narratives around “ecological” urban development in China. She consciously draws on her background as both an American Studies scholar and a descendent of emigrants from Chongming to unpack the stories that international developers and the Chinese government tell about cities, technology, and globalization.
Fantasy Islands is organized around three case studies, each a fantasy in some sense: the Dongtan eco-city on Chongming, billed as the world’s largest such project but never built; the “One City, Nine Towns” projects that have incongruously attempted to replicate various European styles in real estate developments around Shanghai; and the 2010 World Expo that, like many prior world’s fairs, presents its host country’s vision of a global future. Sze punctuates her personal observations with details about the development ambitions of each site drawn from a wide range of academic and journalistic sources. The picture that emerges from the three cases is of American and European architects uncritically embracing the Chinese government’s ambitions to promote urbanization, globalization, and technological solutions to social and environmental challenges.
Sze draws on the theoretical framing of James Scott’s influential book Seeing Like a State (1998) and Warren Magnussen’s subsequent article “Seeing Like a City” (in the book Critical Urban Studies, 2010), which call attention to issues of power relations in state-initiated projects. The Chinese government’s development strategy is based in a “top-down and technocratic view of environmental development” (101). While promising to address urgent environmental problems—most notably, global climate change—it also has the potential to make a great deal of money for transnational architectural and engineering firms. These motivations can lead international environmentalists and developers alike “to a willful blindness to the negative consequences of projects that … end up creating or exacerbating other social injustices” (28).
Fantasy Islands offers a much-needed critique of the collusion between the Chinese state and key transnational developers, pointing out the language of “eco-desire” that permeates their public statements and promotional materials. However, while the book comprehensively reviews the secondary literature around the three case studies, we hear relatively few of the voices of the people displaced by these developments. Sze cites one example of a human rights case brought by a family displaced by the World Expo, but that is countered by an official statement that “the relocation has been widely acclaimed by residents” (127–128). The story of a family friend still living in a crowded, outdated apartment suggests “why some Shanghainese are … unsentimental about relocation and change, especially if it means more money, a little more privacy, and cleanliness” (49). No doubt that represents many urbanites’ views, but that perspective is not shared by the displaced farmers and villagers who are responsible for thousands of protests across China each year, some violent. Some have had their relocation stipends skimmed off by corrupt officials, or been displaced multiple times (Chongming itself was a relocation site for farmers displaced by the Three Gorges Dam project).
Even the urbanites’ attitudes about these new developments are shaped by the relentless state rhetoric that maps “urban” and “international” onto “modern” and “desirable.” The target of this rhetoric is primarily domestic, a point readers could miss in Sze’s discussion of the English-language marketing materials for the projects, such as the slogan for the World Expo (“Better City, Better Life”); as she does note, “the official meaning changes based on whether it is aimed at English- or Chinese-speaking audiences” (139) (a better translation of the Chinese slogan might be “Cities Make Life Better”). The domestic propaganda purpose of the fair is clear in the words of a designer of one of the pavilions celebrating urban life: fair visitors from across China “come here to understand the city and to know what the city is. This is the original goal of the expo and also why our country invested so much money in this expo to make Chinese people … realize their world citizenship” (145). Sze dismisses as vague bureaucratic language the official designation of the Chongming project as a “test point” for the construction of “ecological civilization” (38), but that term situates this endeavour in the Chinese Communist Party’s longstanding practice of using test points and model units to popularize various policies, a point that would not be missed by a domestic audience.
Fantasy Islands concludes with a conversation with the reader about the lessons of the book, gained from the author’s “uniquely American vantage point [as a] prototypical immigrant offspring, … an Asian American suspicious of China-bashing as much as a committed environmentalist” (162–163). In addition to meeting Sze’s goal of “interject[ing] some healthy skepticism into the eco-city trend,” the book succeeds in demonstrating how an American Studies scholar can bridge disciplinary and geographical boundaries to contribute to the ever-growing literature on the city in China. Her warning “against any simple design or technological fix” for environmental challenges will resonate as these urban models from Shanghai continue to spread across China and beyond.
Mark Henderson, Mills College, Oakland, USA
FORGING CHINA’S MILITARY MIGHT: A New Framework for Assessing Innovation. Edited by Tai Ming Cheung. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. vi, 295 pp. (Figures, tables.) $24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-4214-1158-3.
As a result of China’s reform movement since the 1980s, the People’s Liberation Army (the PLA, as China’s army, air, naval, and strategic missile forces are collectively known) has experienced a wave of growth and change in the past thirty years. The ongoing changes and the inevitable implications in Asia-Pacific security have attracted great academic attention in the West, especially in the United States. As a leading scholar in the field, Tai Ming Cheung has brought together a group of first-string experts and their students in a new effort to provide a better understanding of the progress and problems of PLA modernization and what it means to the United States. The underlying research in the book reflects more than three years of continuous collaborative efforts under Cheung’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) at the University of California. His collection of nine essays offers a comprehensive and insightful assessment of the Chinese defense science and technology (S&T) in the 2010s. Any China specialist, military analyst, strategist, Chinese historian, teacher, and student of international relations in East Asia will find the volume’s previously unpublished sources of great interest and will value the important, novel questions it raises. This collection deserves close reading, particularly in view of the tension that still goes on in the South China Sea between the PLA and the US armed forces.
The nine essays cover three major issues of Chinese defense science and technology capabilities. Chapters 1, 2, and 6 develop some frameworks of analysis to Chinese defense innovation, including “a rigorous definition” (3) of defense innovation, a “framework for understanding Chinese defense and military innovation” (23), and an approach to Beijing’s “dual-use, defense-oriented innovation ecosystem” (139). Chapters 3, 4, 8, and 9 apply the conception and frameworks to an analysis of the Chinese navy, air force, missile industry, and aerospace programs as case studies. These chapters also examine the defense-innovation-related organizations, administration, operation, and civil-military relations by studying, for example, the PLA’s Science and Technology Committee (STC) and military representative offices (MROs). Chapters 5 and 7 explore the status of the PLA modernization in Chinese politics and international defense industrial relations. The former points out that China “has crafted a strategy that is focused on greatly expanding its utilization of civil-military integration (CMI)” (109) by examining Hu Jintao’s government in the 2000s. The latter places China in the “lower parts of the Tier 2 category” as one of the “adapters and modifiers” in the global defense industry because the Chinese defense industry “demonstrates few capacities for designing and producing relatively advanced conventional weapon systems” (5) and “China appears still to have only limited indigenous technological capabilities, relative to the West” (203). Nevertheless, Cheung concludes that China’s “enormous scale and intensity of this technological and industrial undertaking has not been seen since the Cold War days of intense US-Soviet technological and military rivalry” (273). He warns that it will undermine regional security, since the Asia-Pacific countries, including the United States, “have been taking steps to beef up their regional defense capabilities through weapons acquisitions or adjusting their military strategies and force deployments” (277).
The contributors have done incredible research on such a comprehensive subject in a single volume. Their multi-lingual capabilities and multiple-perspective approach have distinguished this book from most previous works. Therefore, this book makes three significant contributions to the scholarship in the field. First, the book compares the defense industry of China with those of other countries, including the United States, Britain, Russia, Italy, India, and Turkey. Its comparative perspective identifies China’s rapidly increased defense budget (at least fivefold over the past fifteen years) with the world’s second-highest defense R&D budget, and locates its innovation sources both domestically and internationally. Second, its diachronic discussions explore the reasons and factors for the PLA’s changes and constraints on the implementation of reforms, as well as the outcome of those efforts. Through their detailed narrative, the chapters capture the essence of successive generations of the PLA while illuminating the themes and patterns of its modernization. Third, the innovation patterns and models studied in the volume, such as China’s high-cost, high-end “gold-plated” approach, provide some predictive power to see the future of the PLA S&T. The Chinese defense industry will develop sophisticated weapons in some areas “that are able to match those of the United States and other advanced rivals” (277).
However, like most other essay collections, its chapters could have been better connected to each other in terms of narratives and analysis. Its introduction seems more a commentary or a conclusive summation of the essays than an entryway. Also, the book needs to be consistent in format and style. For instance, a few chapters use the Chinese characters and Hanyu Pinyin both in the text and endnotes, some only use the Chinese characters in the endnotes, and others don’t use them at all. The name of a well-known Chinese science and technology university in Beijing has traditional Wade-Giles spelling as “Tsinghua University” (China’s MIT) on pages 13 and 149, but in Hanyu Pinyin as “Qinghua University” on pages 115 and 247. A list of abbreviations and maps of China may be necessary for those who are not familiar with the military phrases and Chinese provinces and cities. A glossary and a note on transliteration would also help in navigating Chinese names and places that are largely alien to Western readers.
Xiaobing Li, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, USA
HEALTH POLICY REFORM IN CHINA: A Comparative Perspective. Series on Contemporary China, v. 36. By Jiwei Qian, Åke Blomqvist. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2014. viii, 354 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4425-88-9.
China has undergone significant changes in health-care policy since the beginning of the twentieth century. In the late imperial period, Confucian governments were non-interventionist in people’s health. In the twentieth century, China’s government increasingly saw the management of the health of the population as an important responsibility, even if it was unable to care for the vast majority of the people. Policy changes in the People’s Republic in 1949, 1965, 1979, and 2009 have been dramatic. The first two provided near universal public health, and then basic primary health care, decreasing infant mortality from 200 to 34 per 1000 live births, and raising life expectancy from 35 to 65 years. Market-based reforms after 1979 saw state expenditures drop and health outcomes for the rural majority decline until a new round of reform attempts in the 2000s.
Health Policy Reform in China examines only the very recent round of reforms in China’s health policy from the perspective of comparative health economics. In part 1, Qian and Blomqvist introduce the results of moving away from a centrally planned health system toward a market-based one in the 1980s—central government subsidies for health care were reduced and patients faced higher charges as hospitals marked up drugs and added new fees. Insurance coverage from rural cooperative medical schemes and urban insurance were reduced. The economy of China boomed, but health care became a burden for a growing number of Chinese.
Qian and Blomqvist argue that a mixture of state and market mechanisms are the best model. Throughout the book, the authors offer comparisons to the UK and the Netherlands as positive models. They claim that all health-care economists agree on two basic requirements for health-care reform: equity and efficiency. Each system approaches these differently, with the NHS in Britain covering all residents equally, while adopting supply-side incentives where patients choose providers, while the Dutch system allows citizens to choose one of many competing social or private insurance plans. The US system is rejected for its inequity and inefficiency.
In part 2, Qian and Blomqvist examine the main components of the current health reform, including social insurance systems, primary care, hospital reform, and drug policy. Each component either works toward, or against, the two goals of equity and efficiency. Reformers face the question of whether social insurance should be covered by taxes or by fees, and whether there should be private insurance options. Three systems have developed: the Basic Health Insurance system for urban workers, the new Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme, and the Urban Resident Basic Medical Insurance. The government chose to take a more active role with the aim of universal coverage by 2012 (the year at which most data in the book ends). A recent report claims that 95 percent of Chinese people are now covered, indicating some measure of success for the new reforms in terms of equity, although it admits that the problem of expense and limited access despite insurance coverage has not yet been solved (Wen Xueguo and Fang Zhiwu, Zhongguo yiyao weisheng tizhi gaige baogao 2014–2015, Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 349). Reforms to balance primary and hospital care and improve drug policy aim to address these.
Part 3 examines inequality in healthcare as part of the CCP’s slogan of “harmonious development,” and the authors argue that providing equal care to all Chinese is not currently realistic, and instead suggest that the government should guarantee access to “at least a basic menu of health services and drugs to everyone, including the poor” (239). Part 4 looks to the future of China’s health system and posits that a compromise solution between markets and government purchasing may be reached, as in a number of developed nations such as Canada or Japan. Finally, Qian and Blomqvist see the most likely outcome being that China will follow the Dutch model of a mixed private and public health insurance scheme.
This is a technical book for policy makers and economists and a weakness is its lack of historical perspective. Qian and Blomqvist admit that the Maoist-era government “could point to its health policy as a comparative success,” yet they nonetheless feel that the Reform Era of dismantling central planning has been “a vast improvement in comparison with what had gone before it” (3). Yet only one page later, the authors include UN data that demonstrates the opposite in one simple chart: life expectancy in China shot up dramatically between 1965 and 1975, the period of most intense revolutionary egalitarian health policies, only to return, in the Reform Era, to the standard rate of increase for developed economies.
The authors praise decentralization and privatization against the influence of officials (89–91). This small-government, decentralized approach fails to acknowledge that a private health bureaucracy creates at least as much inefficiency and waste as a centralized one. Ironically, the authors admit that “a large body of skilled managers” will be needed “if the system is to be managed in a decentralized fashion” (90). The shift to a market-based health-care system “has not led to higher productivity, [but] … only to substantially higher costs and more waste of resources” (12). Thirty years of market reforms have led to more untreated illness today than when the reforms began, as sick people wait to seek treatment until symptoms reach a crisis point, and providers push unnecessary and expensive treatments and medication to raise their income. The authors do not address the widespread phenomenon of desperate patients who physically assault health-care providers, euphemized as “the doctor-patient relationship” (yihuan guanxi). While one may hope that China will achieve greater health equity under the current reforms, one could well wonder if the hybrid market reforms suggested here are merely a case of treating the symptom rather than the disease.
David Luesink, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA
AFTER MIGRATION AND RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Religions, Chinese Identities, and Transnational Networks. Edited by Tan Chee-Beng. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Company, 2015. xxxii, 382 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$138.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4583-90-9.
As shown by its title, this book aims to explore the religious life of the overseas Chinese community, with a focus on the role of religion in the making of ethnic identities and transnational networks. Religious affiliation can serve as an indicator that shows the level of cultural integration of the migrants into their host society, as well as their ties with their native land. In other words, religious faiths and practices express the way the overseas Chinese identify themselves. Comprising thirteen articles (plus an introduction) written by scholars from different academic backgrounds, this book is strong in its geographical breadth and in the variety of religions it covers. The countries discussed in this book include Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Spain, Canada, America, Cuba, and Peru. Christianity, Islam, Japanese and Theravada Buddhism, and Chinese popular religions are dealt with. Readers can catch a glimpse of the various ways in which the Chinese migrants modify their native religious practices in a new environment and react to the existing religions of the host society.
The book is divided into four parts, namely, “Chinese religious traditions and living in the diaspora,” “localization and Chinese religious traditions,” “Christianity, Islam and the Chinese overseas,” and “religious affiliations and transnational networks.” As many of these themes are interconnected, the current division of the articles into these four categories is understandably arbitrary. The approaches and quality of articles vary widely. Some articles show a higher level of sophistication in terms of research and analysis, and are therefore more successful than others in illustrating the main theme of the book. Here are some of the more outstanding ones. Leo Suryadinata’s study (in part 1) explains how the state religious policy of Indonesia, which required every citizen to have a religious affiliation, affected the religious life of the Chinese people. With particular attention given to Confucianism and Buddhism, Suryadinata argues that “Chinese religions have been highly Indonesianized in order to survive and to be accepted as ‘Indonesian religions’” (22). Aristotle C. Dy and Teresita Ang See’s article (in part 2) on the interaction between Chinese religions and Catholicism in the Philippines gives a detailed analysis of the different levels of syncretism between the two faiths. It concludes that “the Chinese Filipinos’ unique brand of syncretism, one that includes Catholic elements, makes it an important marker of Chinese identity in the Philippines” (141). Chiou Syuan-yuan’s study (in part 3) on Chinese Muslims in Indonesia, which examines the assimilation plan of an ethnic Chinese leader who advocated the conversion of Indonesian Chinese into Islam, shows the importance of political and business factors in affecting one’s religious affiliation. With detailed examples of long-distance divination practices and candles donations, Irene Masdeu Torruella’s article (in part 4) explains the role played by a monastery in Qingtian county, Zhejiang Province in strengthening the transnational links between the Chinese migrants in Spain and their native place.
Some articles do not seem to fit very well into the analytical framework of the book. Myra Sidharta’s article on the Mazu worship on the Island of Java reads more like an anecdote or field notes than an academic work. The article points out that the Mazu temples “have a special relations with each other because they usually celebrate the birthday of the goddess together in Gresik,” and that in 2012, the “celebration shifted to Lasem” (16) without explaining the reasons behind it. Some readers may find the map showing the location of the Mazu temples in Java useful, though. Satohiro Serizawa’s article narrates an interesting story of the connection between a Chaozhou’s Buddhist organization in Vietnam and esoteric Buddhism in Japan. He concludes that the Chinese migrants “are adapting to the host society while maintaining traits of local culture in Chaozhou which include the traits of Japanese Buddhism” (326). Unfortunately, the article focuses on individuals’ ties without shedding much light on the religious contents. Readers are left wondering how the Chaozhou people perceived Japanese Buddhism and discerned the differences between Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.
That being said, the book serves as a useful starting point for comparative analysis in the future. By putting all the articles together, the readers can get a basic grasp of the various factors and variables that affect the religious landscape and religious affiliation of the overseas Chinese. These factors include the syncretic nature of Chinese religions, policies of the government and religious organizations of the host society, and the place of origin and business needs of the migrants. However, some possibly significant factors are not touched on in this book. For instance, the migration history and settlement patterns might affect the communal ties and solidarity of the Chinese migrants in the host society, which in turn would shape their attitudes towards the religion of their native place and that of the host society.
Shuk-wah Poon, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, China
This thought-provoking global history of Maoism focusses on the circulation and reception of the book of Mao Zedong’s quotations, the Little Red Book, and of the ideas of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) both in China and elsewhere. Cook concludes that “the Little Red Book is what people made of it” (xvi). In the first, second, and third worlds—into which the volume, suitably for the time period it covers, categorizes the world—the Little Red Book embodied the rebelliousness that helped people tackle local problems. Mao’s China influenced the world in which we live now, from shaping neo-Marxism in France (Bourg) and contributing to the erosion of universalism, which ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union (McGuire), to setting the agendas of ethnic studies in American academia and African and Asian American activism (Mullen) and spurring a cultural turn in the humanities (Bourg).
This volume is an enjoyable read. It incorporates the wide range of perspectives necessary to understand this complex phenomenon both in China and globally. Rich sources are well fleshed out. Sources include publications by those who responded to the Little Red Book, from embassies to students and intellectuals influenced by Maoism: these include official speeches, pamphlets, Communist Party treatises, oral histories, online publications from state newspapers, dissidents’ blogs, and Mao’s texts. The various theoretical perspectives include those which are inspired by Mao’s critique of the Naxalite and Shining Path movements (Chakrabarti, Palmer); national histories, including China’s (Guobing Yang, Lanjun Xu); and theoretical approaches to pop culture, music, and propaganda (Jones, Ban Wang).
Among these fifteen well-sequenced chapters, China-centred essays highlight those aspects of Maoist cultural production which help the reader understand the appeal of the book beyond its original cultural context. From the historical origins and syncretism of the format of the Little Red Book (Leese); to the translation and technologies of its circulation outside China (Lanjun Xu); the meaning of metaphors (Cook); musical and performative aspects of the pop culture of the Cultural Revolution (Jones); the book as the “sacred script of revolution,” which set in motion its “incantatory power” and the unity of performance and reality in the Cultural Revolution (Guobin Yang, 61, 67); and, last but not least, Ban Wang’s provocative essay on the rituals and religiosity of the Cultural Revolution, which argues for the democratism of the Little Red Book—all these shed light on the rationale and traction points for the responses to the book worldwide, described in other chapters.
This volume will interest a wide audience of specialists in national histories, as well as those interested in global history. A thread running through most essays is well elucidated by Reill, who states that “Cold War explanations do not clarify domestic receptions” (204). Various local circumstances provoked enthusiastic responses in the world outside the Iron Curtain, from the alternative “shared imaginary” of the nation in Tanzania; to the student activism of the 1960s in Germany; “Orientalist” admiration in West Germany, Italy, and France; the pop-cultural appeal of catchy melodies and chanting to youth and the mundane reason that the book’s small format was fashionable in Europe, as well (Leese, 34).
These findings diversify our understanding of the Cold War. The book’s negative reception behind the Iron Curtain in the context of the Sino-Soviet split is not counterintuitive and the general dread that communist ideology incited by the 1960s among the population of the socialist bloc is not unknown. Yet, when examined within the context of the book’s strategic use as political leverage in Albania (Mëhilli) or of the personal experiences of people from the DDR and the Soviet Union during the Cultural Revolution, the findings advance our understanding of post-socialist spaces. The volume’s global outlook reveals once again the problematic use of such labels as “left” or “dissident” without contextualization. While French communist dissidents were Maoists, for Soviet dissidents, Maoism was the symbol of feared re-Stalinization (154). While Maoism appealed to communist youth because of its pop-cultural circulation and because it resonated with the postwar social experiences in Italy, such as intergenerational conflict (while also echoing the Sino-Soviet split), the Little Red Book was not used by communists only but also by ultra-right wing groups (192). Another takeaway is the importance of laughter, irony, and metaphor in the multilayered Cold War culture both in and outside China. For example, the book “acted as the textual equivalent of a tomato” to be thrown to express protest among belligerent students in West Germany (215).
All in all, this excellent volume demonstrates that Maoism, like Marxism-Leninism, was used by local actors strategically. The reception of the Little Red Book was mostly coded in the cultural codes of receiving cultures (including the social context and the structure of labour and communist movements), something we need to keep in mind in studies of other topics. Last but not least, a work of global history that centres on the circulation of an Asian intellectual product, this volume is a reminder that we need to account for global and non-Western histories to adequately understand familiar national narratives of our own.
Anna Belogurova, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Was China’s socialist revolution derivative or distinctive? Was the Mao Zedong-led Chinese Communist Party disciplined or destructive? With China Under Mao: A Revolution Derailed, sociologist Andrew G. Walder provides answers to these questions through an in-depth examination of modern Chinese history, starting with the era of military conflict between Mao’s Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party in the 1930s and 1940s, and ending with Mao’s death in Beijing on September 9, 1976.
The book is one of the first in English to make use of sources drawn from the Chinese Communist Party’s own organizational histories, while at the same time synthesizing nearly seven decades of scholarship on socialism in China, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union. In terms of wider impact, one of the lasting contributions made by China Under Mao is likely to be its portrayal of Mao Zedong as a limited and unoriginal ideologue whose Soviet-derived policies resulted in decades of internal strife and disaster for approximately one-fifth of the world’s population.
Walder’s core premise is that China’s post-1949 state was based on two institutional features to which Communist Party leaders had already committed prior to 1949: the first, a centralized and disciplined party apparatus, and the second, a Soviet Union-derived socialist economy. The context in which this governing style developed was not guerilla war, as has often been assumed, but rather the massive Chinese Civil War of 1945–1949. From this insight he develops three arguments which represent the book’s main themes. The first concerns Mao. According to Walder, Mao’s decision making was primarily influenced by dogmatic adherence to the political and economic tenets of early Stalinism, unswerving faith in the ultimate efficacy of mass mobilization and military power, and impatience with post-1930s models of socialist economic development. The book’s second argument is that the “new civilization” created by Communist Party leaders after 1949 was supported by “two pillars: a bureaucratically administered economy that utterly rejected market mechanisms, and a disciplined and unitary party organization that extended its reach deep into society and economy” (81). Thus, up until roughly 1956, the PRC was managed almost wholly according to the Soviet model. Finally, Walder argues that the transition from revolutionary (pre-1949) to bureaucratic (post-1949) socialism, while providing some gains in aggregate living standards and GDP, was a demographic and political catastrophe. The PRC’s population soared, and Mao’s frustrations with the downsides of Soviet-style planning—in particular its proneness to economic stagnation and creation of a large class of managerial experts lacking in revolutionary experience and zeal—resulted in the twin tragedies of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.
China Under Mao is organized as a narrative; however, each chapter also contributes thematically to the larger analytic whole. In the book’s first chapter, “Funeral,” Walder unambiguously places Mao at the centre of the story that unfolds. Like many recent studies of Chinese elite politics, most notably Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals’ monumental study Mao’s Last Revolution (Harvard University Press, 2006), China Under Mao refutes the notion that other leading Communist Party figures such as Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping ever mounted significant challenges to Mao’s policies. “From Movement to Regime” (chapter 2) builds Walder’s case that the context in which Maoism evolved was one of total war involving the massive mobilization of large swaths of China’s populace against the forces of Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek and his armies. “Rural Revolution” (chapter 3) and “Urban Revolution” (chapter 4) highlight the role of armed force and organizational control as key elements in both pre- and post-1949 Communist Party state making. “The Socialist Economy” (chapter 5) and “The Evolving Party System” (chapter 6) highlight the tremendous presence of Soviet influence in the design and construction of China’s political economy. By the end of the 1950s the “new state” (121) was basically complete; however, largely staffed by bureaucrats and other non-revolutionary experts it proved to be anathema to Mao’s earlier Stalinist vision of revolution as a process of perpetual “class struggle” between forces both internal and external to the party-state (26).
The book’s subsequent chapters thus tell a story more familiar to scholars of the People’s Republic of China: that of how Mao Zedong, disenchanted with what he perceived to be the failings of socialism in its post-revolutionary form, sought to reinvigorate China’s slowing economy and disaffected populace through frequent recourse to social purges, economic mobilization campaigns, and calls for revolution. This story is clearly described in chapters “Thaw and Backlash,” “Great Leap,” “Toward the Cultural Revolution,” and “Fractured Rebellion,” each of which is based on a remarkable summation of previous research—including Walder’s own—on the elite politics and social consequences surrounding Mao’s policies during the 1950s and 1960s, culminating with the spasms of Red Guard and “rebel” violence that followed the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in May 1966 (200). “Collapse and Division” (chapter 11) follows in painstaking detail the organization, campaigns, and factional politics which comprised the Maoist leadership’s response to this initial outpouring of violent insurrection. “Military Rule” (chapter 12) makes the revelatory case that more than half of the deaths caused by the Cultural Revolution occurred amidst military-administered demobilization and campaigns such as the Cleansing of the Class Ranks, which alone killed a staggering 600,000 to 800,000 people in all (277).
The death of Mao’s chosen successor, Lin Biao, in September 1971 following an alleged coup attempt, marked a new period of political division for China, and resulted in a new outpouring of citizen frustration with China’s radical leaders. “Discord and Dissent” (chapter 13) sheds new light on relatively little-known episodes in China’s political history, such as the posthumous campaign against Lin, and quotes at length several scathing denunciations of China’s leadership (291–300) which circulated widely and, as Walder provocatively argues, became the ideological backbone of China’s post-Mao democracy movements in 1978 and 1979 (301). The Cultural Revolution not only created a fractured rebellion but, ultimately, engendered a fractured elite and society as well. China Under Mao’s final chapter, “The Mao Era in Retrospect,” demonstrates that these costs extended well beyond the destructive erosion of relations between citizens, civil elites, and the military; as Walder points out, other fruits of Mao’s Stalinist vision included unstable economic growth, barely manageable demographic expansion, a wasteful and inefficient industrial sector, and stagnation in living standards. To the extent that Maoism represented a coherent political system, this system was characterized by impatience, violence, reliance on bureaucracy, and Mao’s idiosyncratic, if not “extremely odd” 340 readings of the Soviet model and its limitations. Rather than lauding Mao as a creative revolutionary, Walder provides another epitaph: brilliant tactician, narrow thinker, and inhumane dictator.
Matthew D. Johnson, Grinnell College, Grinnell, USA
In 2005, Foreign Language Press in Beijing published the richly illustrated, charming little book Chinese Chopsticks. It was written by Lan Xiang, a long-time chopsticks collector and the founder of the Chopsticks Museum
in Shanghai. The museum’s collection is said to include over a thousand pairs of chopsticks from China, Korea, Japan, and Thailand, with the oldest ones dating back to the Tang period (618–907). While quite informative, Lan’s book is not an academic work on the subject. It took another decade for a long-overdue study of the cultural history of chopsticks to be finally published. Without a doubt, it will be a welcome addition to the pantheon of seminal works on the culinary history of East Asia. The publication does, however, have one important limitation. The book claims to be a “comprehensive and reliable account of how and why chopsticks became adopted by their users and continued, as a dining habit, through the centuries in Asia and beyond” (1). The author adds that the book also aims to discuss the “culinary impact of chopsticks use on Asian cookeries and cuisines and vice versa: how the change of foodways in the region influenced people’s choice of eating tools,” and “to analyze the cultural meanings of chopsticks and chopsticks use in the respective cultures of their users” (1). Judging from the endorsements that appear on the back cover of the volume, these three goals—specified at the beginning of the introduction—have been successfully met, and in many respects this is definitely the case. Yet, it needs to be pointed out that all four endorsements were written by China specialists: Benjamin Elman from Princeton University, On-cho Ng from Penn State University, Di Wang from Texas A&M University, and Ge Zhaoguang from Fudan University, China. It is difficult to assess whether scholars of Vietnam, Korea, and Japan were not involved in the review process of the book, or whether the geographical scope of the original manuscript was less extensive. The fact remains that the treatment of chopsticks culture in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan is noticeably less in-depth than of that relating to China.
The volume consists of seven chapters and a conclusion. Following the introduction, the story begins with the origins of chopsticks and their primary role as a subordinate companion to the main eating implement in China, which was a spoon. Initially chopsticks were merely used for grasping vegetables and other ingredients in a stew or broth. In chapter 2, we learn how agricultural and culinary transformations during the Tang period turned chopsticks and a spoon into a set that functioned as a symbol of the sophistication of the Chinese civilization. It is at this point, as the Tang culture began to spread beyond the Chinese territory, that a “chopsticks cultural sphere” that includes today’s China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, began to take shape (66). This process, completed by the fourteenth century, is described in chapter 4, and customs and etiquette related to the use of chopsticks across East Asia are studied in chapter 5. Unfortunately, these two chapters are not comparable in terms of their depth and erudition to chapters 2 and 3, which focus on China. While it is undoubtedly clear that the author possesses an outstanding understanding of Chinese culinary history, making extensive use of archaeological evidence and a wide selection of Chinese classical literature to support his argument, his analysis of the rest of the chopsticks cultural sphere leaves much to be desired. For example, in the discussion of the culinary histories of Japan and Korea, examples of present practices rather than documented historical usage are cited (74, 82, 88), and references to support such statements are very scarce (108–116). For example, “[A] pot to make a stew or a hearty soup (as nabemono) must have had a long history in Japan, as boiling is a common cooking method there and around the world” (108) is not a phrase one expects to find in a solid academic publication.
Chapter 6, which deals with the topic of chopsticks as a gift, metaphor, and symbol—primarily in China—is again quite strong, as is chapter 7, which tells the fascinating story of the spread of chopsticks to North America and Europe, including a discussion on disposable chopsticks, which today are considered a serious environmental problem. In the conclusion, Wang drags Levi-Strauss’s The Raw and the Cooked into the discussion, which, in my view, is not very helpful. Equally irrelevant are the references to Roland Barthes that appear in the introduction and in chapter 4 (10–11, 67). With sociologists and anthropologists clearly in the lead as far as pioneering research on food is concerned, this is an understandable strategy for adding scholarly cachet to the book, but there is no need to do this. Historians can contribute to the definitional efforts of social scientists by examining how cuisines have developed over time and by situating them within particular social and cultural contexts of production, distribution, and consumption. This is precisely what Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History does, and quite successfully so. Without a doubt it is a valuable book, which would be a welcome addition to any library that has an ambition to build a sound collection on the world’s culinary history.
Katarzyna J. Cwiertka, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands
DAUGHTER OF GOOD FORTUNE: A Twentieth-Century Chinese Peasant Memoir. By Chen Huiqin with Shehong Chen; introduction by Delia Davin. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015. xii, 348 pp. (B&W photos, map.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99492-5.
Biographies of women of the subaltern classes in China are few and far between. It is seventy years since Ida Pruitt wrote Daughter of Han, her transcription of the life story of a poor woman from the end of empire, through Japanese occupation and Nationalist government, to the eve of Communist victory. Daughter of Good Fortune is, like Pruitt’s book, a detailed memoir dictated by a woman of limited literacy to a sympathetic amanuensis, in this case a daughter. Chen Huiqin’s account begins around the time Daughter of Han left off and runs through to the time of writing.
Chen Huiqin is an archetypal beneficiary of Deng Xiaoping’s policy of reform and opening, the movement started in the early 1980s that disbanded the People’s Communes of the Mao era, permitting farming on an individual or family basis, and encouraging industrial enterprise at the local level. Chen Huiqin, from Jiading County on the outskirts of Shanghai, is a member of the class that was once categorized as peasants, but she, and many of her neighbours, realized their dream to become urbanites, with the security and state support that new status entailed, through hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. She and her husband, a former Communist Party official, endured the turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s, rode the reform wave and the real estate boom of the last two decades of the twentieth century, and now find themselves modestly prosperous, living in an elegant modern townhouse complex, their children educated and successful, and able to enjoy their old age at a level of comfort their forbears could never have imagined.
The book is a memoir of village life seen in microcosm: the momentous historical events intrude and influence, but the focus is on the daily life of Chen Huiqin and her family. In the hard times of the early years of the People’s Republic, it is Chen Huiqin who holds the family together, with help from her parents, while her husband is away on Party business; the story cuts, sometimes abruptly, between details of work and events in the life of family members, as they are important to her. Later in the memoir, as family fortunes improve, profitable business ventures and home improvements are described in considerable detail, along with the increasingly elaborate family occasions of the newly rich. However good things get, however, Chen Huiqin is not one to relax completely: “I tried everything to increase income,” she writes, “it had become a habit for me not to lose an opportunity to make money” (210). And as much as she admires her business-owner son’s generosity towards his employees, she expresses concern that he might be giving away more than he really should.
In Daughter of Good Fortune we see none of the romanticism about the peasantry that characterizes writings dating from the years of Chinese socialism. After describing her eighteen-year-old daughter’s arduous labour on a Mao-era public construction project in winter, something that might previously have been represented as glorious shared endeavour, Chen Huiqin comments: “Peasant life was too harsh” (162). There is also surprisingly little attachment to ancestral dwelling-places: when land is developed for industry or housing and the chance comes to get away, “[m]ost rural people in our area hoped that their village or house would be in the zone of rural expansion so that they would be relocated” (270). What remains constant is a tenacious devotion to the traditional rituals and ceremonies of family life, particularly weddings and funerals, even at times when such observances are frowned upon. In the austere atheism of the Cultural Revolution, when burials and funerals are prohibited, Chen Huiqin and her husband set up an altar at home to mourn her mother with appropriate reverence before heading off to the crematorium; and the perfunctory weddings of those days, with their simple gifts of candy from the bride and groom, are regarded with disdain, and contrast sharply with the narrator’s relish for the elaborate wedding of a granddaughter in the twenty-first century. Though Chen Huiqin’s husband was a Communist official, religion rather than political ideology predominates: she is a devout woman who daily burns incense and chants the name of Amitabha Buddha, and who continues “to hold the traditional rituals to remember our ancestors and pay respects to Heaven, Earth, and bodhisattvas” (281).
Chen Huiqin’s good fortune includes having as a daughter a professor at an American university who embodies the traditional virtue of filial devotion. In this labour of love, Shehong Chen appears to have produced a faithful and meticulous transcription of her mother’s narrative. In doing so, she has done a great service not only to Chen Huiqin, but also to readers who would like to understand the transformation of village life currently underway in China.
Richard King, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada
RED GOD: Wei Baqun and His Peasant Revolution in Southern China, 1894–1932. SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture. By Xiaorong Han. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2014. xii, 346 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$95.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4384-5383-5.
Han Xiaorong’s new book is a rigorously researched biography of Wei Baqun, a rural activist from Dongli village in Guangxi Province’s Donglan County. Before Wei was assassinated by his nephew in 1932, he led a peasant movement that, at its height in 1929, encompassed four counties of the Right River region. After his death, he became embedded in local folklore as a “Red God.” And, since the mid-1950s, the Beijing government has elevated him to the status of a Zhuang hero who united the Zhuang and Han people, who brought the Zhuang into the national revolution, and who helped integrate one of Guangxi’s remote regions into the Chinese nation. In 2009 Wei was elected as one of the “one hundred heroes and models” who had made “outstanding contributions to the founding of the People’s Republic of China” (245).
The deified Wei Baqun, however, is the product of a good deal of airbrushing. For one thing, he came from a landlord family and was a member of the Guomindang for longer than the three years he was a formal member of the Communist Party. Before and after he was admitted to the Party, his superiors complained about his leadership style; he was said “to lead the people like a hero would lead his worshippers” (125). He was also a very violent man who engaged in “excessive killing, looting, burning and kidnapping” (253); he treated defectors from his movement brutally, and murdered two of his four wives. Violence had become intrinsic to the Communist movement in the late 1920s, but Wei’s brutality seems to have been exceptional. Hao Xiaorong notes that it went beyond what was tolerated by the Party centre (207) and “had a destructive effect” on the Right River movement; it derived, he says, from a “small-time bandit pragmatism” that pervaded the local culture and was responsible for Wei’s own death in 1932 (253).
One of Han’s purposes is to explain the significant discrepancies between Party representations of Wei Baqun and the Wei who emerges from the historical records of the Donglan movement. Chapter 8 of Red God provides a clear and convincing explanation for the discrepancies. In the 1950s, the PRC government chose to revive Zhuang identity in Guangxi Province, and the reconstruction of Wei as a model Zhuang Communist was designed to serve that revival. Wei’s flaws as a revolutionary and that he was as much Han as Zhuang were brushed aside; “he was transformed into the most prestigious Communist of the Right River region” who mediated between and united the Zhuang and the Han (236, 247).
The book’s first seven chapters consist of a meticulously documented account of Wei’s progress as a rural radical, first in Donglan county and then the broader Right River base area. The author has used local folklore and the legends woven around Wei’s life to understand his personality and character; it is clear that Donglan villagers regarded Wei as first and foremost a Donglan man with deep roots in his home district and deserving of a proud place among the pantheon of immortalized warrior heroes who had defended the interests of Donglan folk over the centuries. Han Xiaorong also gives careful attention to the important role played by the region’s schools in cultivating the “rural intellectuals” who served as the backbone of Wei’s movement. The most significant factor shaping the history of the Donglan peasant movement, however, is militarism; the movement’s progress was
at all times contingent on the alignment at any one time of military factions, local militia, warlord armies and, from the mid-1920s, the Nationalist and Communist armies. It was drawn into broader conflicts when its enemies sought military help from outside the county, forcing Wei also to seek help from friendly militarists both inside and outside Guangxi. The local cultures of violence that for centuries had blossomed in this remote frontier region were cannon fodder for the wider conflicts that, in the end, destroyed the Right River movement.
Han Xiaorong’s Red God must count as one of the best English-language studies we have of an early local peasant movement that became connected to the Chinese Communist movement after 1927. Han is at pains to show that his is not a local study, that Wei’s movement from its beginnings was much bigger than local, and that it serves as a case study of “the complicated relations between the center and the periphery” (11). He gives great importance to Wei’s visits to Shanghai and Canton. They connected him to the centres of “national political ferment,” and he took back to Donglan the new ideas and strategies he learned in the big cities (54). He says that in 1929, when Wei became “an integral part” of the Communists’ Soviet government in western Guangxi, he “upgraded himself from a local leader to a national one” (164). More than that, Wei’s membership of the Communist Party meant that his movement “became part of the global Communist movement directed by the Comintern in Moscow” (252). These and other connections that Han tries to make between national centres and the peripheral Right River region are less than convincing. So is his suggestion that Wei and his comrades “facilitated the partial amalgamation of two distinct cultures: the imported revolutionary culture and the indigenous culture of the rebels and bandits” (202). But we are given no evidence of local cultures being changed by Party policies. The centre-local interaction was really limited to the influence of the centre on the ideas of Wei and the “rural intellectuals” who joined his movement.
Neither the Donglan nor wider Right River peasant movements were ever effectively integrated into the wider Communist movement largely because there was not the time to integrate them. The Red Army had no intention of staying in Guangxi; it pulled out of the Right River Soviet in November 1930, having been there for less than 18 months, and it left Wei and his
forces virtually defenceless. Han Xiaorong has very effectively demonstrated the enormous odds against revolutionary success in the wilds of warlord-ridden Guangxi; this is one of the strengths of his study. Yet he insists that Wei’s movement deserves to be remembered as much more than a failure. He concedes that Wei Baqun failed to deliver his promise “to bring happiness to Donglan,” but he says that the promise did not die when Wei died in
1932 (257). Han Xiaorong clearly admires the flawed revolutionary. He sometimes attributes to Wei the godlike qualities bestowed on him by both the Donglan locals and the Party.
Pauline Keating, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
This thorough and wide-ranging book comparatively explores the vast elements that make up Japanese society from what Sugimoto calls a “multicultural approach.” Its aim is to demonstrate how the internal variation within Japanese society can complicate and disavow cultural essentialisms such as the notion that there is a singular, “typical” Japan, and to cast off persistent stereotypes and generalizations about Japanese society. This fourth edition of the book builds on updates from the last, drawing significantly on newer statistical data as recent as mid-2014, and adds a welcome section
on the relationship of civil society in Japan to protest movements following the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima in 2011.
Sugimoto takes a two-pronged multicultural approach in his study. On the one hand, he seeks to avoid the pitfalls of scholarship that insists on Japan’s particularity (being “uniquely unique” among advanced nations) such as the much-discredited Nihonjinron discourse, which would only analyze Japan through the lens of Japan-specific concepts (such as Takeo Doi’s term amae, or “dependence”). To do so, he employs a “multicultural research focus that spotlights the domestic stratification and sub-cultural differentiation of Japanese society” (36). On the other hand, so as not to merely apply the theory and concepts of Western social sciences that purport universality to the specificities of Japanese society, Sugimoto utilizes both emic concepts specific to Japanese society (such as honne/tatemae, omote/ura, soto/uchi), and etic concepts that are applicable across national and ethnic boundaries. Put another way, he explores difference and variation within Japan’s many sub-cultures within society while comparing these sub-cultures to those existing elsewhere in the world through theoretical tools that more clearly delineate what is specific to Japan and what is not. This is a compelling methodology precisely because it avoids the trap of a simple comparative study of national societies which, through the act of comparison itself, must treat each society as whole, unitary, and homogeneous.
The book moves through four major themes over the course of its ten chapters, from an overview of class and stratification in Japan, to a discussion of how occupation and education relate to this stratification, then on to stratification based on gender and ethnicity, and finally the interplay of the (political, bureaucratic, and business) establishment and its dissenters within civil society. This organization is sound and reads smoothly, even when various topics of discussion intersect in ways that do not mirror the linearity of the chapter layout.
In chapter 2, the conventional theory that Japanese society is classless and egalitarian gets contradicted by the reality of class divisions as well as the widespread acknowledgement that the predominant middle class has collapsed (if it ever existed in the first place!) and that a kakusa shakai (disparity society) has emerged. Competing methodologies for classifying classes and strata—the Marxian tradition that groups people together based on their location in the organization of economic production versus the non-Marxian (often Weberian) methodologies that classify people according to categories of income, power, and prestige—has led to differing models of classification among researchers in Japan, but Sugimoto navigates the reader through the findings of both, with the unambiguous conclusion that whatever the method employed, “a comprehensive examination of Japanese society can neither ignore nor avoid an analysis of class and stratification and the inequality and disparity of Japan’s distribution of social rewards” (50). The following chapters 3 through 7 deal with the so-called “agents of stratification” that determine an individual’s access to societal resources, such as geography, work, education, gender, and ethnicity, and the institutionalized ways that inequality is reproduced. Factors such as the structural set-up of major corporations and their hierarchical chain of subsidiaries and subcontractors in their keiretsu networks, or the patriarchal and discriminatory practices embedded into the structure of the koseki family registry, are but a few sites where Japan’s institutions reproduce this social inequality.
Sugimoto’s major achievement throughout the book is how he consistently demonstrates the internal variation among the discrete categories, a task he accomplishes through extensive research driven by statistical findings (and what appears to be encyclopedic knowledge), coupled with concise analysis and conclusions. I also found convincing the difficult questions he raises about the nature of “Japaneseness” and the multiple ways it is conceived (nationality, genetics, language competence, etc.) (201), highlighting the arbitrariness with which “Japaneseness” is socially constructed. This discussion may have benefitted from a theorization of race itself and its difference from ethnicity in the context of Japan and its colonial past. Later in the text, Sugimoto’s skepticism towards Cool Japan and its potential to resuscitate monolithic images of Japan reminiscent of Nihonjinron discourse provides an important cautionary note.
An Introduction to Japanese Society is a meticulously organized and thorough analysis of Japanese society that should be of interest to scholars and students of Japan from diverse fields, not simply the social sciences. Although the chapters may be read independently, topics such as the nuclear crisis at Fukushima, and the conditions that enabled it, from chapter 10, greatly benefit from the analysis of chapter 8, in which concepts such as amakudari and other forms of collusion between the national bureaucracy and the private sector are covered. This tendency to build on knowledge from earlier chapters yields value in a cover-to-cover read as well.
Within the past several decades, many publications have sought to address Japan’s multicultural and multiethnic nature, so much so that multicultural studies may be considered a genre within Japanese studies scholarship. Examples include Michael Weiner’s Japan’s Minorities: The Illusion of Homogeneity (1997), Eiji Oguma’s A Genealogy of Japanese Self-Images (2002), Harumi Befu’s Hegemony of Homogeneity: An Anthropological Analysis of Nihonjinron (2001), and Mark Hudson’s Multicultural Japan: Palaeolithic to Postmodern (2001). Yet, while Sugimoto may indeed be a founding member of the field, this text both fits squarely within it and is broad enough to exceed it.
Jeffrey DuBois, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, St. Joseph, USA
JAPAN’S INTERNATIONAL FISHERIES POLICY: Law, Diplomacy and Politics Governing Resource Security. Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese Studies Series. By Roger D. Smith. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xvii, 216 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-877523-7.
It is clear from policies on rice imports and subsidies for farmers that the Japanese government takes the issue of food security very seriously, and is not content to rely only on international trade to meet its food needs. This book explains why, and how concerns about dependence on imports of strategic raw materials have played out in foreign policy, especially since World War II.
Detailed historical research puts into perspective the escalation in territorial conflicts with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the Senkaku (Daoyutai) Islands lying between Okinawa and Taiwan. Chinese historians such as Jane Lovell and Yangwen Zheng have explained how the “century of humiliation” following the Opium Wars inflicted by Japan and Western powers on China is one of the factors fuelling contemporary Chinese belligerence over maritime borders. This book then posits historical background for the Japanese side. Smith shows how access to fisheries resources outside Japan’s territorial waters has been a key strategy for food security since the colonial era through the occupation period, when Japan needed to replace the food production that had come from its empire, and which was then whittled away through the implementation of the United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) enclosing large areas of what had been international waters as national exclusive economic zones in the 1970s and 1980s. Officials have long referred to Japan as a “sea people” or “maritime nation” and been passionate in defense of maritime access and aghast when restrictions have been imposed. These historical factors, combined with the potential energy resources of the area, and the domestic political capital to be gained by both sides in fanning conflict between them, help explain the lengths to which Japan has gone in asserting ownership of these uninhabited rocky outcrops in the sea.
Smith categorizes ocean governance as being made up of: 1) the international legal and political framework for access to maritime areas; 2) national politics and states pushing their own interests; and 3) international diplomacy and conflict over maritime territory under the aegis of international law. The book focuses on Japanese diplomacy relating to codification of international law pertaining to the oceans, and the interplay of foreign policy and domestic politics in shaping Japan’s involvement in various conflicts over a 60-year period from World War II to the present. Some of the important events in addition to the implementation of the UNCLOS covered include the discovery of new petroleum sources and the development of domestic environmental laws.
The main theoretical contribution of the book is on the nature of Japanese foreign policy. Smith weighs into the debate about what kind of foreign policy Japan has, given its postwar lack of international political influence commensurate with its economic power. “Comprehensive security” is the framework used to explain Japanese international fisheries policy, diplomacy, and conflicts arising when the actions of other countries threaten Japan’s access to marine resources. Comprehensive security is described as a unique Japanese defense strategy, involving non-military factors in strategic calculations.
Rather than siding with political commentators who find, along the lines of Karel van Wolferen’s argument, that Japan has no coherent foreign policy direction beyond following the US and making platitudes about peace and prosperity, Smith finds that Japan has had a discernible international oceans policy that it has pursued in an incremental and subtle manner. Although Japan has not taken an overt leadership role for the most part, it has influenced the international system governing marine resources and achieved important goals. A related finding is that policy agendas have been set by self-driven sectoral groupings, in this case the fishing industry in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). In this sense the book complements the scholarship of Aurelia George Mulgan on the role of the MAFF in Japanese politics, with Mulgan’s work focusing on agriculture and Smith’s work on fisheries.
Smith argues that Japan’s policy to secure its food supply has involved both autarky and promoting the international trade in food. Japanese demand for seafood exceeds the productive capacity of its national waters. In the immediate postwar years more fish was a basic need, as the country faced famine. Additional sources of animal protein were sought through the occupying forces, allowing Japanese fishing fleets to once more move out from Japanese waters. This was the era of industrial whaling for national nutritional needs. By the 1970s, seafood consumption had gone beyond filling a basic nutritional need as the population became wealthy, and food culture preferences meant the demand for seafood escalated, and diversified into luxury foods such as sashimi, supplied by Japanese fishing vessels operating around the world. At the same time, however, the progress of the UNCLOS meant the Japanese fleet was no longer to freely access many international fishing grounds. As a response, Japanese international fisheries policy was to secure access through creating joint ventures in coastal states, and to espouse food security as a keystone of its multilateral diplomacy through United Nations agencies.
Japan’s International Fisheries Policy is a useful book for scholars and students of Japan’s foreign policy, as well as of its domestic politics relating to food and other marine resources over the decades since World War II. It is also a good reference work for people interested in international ocean governance, where Japan is a key player, as a fishing state, as a major supporter of multilateral measures to promote food security through fisheries, and as a big bilateral aid donor for fisheries in developing countries.
Kate Barclay, University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, Australia
GRASSROOTS FASCISM: The War Experience of the Japanese People. Weatherhead Books on Asia. By Yoshimi Yoshiaki; translated and annotated by Ethan Mark. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. vi, 347 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-16568-6.
In Yoshimi Yoshiaki’s Grassroots Fascism: The War Experience of the Japanese People, Japanese soldiers on the battlefields of the Second World War are soaked, stinking, and covered in rashes. Draped in necklaces made of the shriveled pinky fingers of their fallen comrades, they are witnesses to—and participants in—looting, rape, and mass killings of civilians. Their compatriots on the Japanese mainland and dispersed throughout the peripheries of the Japanese empire are absorbed as much in matters of inflation and taxes, rice prices, rations, and draft notices as they are in the rhetoric of patriotism. The strength of Grassroots Fascism is that through Yoshimi’s assiduous collection and transcription of letters, diary entries, memoirs, and opinion polls, we readers are privy to these everyday experiences of Japan at war—the ambivalence, resentment, regret, horror, and apathy—related directly by the common people themselves.
Despite the presence of the word “fascism” in the work’s title, Yoshimi’s study does not attempt to join the scholarly debate about whether or not Japan’s political extremism qualifies as fascism. Neither does Yoshimi seek the roots of Japan’s fanatic popular nationalism in administrative policies, propaganda campaigns, and social structures. Rather, in the vein of the 1960s “people’s history” movement in which Yoshimi himself came of age as a scholar, Grassroots Fascism attempts to provide a history of the Second World War that recognizes the individual subjectivity of ordinary people, to investigate how the Japanese people were simultaneously the victims of radical imperial consciousness and the aggressors perpetuating it. Whereas other histories of militarist Japan may oversimplify the complacency of the Japanese public in swallowing the myths of a holy war waged for the autonomy of the Japanese empire, Yoshimi presents a history that recognizes “the people” as engaged both in the demands of their immediate environment and in the transcendental discourse of honour and sacrifice.
The work’s four chapters sketch the chronological rise and fall of “grassroots fascism” by tracing the tendency of men and women across the Japanese empire to filter their daily work and struggles through the narrative of a righteous war. Chapter 1 presents the voices of soldiers and townspeople during the early stages of the Asia-Pacific War: individuals who increasingly support Japan’s mission in Asia with the hope that the fighting will end quickly. Chapter 2 demonstrates that with Japan’s victories across the Pacific and, eventually, at Pearl Harbor, rising popular support of the war was beginning to take root not only on the Japanese home front but also throughout its growing empire. This chapter in particular shines in its discussion of the spiritual incorporation of members of the Japanese imperial populace often glossed over in scholarship of World War II Japan, such as the Uilta of Karafuto, the Chamorro of Guam, and Korean volunteer soldiers. In chapter 3, the reader is confronted by the horrors and confusion of the battlefield as the imperial military’s withdrawals begin to outnumber its successes, and chapter 4 concludes that despite a trend toward self-preservation and apathy as the promise of a Japanese victory fades, the “fighting spirit” of the populace does not founder until the emperor’s radio announcement of surrender; indeed, the “imperial consciousness” that drove popular support for the war lives on even after defeat.
By introducing the circumstances and musings of soldiers, farmers, teachers, fujinkai volunteers, merchants, and mothers, Grassroots Fascism gives credit to individual feelings and to how these feelings are sorted out on paper. Although translator Ethan Mark generously describes Yoshimi’s presentation of these various personal accounts as “a remarkable array of popular voices deftly assembled” (7), the experience of reading Grassroots Fascism feels more like a visit to a labyrinthine museum exhibition, where we readers press “play” at random in an oral history archive listening booth. Yoshimi provides no methodological explanation for his selection of the entries included, and he makes little effort to connect them thematically. Also almost entirely absent is any critical questioning of the sources in terms of the speakers’ intent, choice of medium for expression, or the individuals’ motivation for putting pen to paper in what was undoubtedly a climate of hyper-surveillance. And yet, even if the voices in Grassroots Fascism are too often disembodied, the effect does surround the reader with the murmurs of an empire at war, reiterating that the individual experience of war is disjointed and disorienting. Readers accustomed to the typical format of contemporary English-language scholarship may also be frustrated by the absence of an overall theoretical argument and of explicit definitions by
the author of the key terms he employs (such as what he means by “fascism” and “the people”). Helpfully, the translator’s introduction and extensive notes situate the work by providing details of Yoshimi’s academic influences and methodological foundations.
Originally published in Japanese in 1987, Grassroots Fascism spoke to a readership confronting the failure of the Japanese state to acknowledge war responsibility at the fortieth anniversary of defeat (as West Germany’s president and former chancellor had famously done). The release of its English translation, which coincides with the seventieth anniversary of surrender, will reach a wider audience yet engaged in matters of the legacy of the war. Yoshimi’s study demonstrates that despite what Japanese government officials may have said (or left unsaid) over the past seven decades regarding responsibility for wartime atrocities, the experience of the war on the individual level was a complex jumble of anxiety, grief,
and acknowledgement of brutality. In the musings and representations preserved in Grassroots Fascism, we see that non-elite individuals who supported and participated in the war were not simply succumbing blindly to propaganda. Rather, they were motivated by economic realities and the desire for personal advancement, negotiated amid rhetoric of the holy mission of the divinely favoured Japanese race.
A. Carly Buxton, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
RELIGION AND PSYCHOTHERAPY IN MODERN JAPAN. Routledge Contemporary Japan Series, 54. Edited by Christopher Harding, Iwata Fumiaki, and Yoshinaga Shin’ichi. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xviii, 300 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$155.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-877516-9.
This edited volume offers an intriguing collection of articles that manage to address an impressive variety of topics and themes while remaining tightly focused on the volume’s core topic: the interaction between religion and psychotherapy in Japan. All of the individual articles, with the exception of an introductory historical overview provided by one of the editors Christopher Harding, are by Japanese scholars. Consequently, the volume serves not just as a useful compilation of research on this topic but also as a valuable English-language resource for Japanese scholarship on the topic.
Psychotherapy remains a marginal practice in Japan and public surveys repeatedly suggest a similar low priority is accorded to religion. Consequently, focusing on the interaction of these two topics in a Japanese context may seem a very niche endeavour. However, the influence of psychoanalysis and its associated theories reach much further than client numbers might suggest. And similarly, claims of the secular nature of Japan tend to ignore the popularity and prevalence of non-denominational practices and beliefs. As a result, the volume provides insight that is more broadly applicable than would first appear and will be of interest not just to religious scholars and psychoanalysts but also anthropologists, sociologists, historians, and potentially cross-cultural psychologists.
Harding’s introduction provides an excellent orientation to the rest of the volume, succinctly summarizing the key themes and core debates surrounding psycho-religious discourses. He also cautions about the problematic issue of a lack of information concerning the perspectives of dissatisfied customers, or clients more generally, in the volume, an especially pertinent caveat given the number of chapters that focus on the lives and theories of influential founding figures. This general introduction is then supplemented by the first two chapters, which offer a concise chronological review of the changing relationship of psychological disciplines and religion (Harding) with a variety of well-chosen historical illustrations (Hashimoto). These chapters cover a lot of ground and provide ample evidence of how the interactive dynamic between religion and psychotherapy has fluctuated between ambivalence, open antagonism, and endorsement with the adoption of religiously inspired psychoanalytical therapies (for example, Morita and Naikan).
The historical detail in the first half of the book is particularly rich and while this means the chapters occasionally veer into historical minutiae, they also provide a detailed contextual foundation which grounds the later chapters focusing on influential figures (Iwata, Ando, Tarutani), specific therapies (Kondo and Kitanishi, Shimazono, Terao), regional variations (Shiotsuki, Taniyama) and contemporary practices (Horie, Tamiyana).
While the quality of contributions is generally high there are a few chapters that are worth highlighting in particular. Shimazono Susumu’s contribution provides a short but useful overview of the “psycho-religious composite movement” but it is his case study of the religious origins of Yoshimoto Naikan therapy and the charting of its later secular alterations that makes this chapter stand out. Iwata’s chapter detailing the significant Buddhist influence on the pioneering psychoanalyst Kosawa Heisaku and his influential “Ajase complex” theory is also excellent. Iwata’s account of the rejection of this Buddhist spiritual foundation by Kosawa’s well-known students, Doi Takeo and Okonogi Keigo, also offers a microcosmic illustration of the dramatic variation in viewpoints presented throughout the volume. Finally, Horie Norichika’s chapter on contemporary views of reincarnation in Japan provides some much-needed evidence drawn from more recent trends. His analysis of online reincarnation accounts is statistically problematic but the chapter overall illustrates clearly how in the contemporary era there is a multiplicity of reincarnation narratives that variously accord and conflict with more traditional Buddhist accounts.
Half of the articles are translations of previous publications and while this does not detract from their relevance it does result in some rather jarring tonal departures. In particular, the chapter by Kondo and Kitanishi on Morita therapy comes across as an unusually hagiographic account of Morita Masatake, the founder of the practice, and includes some questionable generalizations about the unique “Asian” psychological and philosophical underpinnings of the practice. This is more understandable if one is aware that Kondo and Kitanishi are Morita practitioners offering an “insider analysis”; however, without careful reading of the introductory chapter (14) this fact is likely to be overlooked by readers. Similarly, while Terao’s chapter on Catholic Naikan practices is less indulgent, at times it also
seems to cross into implicit endorsement of Catholic perspectives: “The sacrament of Communion, which goes beyond the solace of words, is an experience of being united with the real body and blood of Christ” (174).
By contrast, the final chapter on chaplaincy work in disaster areas, by
the Buddhist priest Taniyama, is entirely devoid of such implicit endorsements and instead provides a careful account of how modern religious practitioners in Japan might offer non-intrusive support in the wake of disasters. The personal accounts detailed in this chapter are fascinating and demonstrate the ambiguous and marginal position of religious institutions operating in the public sphere in Japan.
Overall, this volume provides a unique resource for scholars interested in modern Japan and a clear illustration of how the Japanese response to Western-derived psychoanalytical theories was far from passive receptivity. Instead, the contributions to the volume demonstrate diverse and creative interpretations that at times have drawn heavily on the cultural heritage of Japan’s religions. Furthermore, while the volume illustrates that the role of religious institutions in caring for the mentally ill has declined throughout the twentieth century, it also indicates that traditional religious philosophies and introspective practices remain a significant component of contemporary therapy. Similarly, several chapters highlight that there is a continued interest in traditional healers and new “spiritual” groups, as well as ongoing attempts by religious practitioners to reinvigorate their pastoral roles, all of which means that, even as the influence of mainstream religion declines, the interaction between religion and therapeutic practices in Japan remains a relevant topic in the contemporary era.
Christopher M. Kavanagh, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
I like running. I also like reading about running, including academic writings, so what else would it need to warrant a highly sympathetic account of the first and therefore highly welcomed history of distance running in Japan? Certainly a bit more than the run-of-the-mill narrative of modernity that the renowned historian of modern and in particular twentieth-century Japan offers, with his incessant quoting of athletes’ names, running times, and rankings. Readers who are thrilled by an almanac of annual finishing times and records will find their bible in this book. For me, reading page after page about who ran the fastest marathon in Japan in 1967, how the follower-up did in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics in relation to the fastest times of the year, and what times Japan’s top runners delivered in 1969 and what their respective ranking was in 1970, was a bit like the dreary stretch between kilometres 32 and 36 of a marathon: hard to enjoy but necessary to slog through on the way to the finish. So if you want to get a feel for the meaning distance running has and had for the Japanese, or if you want to know what civic culture may have to do with the fascination Japan obviously has with running, you will have to wait for another study—maybe one more interested in body culture, the anthropology of running or fieldwork among runners than in the assemblage of facts. But this would be exactly the opposite of what Havens promises in the opening lines of his study.
It is not that Marathon Japan entirely fails to identify the aspects that have helped make Japan into a runners’ nation, both at the elite and more recently at the mass participation level, too. But the evidence Havens gained from combining randomly selected academic secondary sources with a fastidious extraction of rankings tables and finishing times from sport chronicles and genre magazines like Rikujo kyōgi (Track and Field) or Rannāzu (Runners) and a strikingly positivist interpretation of elite runners’ autobiographical accounts is not strong enough to provide a consistent explanation and coherent answers to the core questions the book wants to address: why Japanese love to watch marathons and distance relay races (ekiden) that are Japan’s original contribution to global running culture, and why so many decide to become distance runners themselves.
Judging from its name, the opening chapter on “The culture of running in Japan” appears to look into possible theoretical explanations for the role of running in society. In fact this chapter is a condensed summary of the chapters to follow. As Havens chooses an old-fashioned approach, putting trust only and exclusively on facts from the archives, he does not attend to theories or analytical frameworks developed by other scholars of sport in society. Partly due to the self-selected seclusion, the pattern that emerges from the five chronologically ordered chapters hardly differs from what other more or less undertheorized historical analyses of Japanese sport in general, or baseball or football in particular, have unsheathed.
Chapter 2, on “Racing to catch up,” covers the early period of modern sport in Japan from its introduction by Western powers until the end of the Pacific War. Running, very much like other sport disciplines, was tied to nationalist aspirations as well as to educational objectives, and the nation’s elite schools nurtured the top athletes that came to represent Japan on the international stage. Chapter 2, “A galaxy of distance runners,” records the development of running at the top level throughout the first two decades of postwar recovery. The emerging dominance of Japanese runners is explained in front of the background of national rehabilitation, industrial growth, and rising prosperity. More than the marathon, ekiden races captured the attention of the nation at a time when television became the lead mass medium and Japanese companies provided their semi-professional employee-athletes with ideal training conditions to excel in the name of the nation, when abroad, or the company, when competing at home.
Corporate Japan’s wealth continued to provide the basis for the ongoing success of Japanese runners abroad. Despite its theory-savvy chapter heading, “Distance running as a commodity,” entertains the reader just like all the other chapters: first of all with detailed accounts of runners’ biographies and achievements, both in domestic and international arenas. However, the period from the 1970s onward is the first time that women runners entered centre stage. Chapter 5, somewhat wearily titled “Greater depth, more women,” argues that organizational changes during the 1990s opened up teams and contests for recreational runners that had been previously confined to top runners only, and thus initiated the burgeoning popularity of distance running across all boundaries of age and gender. This was certainly the case ten years later and therefore is extensively covered in chapter 7, “Running for everyone.” In between, chapter 6, “From peak to plateau: elite runners in the 2000s,” offers more detailed information on the achievements of Japan’s top runners.
In the course of reading the 175 pages of text, I encountered an impressive amount of details about the history of top-level running, of which I have forgotten all but the more curious at the time of writing this review. As mentioned above, the general storyline that links the sport of running to the state’s ambitions of nation building and corporate Japan’s commercial interests is far from being new or original, while the scholarship that has taken the lead in that regard remains almost invisible. The link between civic culture and the sport of running is not elaborated in a way that explains differences and similarities to the running boom in other places. I can only guess if a historian would agree with me in rating the analytical power of the chosen approach as weak; the cumulative usage of words like “perhaps,” “maybe,” “seem,” or “apparent” that soften many of the more general statements leaves the reader wondering what evidence is needed for more affirmative results. Listening to the subjects of this history would have been one option. The voices of runners, coaches, and sport administrators only emerge from published sources, such as autobiographies and interviews in the sport media. These are fine sources but like any other source they demand reflection and nuanced interpretation. In that regard I found it striking how statements produced for media consumption are taken at face value and treated exactly in the same manner as race results and finishing times. Shunning theory is one thing, but writing history without reflection on the nature of the data is certainly “old school,” without the positive connotation of the term.
Wolfram Manzenreiter, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Christine Guth’s study of the print officially titled “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” or Kanagawa oki no namiura, now commonly known as “The Great Wave,” explores how this image travelled in time and space from 1831, Edo, Japan, to so many parts of the world, being reconfigured and reworked by artists all over the world in so many media. So what can this example teach us about the process of global cultural socialization?
Drawing on art history and the history of design, anthropology, sociology, and media studies, Guth answers questions, such as what defines an icon and what does globalization mean, while also exploring the biography of the print and how it first travelled on the waves of Japonisme, and later became the eye-catcher in publications and exhibition catalogues on Hokusai—who happened to be the designer of the original print—and again, more recently in national antagonism, as well as in media such as manga, anime, and the Internet. It may be added here that the first Japanese monograph on Katsushika Hokusai (Iijima Kyoshin, Katsushika Hokusai den, 2 vols., Tokyo: Hōsūkaku, 1893) makes no mention of The Wave, whereas the first Western monograph study of the artist (Edmond de Goncourt, Hokousaï, Paris, 1896) that mostly describes prints in just one or two lines, devotes ten lines to The Wave (166, cited by Guth on 81f.), as it also does for South Wind at Clear Dawn from the same series of prints (163f.) (note that De Goncourt would also devote nine lines to Hokusai’s second-best-known design, the plate of Octopuses and a diver woman in the album Kinoe no komatsu ).
In chapter 1, Guth examines the popularity of The Wave from about 1831 to the 1860s. It opens with the statement that “[i]n 1830 the publication of a series of Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by the artist Hokusai was announced in the back of a collection of stories by Ryūtei Tanehiko” (17). In fact, this announcement appeared in a novel issued in the first month of Tenpō 2, that is February of the year 1831 in the Western calendar. On page 26, she then asserts, in keeping with Henry D. Smith II, that “five monochrome blue prints, including views of Mount Fuji from Shichirigahama and Tsukudajima … had already been issued,” and then a “next group of five, still featuring blue outlines but with a more varied palette, appeared at the New Year of 1831, including ‘Under the Wave off Kanagawa,’ ‘South Wind, Clear Dawn’ … and ‘Rainstorm beneath the Summit … .’ ” Yet, these three designs are all signed “Hokusai changing his name to Iitsu,” whereas the five (actually ten) designs printed in tones of blue exclusively bear the signature “by Iitsu, formerly Hokusai”—just like all other prints issued in the series until 1833, suggesting just the reverse.
Guth appears to have done insufficient research, or relies too heavily on secondary sources without addressing the various contradictions between them. As for Hokusai’s precursors, it may be true that Minsetsu’s book Hyaku Fuji, (1771) had “only limited circulation” (19), yet, there is a reprint dated 1818. Moreover, there is also the Kyōka Fujisan of 1814, with illustrations by Tanba Tōkei, and certainly known to Hokusai, as well as some 31 views of Mt. Fuji by Ōishi Shūga in his Sannō shinkei of 1822, also known in various editions. And then, we shouldn’t forget that Hokusai already had incorporated a few first drafts of his Fuji prints in his Hokusai manga volumes of 1814–1819. Citing the case of the “projected series of One Hundred Poems as Told by the Nurse, of which only ninety-one of a promised hundred appeared” to substantiate her remark that “the publisher would likely have discontinued” publication “had the Fuji series not found public favor,” is hardly convincing. The truth is that only 27 prints came out during Hokusai’s lifetime, and that Nishimuraya, facing bankruptcy, was obliged to sell the blocks. Yes, this was the Tenpō crisis, also hitting the world of prints and books. So let’s move on to the following chapters.
In chapter 2, Guth presents a fascinating overview of how The Wave rolled over Europe after its first discovery in 1883 (67), aided by an earlier and more direct appreciation of the Hokusai manga volumes and the One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji, from the 1850s or 1860s, eventually leading to the canonization of The Wave. Hokusai’s designs appealed to many, often for totally opposite reasons: see the views of Bing and De Goncourt (84f.), or how Henri Rivière’s series of Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower (1888–1902) helped rescue this structure from its scheduled demolition in 1909. The wide appreciation of The Wave, seen in prints, paintings, and even in Royal Copenhagen plates, also gave rise to an “indigo-mania.” However, it seems questionable whether De Goncourt’s “biography was as much about the writer as the artist” as it “does not contain a single illustration” (81)—this was simply part of a series of projected monographs on Japanese artists, such as Utamaro (1891), Hokusai (1896), Kōrin and Gakutei.
In chapter 3, Guth explores how The Wave, and Japanese prints in general, came to be appreciated and collected in America, where it would play a much more diverse role in all kinds of various discourses than was the case in Europe. As this quality came to be recognized in America, this also gave rise to a more recent answer, or reaction, in Japan itself. Indeed, it would be used to both express and contest narratives of race and nation.
In the following chapters, Guth presents a comprehensive view of The Wave’s most recent afterlife: how it came to be suitable at a variety of social levels, such as symbolizing environmental sensitivity; how its distinctive silhouette, even if altered or rendered in simplified linear form, would be recognized, serving whatever an international lexicon demanded; indeed, how The Wave became canonized and iconized. Guth’s study of how this 1830 Japanese print became a very meaningful image, as it remains today and no doubt for many years to come, is more than a fascinating study of one of today’s icons, seen from many various viewpoints, it is also a study in international cultural history.
Matthi Forrer, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, Netherlands
THE CHAOS AND COSMOS OF KUROSAWA TOKIKO: One Woman’s Transit from Tokugawa to Meiji Japan. By Laura Nenzi. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. ix, 263 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$48.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3957-4.
This is a fascinating and illuminating account of the travails of a poet, prognosticator, and educator from rural Japan who was compelled by cosmic signs and rational analysis of contemporary events towards extraordinary political activism at a crucial moment towards the end of the Tokugawa (1600–1868) era. The author laudably nuances both our understandings of women’s roles in late Tokugawa loyalism, and rural commoners’ contributions to late Tokugawa ideology and society (3-4).
One of Nenzi’s principal aims is to locate the story of one woman, Kurosawa Tokiko, in the broader context of political and ideological developments in the latter half of nineteenth-century Japan. She intricately weaves Tokiko’s story into discussions of broader themes—such as the negotiation of gender norms and expectations, political activism, expressions of loyalty, and dissent—at a tumultuous moment in modern Japanese history: the fall of the Tokugawa military government and installation of a young emperor as national sovereign.
The book comprises three parts organized around Tokiko’s story, beginning with a framing of organizing principles of the book, including the importance of a specific locale (a village in Mito domain) and connections beyond it. The thread throughout the first and second parts is the analogy of a bird’s flight outlined in the introduction. A second analogy—that of a theatrical performance—is introduced in the second part, which treats Tokiko’s decision to deliver in person an appeal to the emperor in Kyoto, and her journey from Mito that involved illicit travel and covert assistance along the way from people connected by poetry and other networks. The third part treats the telling of Tokiko’s story, both by herself and, after her death, by others. In this section, Nenzi cogently demonstrates that Tokiko’s story lent itself to reconstruction by local officials, memorialists, biographers, novelists, cinematographers, illustrators, and women’s magazine editors, and that the resultant versions reflected particular contemporary political purposes. The historiographical sensitivity that leads Nenzi to refer to the work of other scholars of Japanese history is here carefully deployed to elucidate a multiplicity of accounts spanning the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Kurosawa Tokiko is a gem of a find: as a well-educated and connected poet, not only did she leave ample documentary evidence from which her story could be reconstructed but also she seems to have been a remarkably self-conscious and confident individual. How was it that she determined that she had a role to play in national events? Nenzi is adamant that Tokiko should not be seen as representative of rural women loyalists in the bakumatsu era (1853–1868), comparing her to other women who have attracted scholarly attention. She repeatedly reminds the reader why her story is meaningful—her deployment of divination, encounters with ghosts and appeals to cosmic forces—but this reader would also have appreciated some more direct consideration of what underpinned Tokiko’s self-assuredness and, more broadly, what exceptional figures tell us about particular moments of time. The absence of such a discussion is surprising in view of the emphasis on Tokiko’s exceptional characteristics by historians and local officials when reconstructing her story in the latter half of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century.
Nenzi’s argument about macro- and micro-history is challenging: How do historians ascribe significance to ordinary people, especially at times of radical or revolutionary change? A useful summation of the lessons to be drawn about locating the ordinary individual in “large-scale history,” and a statement on the significance of Tokiko’s story (201) is provided in the conclusion.
Nenzi employs several analogies throughout the book to explain Tokiko’s actions: Tokiko is at times a nesting bird or one in flight, an aspiring playwright, an actor in a theatrical performance. Nenzi seems particularly taken with the idea of performance, variously referring to theatrical and cinematic performances and scripts, spotlights, backdrops, extras, and main actors, and raises significant historical questions such as: How should historians understand the self-consciousness of individual historical figures at what are, in retrospect, particularly significant moments in time?
The analysis is creative but not entirely convincing in places. Nenzi interprets in Tokiko’s creative projects a proprietary concern with her own story and historical legacy, without providing substantive supporting evidence that Tokiko was concerned about her place in history. That Tokiko saw her journey to Kyoto as a pivotal event in her story is a recurring theme in an exegesis of her memoires and poetry (chapter 5), and the basis for a lengthy forensic analysis of the staged self-portrait that is reproduced on the front cover (chapter 8). Perhaps echoing Tokiko, Nenzi also reads significance into coincidence, describing the fact that Tokiko is cross-examined by authorities at about the same time as better-known male loyalists as “a remarkable instance of an extra sharing the spotlight with some of the lead historical actors” (121). Nenzi attributes keen awareness of the nature of political debate and change to her protagonist, and a tenacious determination to negotiate this change in her own favour, while also strategically protesting her insignificance on occasion: Tokiko “reinvented her role as a pivot between community and cosmic forces, between the small and the large scale, in the wake of the 1864 Mito civil war” (120).
The multiple interpretative layers that give so much texture to Nenzi’s account of a complex persona become in some places burdensome. A careful editor may have recommended a judicious selection where multiple analogies overlap, as well as ameliorated occasional inconsistencies in translated poetry (for example, the last line of the first poem on page 132 “yama ni hairu hito” is translated as “go deep into the mountain” but immediately below is described as an allusion to the Shugendō practitioners who “enter the mountains”).
The Chaos and Cosmos of Kurosawa Tokiko is not readily accessible for readers without a basic understanding of the national political developments of mid-nineteenth-century Japan but a careful reading will reward anyone interested in fringe political activism and identity construction (gender, local, national) at a critical juncture in the modern history of an important nation-state.
Vanessa B. Ward, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
This study’s main thrust is to dispel the obsession in ukiyo-e studies both
with authorial intention and with single-sheet colour prints. This is accomplished through the examination of the larger network which constituted “the floating world” of vernacular production in late eighteenth-century Japanese urban centres, to which Davis persuasively applies Howard Becker’s concept of the “art world.” The book revolves around four study cases addressing “four dimensions of cultural inquiry vital to the floating world: the status of art, the definition of beauty, the physicality of the body, and the inquiry into the intellect” (19).
Chapter 1 follows an atypical “floating world” artist: Toriyama Sekien, accomplished in a range of painting styles and significant as “a key point of transfer of traditional painting style for the floating world” (23). Going beyond recent scholarship’s recognition of painting as an important medium in the “floating world,” Davis explicates the imbrication between styles and practitioners of painting and print formats. This is exemplified by the focus image, a collaboration between Sekien and his pupils Kitagawa Utamaro and Toriyama Sekichūjo: Utamaro’s children reacting to Sekien’s lion on a painted screen prompts an engaging discussion of “an extended play upon the conceit of copying, representation, and mimesis” (20) that would nevertheless have benefitted from references to studies such as Wu Hung’s The Double Screen.
Chapter 2 focuses on the book The Mirror of Yoshiwara Beauties, Compared (Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami), “designed from the start as a collaborative process” (77) between illustrators Kitao Shigemasa and Katsukawa Shunshō, publishers Tsutaya Jūzaburō, and the “brothel owners as possible financial contributors” (91). The book emerges as representative of a “floating world” culture configured by “material distinctions in support of rank and prestige” (102). Davis characterizes these “illustrated books” as “nameable, knowable and visible work, one of many such commodities openly available in the print market” (107). The analysis reveals the social dynamics of the media apparatus of this “economy of pleasure” (61, recalling Lyotard’s “libidinal economy,” often employed for Edo’s prostitution quarters but rarely discussed in-depth).
Chapter 3 explores the exquisite Scroll of the Sleeve (Sode no maki), which poses two tricky issues: it is an erotic scroll, carrying no information on authorship. Instead, “style and production values serve as the indexical markers for designer and publisher” (114), convincingly identified as Torii Kiyonaga and Nishimuraya Yohachi, respectively. This is followed by one of the most significant critical discussions in the book: that of labels for such erotic images. Davis reaches to a larger art-historical discourse when settling for the term “erotica”—all the more commendable since the book had already gone to print by the time the 2013 British Museum exhibition and catalogue “Shunga: Erotic Art in Japan” had materialized. This shows that
the discussion of eroticism in Japanese culture is maturing and, more specifically, erotic images are being taken seriously as an integral part of ukiyo-e studies. Davis acknowledges the broad range of readership and audience response, and spells out the logical conclusion of a serious study of erotica: all “floating world” images contain “implicit eroticism” (142).
Chapter 4 unpacks a collaboration between the author Santo Kyōden and the illustrator Kitao Masayoshi: Greatest Sales Guaranteed: Quick-Dye
Mind Study (Daikokujō uke aiuri: Shingaku hayasomegusa, 1790). Unlike the previous study cases, this satire of the populist doctrine Shingaku is a non-elite work whose humour depended on historically situated facts often difficult to recover. Research on this challenging genre of yellow-backed novels (kibyōshi) has been the province of literary studies, and the work in question has already been translated into English. However, Davis shows how art historians read such works differently than literary historians, effectively claiming this genre as art-historically relevant: no ukiyo-e specialist can now afford to ignore it. Davis’s unpacking of the visual rhetoric is highly entertaining, and close analysis makes the political satire clear, going against the received view in Japanese scholarship, where such kibyōshi with themes from popular religion are considered apolitical in the wake of late-1780s censorship.
Some observations: while discussing the revenge of the Good Spirit Family on Evil Spirits during the scene of the protagonist’s repentance, Davis states that “Good Spirits … may knock down their enemies but they shall not slay them” (173). However, the illustration clearly shows a Good Spirit slashing an Evil Spirit, blood gushing out. Additionally, Kyōden’s extended creative use of the theme of Good and Evil Spirits would have been worth mentioning: the 1793 Yoninzume nanpen ayatsuri replaces them with devils and Buddhas controlling characters with puppet strings, and in the 1796 Onikoroshi kokoro no tsunodaru various Spirits compete for the characters’ control (both works available on Waseda University Library’s Japanese & Chinese Classics online database). And while Davis mentions “handbills, short books, talismanic images, and chapbooks for children” (150) promoting popular religion, the possibility of kibyōshi referencing these materials, both textually and visually, remains unexplored. Kyōden’s title, for instance, ends with the term “gusa,” which most probably parodies titles of illustrated children’s books such as Wakizaka Gidō’s 1784 and 1793 Yashinaigusa or the 1791 Mutsumajigusa (the latter available on Waseda University Library’s database).
In each chapter, the author’s thorough research is patiently deployed in unpacking the logic of the complex argument which, besides collaborative networks, encompasses formats, subjects, and practices of appreciation. This is a welcome variation from the urgency of journal articles and from Japanese scholarship too often content with classification and vague critical discussions.
Though it has been clear for some time that “the floating world” meant much more than single-sheet prints, this is one of the first studies taking its complexity seriously. It reveals that beyond formats and content, the “floating world” was essentially a network of artistic collaboration. This dense and entertaining book shows the maturity of the field of ukiyo-e studies and reaches towards a syncretic study of the “floating world.”
Radu Leca, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, Norwich, United Kingdom
Rebecca Suter’s Holy Ghosts: The Christian Century in Modern Japanese Fiction revisits the interpretive trope of Jesuit missions and their influence during the Warring States Period (1567–1603) and the early Edo Period (1603–1868) as the Christian Century, first expounded by C.R. Boxer in The Christian Century in Japan, 1549–1650 (1951) and refined into an explanatory tool for anti-Christian discourse and official institutions and ideology by George Elison in Deus Destroyed: The Image of Christianity in Early Modern Japan (1973). The author repurposes the trope to examine how writers and other cultural producers of modern Japanese fiction employed specific notions of Christianity from that period as a way of registering contemporary anxiety about Japan’s unstable cultural identity. Her two chief topics are the short stories on Christianity, or Kirishitan mono, written by famous prewar writer Akutagawa Ryūnosuke between 1916 and 1926, and books, manga, video games, and so forth from the postwar period (1945–) on the largely Christian peasant uprising in 1637 and 1638 known as the Shimabara Rebellion. She employs Judith Butler’s idea of “mimetic incorporation,” as presented in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), to explain how representation of foreigners in these works amounted to a constitution of the Japanese self through the projection of the European, Christian Others.
The book is divided into three main parts. In chapter 1, “Contexts,” Suter takes up Elison’s argument that official anti-Christian sentiments played a major role in how Edo Period authorities legitimated their rule and constructed the social order. She also locates the basis for her claims about “the Christian [C]entury in modern Japanese fiction as a metaphor for the cultural negotiations of the Meiji (1868–1912) and postwar periods” in Ideology and Christianity in Japan (2009), in which Kiri Paramore asserts the existence of continuities between Edo and Meiji Period anti-Christian discourse (26). She differentiates herself from these elite-focused approaches by drawing on Higashibaba Ikuo’s Christianity in Early Modern Japan: Kirishitan Belief and Practice (2001) to explain how Christian symbols became associated with sacredness and magic through the processes of local adaptation and syncretization. However, she neither addresses the debate about the usefulness of the trope of the Christian Century nor explains precisely what she considers her own historiographic intervention within this trope to be, focusing instead solely on the trope as an organizing principle in modern Japanese fiction.
In part 2, Suter situates Akutagawa’s Kirishitan mono and other prewar fiction within Meiji Period and Taishō Period (1912–1926) efforts to modernize. Noting the conflicting calls for Westernization and a return to Japanese values, she argues that Christianity provided the Japanese people with “an alternative model for Japanese cultural negotiations with its European Other, which helped critically appraise, and possibly transcend” the numerous binaries based on East/West (42). She employs this concept to explain how by setting his stories in the distant past, Akutagawa upset the spiritual/scientific dichotomy, portraying Christian practices as magical, and traditional Japanese medicine as rationally, scientifically oriented.
She also discusses the issue of communist apostasy, or tenkō, in the wake of government crackdowns in the 1920s and 1930s by analyzing Akutagawa’s stories on Christian martyrs and apostates. For Suter, such stories constituted one of the ways in which the seemingly disengaged Akutagawa made political commentary, “propos[ing] a creative appropriation of recantation as a radical alternative” to disengagement or direct social commitment (76).
Suter’s more ambitious inquiries come in part 3, when she discusses postwar fiction on the leader of the Shimabara Rebellion, Amakusa Shirō. Accounts of the rebellion attribute to him numerous miracles and feats of black magic, depending on whether or not authors were sympathetic to the Kirishitan. The resulting ambiguity proved a bountiful source of creative potential, as authors wrote about his divine and/or demonic resurrection. Yamada Fūtarō’s Makai tenshō (Demonic Resurrection, 1967) provides a particularly critical view of Christianity through an inversion similar to Akutagawa’s, “presenting the Kirishitan as both hypersexual and sexist” (124). Suter tracks this ambiguity through various adaptations of Makai tenshō and other works like the video game series Samurai Spirits (1993–2010), which portray Shirō with ambiguous gender and other characteristics that blur numerous dichotomies, together making him simultaneously “foreign and native, male and female, and good and evil” (137). Suter also locates the shift towards more positive evaluations of Shirō and Christianity as coming from new spiritual movements after the Aum Shinrikyō gas attacks on the Tokyo subways in 1995, citing the time-displaced, female, heroic Shirō of Amakusa 1637 (2001–2006), among others.
Suter makes a good case for the usefulness of the Christian Century as a literary and cultural analytic frame for understanding modern Japanese fiction. Her choice of topics also lets her make a rather clear chronology of the shifting concerns about cultural negotiation; the Kirishitan mono deal with issues of prewar modernization/Westernization, while the Shimabara Rebellion stories deal with the postwar myth of the ethnically and culturally homogenous Japan through the hybrid Amakusa Shirō. Yet it is almost too simple a narrative, as though there were no stories about Shimabara before the war, and there were no other subjects for stories about Christianity. Suter’s book would have been richer if she had situated these two topics within the larger context and trends of contemporary Japanese Christianity.
The book also lacks cohesion, such that the Kirishitan mono and Shimabara Rebellion stories seem entirely unrelated, and Suter’s narrative feels artificial. Her unclear historiographic intervention is similarly indicative of the book’s generally loose argumentative structure. She introduces Marilyn Ivy’s arguments from Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan (1995) in chapter 4 and in the conclusion to discuss how the ontological category of Japan can only exist in relation to the West, in this case specifically Christianity. Her work is clearly heavily influenced by Ivy’s, notably through frequent use of the concept of phantasms of premodernity, which must exist in order for modernity to constitute itself. A greater, more open theoretical reliance on Ivy might have made Holy Ghosts a more sustained engagement with issues of Japanese cultural identity with bolder conclusions about the significance of Japan’s cultural anxiety.
Nonetheless, Holy Ghosts is an interesting foray into a syncretic analysis of different mediums of culture on the popular topic of Christianity in Japan. It helps fill the massive gap in scholarship on manga and anime, and it seeks to provide some answers as to the contemporary matters of cultural hybridity with a historical legacy. Although it might fall short of all its promises, Rebecca Suter’s ambitious project is a step in the right direction.
Alexander Kaplan-Reyes, Columbia University, New York, USA
MAKING PERSONAS: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 79. By Hideaki Fujiki. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center; Harvard University Press [distributor], 2013. xiv, 408 pp. (Figures.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-674-06569-7.
Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan is an impressive, in-depth analysis of the film stardom in Japan during the 1910s and 1920s. As Fujiki notes upfront, the star might be indeed “nothing but [a] product of differentiation” (10), and I must admit that such an impression was one of the side effects that this monumental book left with me. The exhaustive approach taken by the author results in an almost immersive experience of reading through dense accounts of the making of stars. Flipping through 300-plus pages, one will gradually begin to grasp the nonlinear evolution of stardom in early twentieth-century Japan. The question of enlightenment is often present in the background of each chapter, but is not always addressed explicitly. This is especially true of the book’s conclusion, a point which I will return to shortly.
The book traces three main strands of early film stardom in Japan: early Japanese film stars (from the 1910s until the mid-1920s), American film stars (from the mid-1910s onward), and a new type of Japanese film star (after the early 1920s). Though these strands overlap in time, the overall chronological presentation of the formation of each strand fulfills one of the book’s aims: to narrate the larger structural change in institutional and social processes of the production of a star persona rather than presenting in-depth studies of individual stars. By dialectically moving through these strands, Fujiki weaves a transnational history of early film stardom in Japan that does not follow the Hollywood-versus-national-cinemas paradigm. The important dimensions of the transnational operation of film stardom in Japan that the book highlights include: the circulation of American star images in an unprecedented scale that was made possible by the development of print media, the reception of these images by Japanese audiences and critics, and the restructuring of the Japanese film industry and its star system, modeled on Hollywood.
The book’s aim is to maintain a fine balance between the effort to historicize film stardom and the need to underscore the incomplete nature of the process of differentiation as characteristic of stardom, that is, the plasticity of the star persona and the fluidity and multiplicity of meaning attached to the star image. It follows that one of the most engaging chapters is the one on the replacement of the onnagata (female impersonators) by actresses. Starting in the early 1920s, the Japanese film industry largely adapted the American production system and established the new star system. The change also less directly, but no less profoundly, affected representations of domestic stars by making direct comparison with American film stars possible. One of the most illustrative transformations brought by this change was the abolishment of the onnagata. Although film actresses appeared in some shinpa films and in rensageki as early as in the 1910s, they were not perceived as comparable to American stars, whose images were already widely circulated and consumed in Japan. Instead, both female performers and critics relied on the existing theatrical model, especially those of the onnagata, and fans and critics centred their aesthetic judgments around gei, the art of acting. One of the important ways in which the onnagata came to be seen as problematic vis-à-vis American film stars is the perceived incongruity between gender and sex that onnagata embodies. Femininity was no longer understood as part of gei, virtuosic mastery of theatrical conventions, but rather as the “natural” capacity of the female performer. While the onnagata survived as a distinctive—“classical” and “national”—form of performing arts, in cinema, medium-specificity arguments were strongly made against the onnagata. Some male audiences exercised a new type of fandom around body-based sexual images of American film actresses. That itself came to be recognized as problematic by many critics, but as Fujiki argues, a heterosexual fan/star relationship was now seen as “normal.” These male fans and critics together formed and practiced a new discourse of sexualized spectatorship.
As Fujiki acknowledges at the onset of the book, the history of early film stardom in Japan remains incomplete without a discussion of stars in comedy among others, male stars in the 1920s, and jidaigeki stars. Nonetheless, one of the accomplishments of the book is to provide a coherent historical narrative of the formation and transformation of film stardom during the 1910s and 1920s without compromising the subtlety and complexity of individual strands. This is particularly remarkable given the extremely limited primary sources available for this area of study. The book is a welcome addition to “early” cinema studies. It has turned historiographical insight into an innovative approach and contributed to broaden our sense of what counts as archival materials for the study of cinema.
The closing discussion of Ri Kōran, or Li Xinglang (1920–2014), shows a marked shift in tone, focusing more on the historical development of Japan and the figure of Ri. This conclusion is relatively new to this project: neither Fujiki’s dissertation, on which the book is based, nor the revised Japanese version of his dissertation, which came out six years earlier, contains any discussion of Ri’s stardom. In Stars (British Film Institute, 1998), Richard Dyer defines “star image” as not “an exclusively visual sign, but rather a complex configuration of visual, verbal and aural signs” (34). In the Japanese version, Fujiki refers to this passage to acknowledge the importance of audio sources even for the study of silent cinema. In Making Personas, he contextualizes the passage differently to argue that the star is a media(ted) phenomenon which “appears not only as the ‘image’ […] but also as a persona to which consumers can attach meanings and emotions” (14). The star image of Ri—who was singer and actress—is aural as much as visual, and the transnational stardom of Ri must be addressed against the vibrant audio-visual culture of imperial Japan. We must then “imaginatively consider,” to borrow his phrase, forms of spectatorship that take into account her dynamic star persona (23). The conclusion serves as a deeply suggestive beginning of such an imagination.
Junko Yamazaki, University of Chicago, Chicago, USA
PROTEST POLITICS AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF SOUTH KOREA: Strategies and Roles of Women. By Youngtae Shin. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015. xxii, 161 pp. (B&W illustrations.) US$80.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7391-9025-8.
Youngtae Shin, a political scientist at the University of Central Oklahoma, conducts a social movement analysis of “secondary agents” in the democratization movement of South Korea (1970s–2000s). This focus permits Shin to move behind the front lines of primary agents (social movement activists and dissidents) and investigate the role played by wives and mothers in the care, support, and protection of primary agents. While these “Mothers of the Movement” initially engaged in the traditional role of family caretaker, they soon underwent transformations into political activists based on their encounters with the military state. Shin uses these encounters to challenge some assumptions within the social movement literature, as well as to provide a cultural and gender analysis of protest politics.
Based on over a decade of participant observations, interviews, opinion surveys, and primary document analyses, Shin’s study examines two social movement organizations (SMOs) founded by women (the Association of the Families of Democratic Movement and the Association of the Families of the Bereaved). Shin’s representation of these famous and anonymous “Mothers” provides an empirical voice that challenges two claims in the literature, namely that people join SMOs due to political beliefs, and that effective SMOs require professional organizers. In this case, most of the Mothers began their political activism seeking the recovery of their husbands or sons from jail or prison. Through meeting one another through these sites, the Mothers soon developed a political perspective on their family members’ arrests. While the Mothers often lacked formal education or professional expertise, they nonetheless formed SMOs that would engage in political activism for democratization and human rights.
In analyzing their stories, Shin argues the Mothers could conduct protest politics due to their capacity to wield the cultural armour of middle-aged motherhood. The Mothers applied moral pressure against state agents (police officers, prison guards, government officials) through cultural shaming. Rather than violate social and cultural norms against mother figures, many state agents complied or consented to their demands. When this form of moral pressure failed, the Mothers were not immune to using verbal, emotional, and physical power, as well. These moral and emotional strategies also worked with civil society in mobilizing resources for their SMOs. This cultural analysis of atypical political actors helps current scholars understand what can be gained when the research focus moves beyond “bean counting.”
While Shin’s findings represent a substantive contribution to the field, the monograph could have used additional editorial and peer review. Awkward sentence constructions and repetitive phrasings make for a rough read, while the attempt to blend three Romanization systems gives rise to numerous inconsistencies between Korean references in the text and bibliography. In chapter 7, “Mothers’ Stories,” Shin presents the written narratives of the Mothers divided by temporal divisions (1970s, 1980s, and 1990s). While one could argue the merit in letting the Mothers tell their stories across time, an academic audience expects some analysis beyond the diachronic presentation of raw data. Finally, more comparative attention to recent works focusing on women’s SMOs and political activism from Argentina to Palestine would have helped qualify some of her larger claims.
Twenty-eight years after the summer of 1987 and the overthrow of the Chun Doo-hwan military regime, Shin has added another layer to the events, moving beyond the public display of tear gas barrages and Molotov cocktails to the private networks of care and support that enabled the drive for democratization. This contribution provides social scientists a qualitative resource for analyzing how participants join, organize, and maintain SMOs based on cultural and relational networks. It also directs our attention to the emotional and cultural practices that enable non-traditional political actors to enact social change, even in the face of strong-arm states.
William Hayes, Gonzaga University, Spokane, USA
HERITAGE MANAGEMENT IN KOREA AND JAPAN: The Politics of Antiquity and Identity. Korean Studies of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. By Hyung Il Pai. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013. xl, 258 pp. (Maps, figures, tables.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-295-99305-8.
Hyung il Pai’s new book showcases her scholarly endeavour on a subject that requires extensive research in the fields of archaeology, art history, anthropology, cultural management, and, of course, history. Pai’s previous book and articles have already presented her in-depth analysis on this topic, which has colonial roots but contemporary relevance for Korean archaeology, heritage management, and museum practice, but this book without a doubt elevates the level of discussion by comparing the parallel historical development of heritage management in Japan and South Korea. It is no surprise that archaeological excavations and heritage management systems in and around Japan were fuelled and meticulously guided by the Japanese colonial regime’s eager search to establish the racial superiority of the Japanese people and the authenticity of their culture. The postcolonial adaptation of these colonial remnants in Japan’s former colonies—that is, inheriting both the Japanese colonial structure of heritage management and its categorical perception of ethnicity and race—is a rather inconvenient truth that the author describes as a “culturally sensitive and still politically charged topic” (xxx).
Pai shows that the Japanese archaeological effort on the Korean Peninsula was part of a larger colonial project which aimed to justify the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and an historical narrative explaining the backwardness of Korea. Using Japanese historical sources, she describes the origins of Japanese heritage management in the Meiji period, centred on an effort to account for historical artefacts which supported the imperial history of Japan. In chapter 3, Pai meticulously follows the activities of four individuals who were responsible for categorizing, promoting, and protecting Japanese art. Korean historical heritage was included under this heritage management system with the help of a colonial historical narrative, formulated to justify colonial domination with the logic of a Japanese civilizing mission in East Asia. Further, she explores heritage management on the Korean Peninsula, and based on flyers and information booklets from the colonial period, traces the promotion of colonial tourism in Japan, which emphasized the role of the Japanese government in the enlightenment and modernization of Korea (263).
The flow of the book is smooth, and the chapters are carefully arranged in historical sequence, covering the institutionalization of the heritage ranking system, the establishment of a system for the documentation and categorization of historical artefacts, and the development of heritage tourism.
In the end, what then is the true value of heritage for Pai herself? If there is such a strong history of using a country’s cultural heritage for political purposes and economic ends, is there actually a purely disinterested way of preserving heritage for the future? In the end, Pai’s own viewpoint as an historian seems romantically positivistic, but such a outlook does not invalidate her illuminating research on the myriad ways heritage management is in fact used to remember the past. I highly recommend this book to scholars and graduate students in Korean studies, Asian studies, museum studies, and those interested in post-colonialism in general.
Kyung Hyo Chun, Konkuk University, Seoul, South Korea
EATING KOREAN IN AMERICA: Gastronomic Ethnography of Authenticity. Food in Asia and the Pacific. By Sonia Ryang. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2015. xi, 138 pp.,  pp. of plates. (Colored illustrations.) US$39.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3935-2.
Upon receiving this volume, I was unsure of what to expect. The title implied, at least to this reader, that the work would centre on Korean cuisine in the US; however, the subtitle also brought to the fore the ubiquitous buzz word of “authenticity” that seems to pop up everywhere in present scholarly literature. Nonetheless, having written a good deal on the history of Korean food, I was happy to have the opportunity to read something cast in a different light, on a cuisine that my own experiences indicate is at times quite different than what we might find in Korea.
This small volume—less than 140 pages—focuses on just four main dishes as served in primarily four disparate regions of the US. Ryang comments on naengmyŏn in Los Angeles, chŏn in Baltimore, kalbi in Hawaii, and pibimbap in Iowa City. At first glance, my thought was that one would be hard pressed to find four more distinct areas of the US, or, for that matter, four more dissimilar foods. The randomness did have a common thread, though, that being that the author had lived in/researched/visited these spots at some point in her academic career.
Each chapter begins with a brief description of the area, its demographic characteristics and the history of the Korean population residing therein. This I found informative for setting the backdrop. The chapters then follow a pattern of Ryang’s experience with a particular food in that locale and her own experiences or memories of the food elsewhere. There is some historical discussion on the food’s place in Korean history (however, as will be discussed below, this is clearly not the author’s strength), how the local rendition might vary, and then some larger implications about cross-cultural currents that might be drawn from the various developments in the food’s trajectory over both spatial and temporal boundaries.
Ryang’s narrative tends to stray from her discussion at times and brings various episodes relating to her travels into the volume. Thus we learn of her bus commute to the Koreatown in Los Angeles, during which a male bus rider exposed his genitals, her first weeks in Baltimore, and her purchase of, evidently, delicious lilikoi (Hawaiian passionfruit) bread on Hawaii’s Big Island. It is a narrative style that not all readers will appreciate; in this reader’s opinion it detracts from the more consequential aspects of the book and takes away from the focus of her study.
Ryang’s conclusions are sometimes stimulating. While I find the question of “authenticity” to be entirely moot, she does ask the right questions, such as: “Did authentic naengmyeon even exist in the first place?” (107). Frankly, it does not matter and nor does the question of the authority to declare a particular food authentic or take ownership of a tradition. Ryang gives the perfect example concerning the South Korean government’s various attempts to “claim the right to determine the authenticity of kimchi” (2, 100–111, 119). Korean cuisine, like all cuisines, has always been in a state of flux and foods have changed greatly over time. Her final arguments concerning the relationship of global capitalism, authenticity, and food are excellent and clearly demonstrate the role of global capitalism in taking “a basic element for the preservation of human life” (120) and using that for profit-making, consequences be damned. This is indeed tragic.
While I was initially not enamoured with the randomness of place and food, as I read through the volume Ryang’s approach grew on me and became more apparent. The connection between places and foods mirrors in many ways the randomness of the development of Korean cuisine over the centuries. Who knows what forces led to garlic making its way from Southeast Asia to the Korean Peninsula, or why chili peppers became so prominent in Korean food after their introduction in the early seventeenth century? Why did Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines develop so differently, despite a great overlap in ingredients and shared knowledge between these cultures? The reason is significantly less important than the result, and this is the same bond I found between Los Angeles, Baltimore, Hawaii, and Iowa City, and the foods described in the volume. The same processes—human movement, cultural adaptation and assimilation, and innovation—that have shaped Korean food in Korea are in play in the US.
The volume would have benefitted, like so many others nowadays, from a better understanding of history. While I understand this is not the focus of the work, there are some rather glaring misunderstandings. For example, Ryang states that rice was the primary source of carbohydrates in premodern Korea (11). This is not the case, however, as most commoners could only afford to eat rice a few times a year; instead, they ate other grains such as millet and barley. She also questions whether one could find a “science of Korean food” (10) in past times. Indeed, we can find numerous works that link various foods to maintaining health and curing disease, the most prominent being the Tongŭi pogam (Exemplar of Eastern Medicine) compiled in the mid-Chosŏn period. The chung’in were not artisans and craftsmen (12), but rather the technocrats of the Chosŏn bureaucracy and served as physicians, accountants, astronomers, jurists, and translators. Like Japan (68), butchers were looked down upon in Chosŏn Korea and considered as part of the outcast group known as the paekchŏng. There are other such examples, but I suppose these are probably minor flaws, if not completely undetectable to readers interested in modern-day Korean foods in the US.
In closing, this is an interesting book and when one considers Ryang’s main argument concerning the flow of food caused by the wars of the past century, immigration and capitalism, it is a compelling work that adds significantly to the discourse on “national” foods in contemporary society.
Michael J. Pettid, Binghamton University, Binghamton, USA
MARCHING THROUGH SUFFERING: Loss and Survival in North Korea. Contemporary Asia in the World. By Sandra Fahy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. xiii, 252 pp. US$40.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-231-17134-2.
Speech acts (as John Langshaw Austin and others would understand them) have become a key component of engagement with North Korea in recent years. Speech acts focused on witness, testimony, and advocacy, which
address Pyongyang’s perceived violation of the rules of the contemporary normative and hegemonic consensus surrounding human rights and critiquing North Korea’s acutely different political and economic systems in particular, have driven institutional agendas in the United Nations and elsewhere through the recent Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea led by the Honourable Michael Kirby. The realm of popular media and consciousness has also been marked and dominated by the translation of speech acts by North Koreans who are no longer living in North Korea (variously known as defectors, refugees, or migrants depending on one’s political and philosophical predilections) into a peculiar strain of literary production, the defector memoir. Mostly co-productions and acts of co-authorship, works such as those by Shin Dong-hyuk, Park Yeon-mi, Hwang Jang-yop, and Jang Jin-sung have captured the imagination of the wider world with their vivid, acerbic, brutal, and occasionally lysergic testimonial. Their narratives, similarly to those of North Korea, are subject to intense debate when it comes to matters of veracity and reliability. While it is not the intention of this review to contribute to that debate, it is the contention of its author that generally textual and literary co-productions are determinedly focused on acts of speech which are de-territorialized and de-temporalized from their original context in North Korea. Instead of being rooted in the lived experiences of North Korean famine, desperation, and escape, they become more abstracted moments of politics: speech acts focused on the acts of others and on future acts of regime change and unification.
On the other hand, Sandra Fahy’s fascinating work Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, while perhaps sourcing its evidential base from the same ex-patriated, diasporic community of North Koreans as the aforementioned more conventional works of advocacy and international agitation, achieves something of much depth and empirical utility to the scholar in its navigation of these narratives of difficulty and distress. Instead of an embedded concern for those acts (of speech or otherwise) which condemn, de-stabilize, or deconstruct North Korea in the midst of its period of crisis, Fahy, with an anthropologist’s ear, seeks out those speech acts which North Koreans themselves used to negotiate, explain, construct, and experience that period.
Fahy’s book is structurally a journey through its contributors’ own experiences of North Korea’s great famine period of 1992–1997 and journeys to their temporal and geographic presents, as North Koreans who no longer live in North Korea. Fahy adopts her contributors’ own temporal marking and linguistic categorization of their passage to the outside world. Hence what the wider world knows as a famine, and North Korean institutional narratives present as a second arduous march, is conceived of by Fahy’s interviewees as “The Busy Years.” The reader then follows their emotional journey from ideological cohesion to disintegration, near death and finally a break with the nation of their birth.
Utilizing the analytic tools of anthropology and ethnography, Fahy explores the linguistic transformations and strategies present in her interviewees’ past lives, as well as the often neglected temporal difference in the famine experience for North Koreans, dependant on their regional positionality. The busy years apparently began earlier in the late 1980s for those in the periphery , not arriving in Pyongyang’s heart of North Korean bureaucracy until the mid-1990s. In keeping with Alex De Waal’s theoretical frameworks focused on famine, Fahy unveils a deeply uneasy, mediated netherworld of familial and community discourse in which people do not die of starvation or experience famine, but freeze to death or encounter acute and severe pain.
In a clear marked difference from what must constitute a media and popular narrative of not just North Korea’s difficult period, but any moment of famine and acute, life-threatening deprivation experienced by a national or regional population, Fahy builds a picture derived from her interviewees’ accounts and their linguistic and conceptual stratagems of a people possessed of a distinct and determined agency. Faced with extraordinary and at times incomprehensible challenges, North Koreans, in spite of a collapse in conventional morality, social mores, and behaviours, are determined to survive. Her interviewees describe seeing old men steal food from the hands of small children, orphaned and abandoned children left to unsuccessfully fend for themselves and die in public, and families depending on precarious and illegal private vegetable plots in the mountains for food. Yet North Koreans deploy these new forms of private and public language to both cope emotionally and navigate the complex web of political and social expectation, they utilize hidden and subtle uses of humour, and, most prominently, they become adept at engaging with the practices and praxis of market economics, both in semi-public spaces and through acts of determined subterfuge.
Ultimately Fahy’s fine book holds an empathic and emotional ear to its subjects’ stories, narrating both their external and internal travels with an assertive yet subtle sensitivity. Fahy’s subjects are not the North Koreans of public and media nightmare—sallow, disempowered shadows of humanity—but active agents of their own, albeit occasionally unknown or unknowable destiny. Even at their moment of breaking with North Korean territory and sovereignty in the act of becoming that most transgressive of political beings, the North Korean who no longer lives in North Korea, Fahy’s subjects make powerful, rational decisions to bridge and survive existential challenges. This reviewer has rarely read a work which does such empirical and narrative justice to a much maligned and misunderstood people, allowing the reader to encounter their march through, encounter with, and survival from a truly disastrous moment of history in valuable new ways.
Robert Winstanley-Chesters, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Described by the author as “a long time in the making,” North Korea: Markets and Military Rule stands out as Hazel Smith’s magnus opus. Based on her twenty-five years of research on North Korea, Smith presents an integrated understanding of North Korean politics, economics, and society spanning from the Japanese colonial occupation of Korea to the present. More importantly, Smith narrates a story about internal change, an idea which may be less apparent to those who only follow mainstream media accounts of North Korea. In particular, Smith shows “how and why the society and economics of North Korea changed from a command economy to one that is marketised,” thereby decreasing the legitimacy of the political system (5).
The book is divided into three sections with a total of fifteen chapters. Smith sets the stage in part 1 by “jettisoning caricatures” of North Korea often portrayed in the mainstream news media, and providing a deeper historical context for the North Korean identity, tracing it as far back as the period of the Three Kingdoms. Part 2 focuses on the rise and fall of Kim Il Sungism. It chronicles the rise of the North Korean state following the end of Japanese rule to the onset of the great famine in the 1990s. Part 3 describes the changes which have occurred throughout the country in response to the famine. The ruling regime has reverted to its “military-first” (songgun) policy as elites and ordinary citizens are increasingly resorting to market activity for their very survival. Although the chapters proceed in mostly chronological fashion, the first two parts of the book build momentum for the final, third section of the book.
There is much to applaud about this new volume. The number of books on North Korea have proliferated in recent years, but few will match the depth and breadth of research of North Korea: Markets and Military Rule. Backed with empirical data, Smith speaks with authority on a range of topics including public health, the status of women, the shift in status of North Korean workers, the rise of the nouveau riche, and the marketization of various segments of North Korean rule, including the Party, the military, and even the family. Students of North Korea will particularly appreciate the abundance of citations to other secondary and some primary sources.
The lengthy review of the history and politics of North Korea may frustrate some readers who expect to see a book focused primarily on markets, military rule, and recent social transformation, as the title and introduction suggest. To her credit, however, Smith manages to narrate a forward-moving story by building readers’ expectations early on about the onset of internal change. Basic knowledge of the country is therefore integrated with new research outlining how marketization has altered the social and economic landscape of contemporary North Korea, and in particular, state-societal relations.
Readers can appreciate Smith’s balanced and intellectually honest approach to her subject matter. She does not shy away from detailing human rights abuses or the catastrophic impact of the famine, the latter at times described poignantly as the author reveals how individuals ultimately relied on markets and family members for survival. Insights regarding the important role of family, the “only place where … trust-based relationships could thrive” in a heavily policed state were particularly interesting (184). Yet she does not dwell on such horrific events and facts, reminding readers throughout the book that North Korea is not monolithic. For instance, when describing the lives of North Korean youth, Smith writes, “Young people were not involved in organized activity all of the time. Young people, as anywhere in the world, found ways to hang out together, in parks, by the rivers, in sports venues as players and spectators, at the movies and in each other’s homes” (182).
Although Smith remains critical of caricatured portrayals found in the global media, her account of change is consistent with what has appeared in news reports and academic blog posts on North Korea such as NKNews and 38 North, and even more traditional news outlets such as the Washington Post (see foreign correspondent Anna Fifield’s reporting on North Korea). However, North Korea: Markets and Military Rule, leaves readers with a few unanswered questions. For instance, when describing the dissonance between government rhetoric and realities on the ground, Smith states that the “population” began treating the government as “irrelevant” leading to the “embedding of a culture of cynicism about government” and the “degradation of the Party as an institutional power and political authority” (224–225). But to what extent does this cynicism and degradation of political control take place in North Korea? Which segment of the population does Smith refer to? Smith at times suggests that transformative social and economic change has taken place throughout North Korea. At other times, she is more reserved, qualifying that levels of political repression remain high even with significant changes in social and economic structures (293, 327). Clearly change has taken place, but the degree to which marketization has transformed daily life inside North Korea remains less clear based on the available evidence. This is a problem not only for Smith, but other scholars researching in North Korea.
Nevertheless, North Korea: Markets and Military Rule is a must read for anyone interested in learning more about North Korea, and more generally, transitions from command to market economies. The book is written for a broad audience, but it can be equally appreciated by seasoned observers of North Korea.
Andrew I. Yeo, Catholic University of America, Washington DC, USA
The demand for comprehensive and accessible reviews of modern Indian society and political economy has intensified of late, fuelled by the growing geo-economic significance of the sub-continent. The transitional status of India from a more or less abject object of developmental studies to the more favoured status of an “emerging economy” in neo-liberal parlance has made older and new paradoxes appear both more visible and acute: the co-presence of democratic stability alongside steepening inequality, the persistence of radical social movements alongside a revitalized Hindu right, the widening of systemic corruption alongside a critical moral political economy of state/economy relations. Keywords for Modern India, co-authored by Craig Jeffrey and John Harriss, does not attempt a comprehensive review nor does it offer a critical history of the present. Instead it offers an accessible, well-researched, and often lively portal into modern and contemporary Indian politics, economy, and society via a kind of curated glossary of major concepts and categories of public debate and practice. The explicit inspiration is Raymond Williams’s profoundly innovative 1976 work, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. Attempting to replicate this template, Jeffrey and Harriss offer entries that range across social sectors, temporal spans, and discursive fields, showcasing the research strengths and interpretative gloss of the authors. It encompasses terms with general social-scientific import such as: capitalism, labour, civil society, colonialism, development, secularism, and poverty; others rooted in a specific political sociology or movement such as Coolie, Dalit, OBC (Other Backward Classes), Dowry, Adivasi, Reservations, Green revolution; and some narrowly institutional in origin such as BDO (block development officer), DM (district magistrate), Collector, NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). Three people make the compendium, namely, B.R. Ambedkar, M.K. Gandhi, and Jawaharlal Nehru. Most entries begin with a potted account of the English-language term’s original usage based either on the OED or Raymond Williams’s 1976 work, followed by a thumbnail sketch of their subsequent usage and meaning in Indian studies. Absent throughout is an engagement with the growing historiography on concept formation in colonial and postcolonial India and there is no mention even of prior efforts, for example, the wondrous hybrid of social history and cultural mapping contained in the 1886 Hobson-Johnson dictionary that included vernacular, English, and Anglo-Indian terms. But the entries are broadly speaking judicious, insightful, and incisive. The volume is in this regard a useful resource for new entrants into contemporary and modern Indian studies across the non-historical social sciences as well as for commentators and journalists outside the academy.
But fundamental methodological and conceptual ambiguities remain. All the entries are English-language terms, effectively ignoring not only the “actually existing” linguistic diversity of modern India, but overt issues of class, cultural capital, and spatial politics. For Williams, in contrast, the differential meanings assigned to general terms telescoped the cleft between bourgeois and popular orders, the socially rooted divide between ordinary usage and elite deployments. The absence of such cross-linguistic vernacular keywords as “swadeshi,” “vikaas,” and “goonda” shuts off the socially resonant diverse meanings that they have accumulated across conjunctures. Likewise, the decision to exclude Indian-English terms—especially cross-over social-scientific and popular terms such as “vote-bank” or “time-pass” (bewildering given Jeffrey’s excellent ethnography of unemployed youth)—forecloses an account of the socioeconomic and discursive complexity of transformations in modern India.
Given these significant flaws, the most striking feature of the volume—its explicit modelling of Raymond Williams’s Keywords—begs more questions than it resolves. Williams’s Keywords is justly regarded as a lodestone of British cultural Marxism and more generally, of a new left critical historical sensibility. The culmination of several decades of research, it integrated political, analytical, and aesthetic commitments towards a revitalized historical materialism. The dual analytical and political status of “culture” in Williams’s work was tied to the new left project of envisioning a socialism that encompassed the totality of human relations, one beyond a narrowly construed arena of political economy. It appeared in a moment before Thatcherism held sway, when Marxist and left-historical debates flourished in the British academy and when a radical left ranged across local councils, trade unions, and within the Labour Party. The self-description of Williams’s work as an exercise in “historical semantics” was a robust riposte to the static structuralism that undergirded what later came to be called the “linguistic turn,” setting it apart from formalistic linguistic models. The commitment to historical reflexivity was evinced most overtly in its explicit mapping of the dynamic, variegated, and often contradictory meanings of such keywords as class (the longest entry), masses, equality, private, and welfare, among others. What inoculated Williams’s project from the temptations of scholarly solipsism was its effort to historicize major shifts, hitching mutations in meaning to wider social, economic, and ideological transformations. This buoyant historical materialism placed Williams’s Keywords beyond an ordinary encyclopedia, dictionary, or glossary, setting it apart as well from the kind of “objectivist” philology associated with the conservative German historian Rienhart Koselleck. Jeffrey and Harriss provide a useful glossary to assorted terms in contemporary Indian studies, but its methodological and conceptual flaws are too apparent and numerous to assuage those with a critical historical orientation.
Manu Goswami, New York University, New York, USA
With regular, frequent, well-orchestrated, and reciprocated visits by heads of states, trade, industry, and armies from the four corners of the world, India has graduated from the ranks of the “emerging powers” of the world to the “emerged.” India, no longer the outcast, is now firmly “engaged” and “engaging.” The fine set of essays by Ian Hall, Daniel Twining, H.D.P. Envall, Lavina Lee, Louise Merrington, Harsh Pant, David Brewster, Rajesh Basrur, and Nick Bisley in this handsomely produced and modestly priced volume analyze the consequences of India’s emergence as a major power for global order. The selected cases include countries both large and small, ranging from the United States, Japan, Russia, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, to Singapore. Those looking for the general lessons of the “engagement” strategy will find fresh insights in Rajesh Basrur’s “Paradigm Shift: India during and after the Cold War.” Equally interesting is Harsh Pant’s analysis of engagement in its different forms, including the “half-hearted” and the simultaneous in his chapter on “China’s Half-hearted Engagement and India’s Proactive Balancing.”
In the introduction, Ian Hall defines engagement “as any strategy that employs positive inducements to influence the behaviour of other states” (2). He adds a further precision. “Exchange strategies” engage the target state through positive inducements such as trade deals or delivery of weapons systems, aimed at obtaining reciprocity, whereas “catalytic” strategies offer specific inducements to “catalyse something bigger, perhaps even wholesale transformation of a target society” (3), such as the creation of an emerging elite cast in the mould of the engager (the integration of post-communist Eastern Europe with the Western world is a case in point) (3). Hall presents the American overtures to China initiated by President Richard Nixon in 1971–1972 as the iconic exemplar of the application of engagement as the core of the new shift in foreign policy towards China. It paid off for both
the engager and the engaged. “In the short term, China secured recognition, the UNSC seat, and a tacit ally against the Soviet Union. In return, the United States secured Chinese help in bringing the Vietnam War to a close and a changed Eurasian balance of power” (4).
The successful transition of conference proceedings to a coherent book is an exception rather than the rule. By this criterion the Engagement of India is a model of its genre. The chapters (initially presented at a conference in 2011) effectively apply the core concept of engagement consistently in their analysis of diplomatic, commercial, and political transactions with India and vice versa. However, this exemplary coherence might have been achieved at a cost to the underlying theory of engagement. The choice of cases, each of which illustrates a successful case of engagement, gives an impression of a selection bias. There are no counterfactuals in this study. The book does not include disastrous cases of engagement such as that of Nazi Germany by Chamberlain in the 1930s. Nor does it delve into the issue of non-engagement, such as that of India by Pakistan. In fact, the Pakistani strategy of privileging armaments (nuclearization, matching delivery capacity) rather than engagement of India through the conventional means of trade, tourism, pilgrimage, joint-ventures, and student-exchange, has perhaps been a more effective strategy in terms of gaining parity with the much larger belligerent neighbour.
Another point where one can take issue with the main approach of the book is that it treats relationships between countries as a dyadic, bilateral game. However, the multipolar world, with cross-cutting alliances and conflicting loyalties, rarely allows such pristine purity in relationships. Most relationships tend to be triangular, with the parties jockeying for position as the pivotal power, seeking to balance the other two against one another in order to gain extra room to manoeuver. This strategy has now become the main goal of Indian foreign policy, seeking to off-set the Chinese “string of pearls tactic” by walking the extra mile towards the United States, taking care, however, to remain friends with the United States and not become an ally. Here, India might have taken a leaf out of the Pakistani book of diplomacy, seeking to match the dexterity with which Pakistan has drawn on China to compensate for India’s superior conventional power. The fact remains, therefore, that the decision to engage or not to is a rational choice. In some conditions, non-engagement might be the optimal strategy. With due respect to the liberal-institutionalism that the authors of the Engagement of India appear to share—a value consensus which, in fact, gives this book its enviable coherence—one has to take into account the fact that under some conditions, engagement is the luxury of the rich and powerful whereas non-engagement, aided by a spot of triangulation, might be the preferred choice of the weak.
Finally, why does the engagement of India work? Successful engagement of two rational players must carry a sense of mutuality and incentives. We learn from Engagement how India is able to offer something (but not the same things!) to all in the game: leverage against China to the US, Australia, Japan, and Singapore; a chance to emerge from Latin American isolation and play a role in global politics to Brazil; markets to European powers; to Russia, a chance to become an important pole in the multipolar world; and finally, to China, markets, and a sense of “Asian solidarity” to balance the West. But, will an “engaged India” have enough heft to be a pivot, fulcrum, and bridge, and become “the key swing state” (197) to facilitate the transition towards a just, multi-polar, orderly, and sustainable world, toning down its immediate self-interest on issues such as global warming for the sake of the global commons? The Engagement of India deserves high praise for setting the agenda on this larger question with great force and unsentimental lucidity.
Subrata K. Mitra, National University of Singapore, Singapore
ANSWER THE CALL: Virtual Migration in Indian Call Centers. By Aimee Carrillo Rowe, Sheena Malhotra, and Kimberlee Pérez. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. xiv, 242 pp. US$75.00, cloth, ISBN: 978-0-8166-8938-5; US$25.00, paper, ISBN: 978-0-8166-8939-2.
In Answer the Call, Aimee Carrillo Rowe, Sheena Malhotra, and Kimberlee Pérez attempt to situate, and make sense of, Indian call centres in economies of neoliberal outsourcing projects, and the labour and time arbitrage they solicit. They claim that uneven compressions of time and space are always and already unequal and contested relationships that open new modes of access while also furthering forms of exclusion. The title adeptly refers to Althusser’s discussion of “interpellation” (“Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Monthly Review Press, 1971) to describe the “hailing” of “US power and global capital” ensconced in the phone calls of Americans to customer service centres in India, that materializes call centre agents as particular types of subjects (19). Answer the Call takes particular interest in how “the call” of these neoliberal projects are “answered,” how people negotiate these experiences, and what processes emerge that are defined by, and redefine, these global relationships.
The authors draw from call centre literature and migration studies to trace the impact of call centre labour on workers and suggest new ways of thinking about the categories and geographies naturalized in these discussions. They focus on how the international interactions and virtual movements involved in this labour actually remake workers’ lives, desires, and subjectivities. They pay particular and innovative attention to the ways in which call centre agents reorient their temporal, relational, and material lives towards the United States to serve the demands of a globalized market economy and the often more privileged global subjects calling from across the world. Because of virtual connections to other places, agents’ labour both permits and constrains travel, forming “virtual borderlands” where callers and agents meet but where there remains a conceptual and territorial boundary between national belongings. According to the authors, this sense of movement creates migrant workers who become a diaspora community living inside, rather than outside, the homeland (142).
In chapter 1, Carrillo Rowe, Malhotra, and Pérez develop the concept of “power temporalities” which is central to their theoretical contribution. Time can be structured differently and unevenly and imbalances legitimize particular hegemonic influences. The authors use several American documentaries and reality TV shows on Indian call centres to show how power temporalities are normalized through developmental time structures based on racialized, gendered, and Westernized narratives of modernity (33). The way these programs portray call centres and workers situate India in a traditional past that is behind the United States in its progress towards modernity. Moreover, white, male narrators are contrasted with brown, Indian femininity, reiterating racial and gendered power relationships that give moral power and authority to America (50). The authors suggest these productions are intended to alleviate anxieties towards perceived threats to America’s identity and global position of power.
Chapter 2 turns to workers’ experiences in order to explore the implications of call centre labour for their sense of embodied self and how it reconfigures their connections and desires. Call centre agents often imagine alternate identities in order to interact with American callers, manipulating their bodies, interests, and communicative practices to perform and embody these identities. Agents also work night shifts to use the time difference between India and the United States. Such processes estrange many employees from relationships and daily life in India, effectively orienting them towards America and preferencing the realities of consumers. While social mobility achieved from good pay and increased confidence does occur, some agents also feel diasporic loss or experience physical sickness as the long hours and stresses of this labour are manifest in the body, testing the limits of global subjectivities (174).
Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the anxiety that these interactions and movements incite, not only in the United States, but also in India, focusing on the politics of citizenship and national identity. In chapter 3 the authors argue that even though market capitalism, globalization, and new forms of entitlements redefine territorialized notions of citizenship, current conceptions still include the national as well as the transnational. Agents are “caught in politics of recognition” where both statements congratulating authentic assimilation as well as overtly racist exclusions (embodied racialization also occurs through aural registers) serve to reify a cohesive concept of “Americanness” that is rearticulated and monitored by callers (31). However, workers also contest national exclusions by asserting their position as global players.
Expressions of national anxiety do not occur only in virtual space, nor are they reserved to American national ideologies. Chapter 4 explores the implications of the “spilling” of American identities into the daily lives of call centre workers, and thus, into Indian society. This process causes concern regarding Indian national identity and its stakes for India’s future. Workers, families, and managers expressed feelings of cultural loss that are often in tension with desires for social mobility and global involvement. Call centre agents are seen as participating in nation building while also disrupting and Westernizing the nation (174).
Answer the Call both challenges space- and place-based geographies and problematizes the universalization of the discourse on globalization and interconnectivity. It shows how such discussions often ignore power relationships inherent in globalized space-time relations that privilege the experiences and time of some people over that of others, silencing the experiences of those whose labour produces and facilitates these connections. It is an important inquiry into how conceptions of national identity, the nation-state, and the borders between them are still present and defended in a globalized context of continual physical and virtual migrations across territorial lines. The authors do crucial work to tie these discussions to the demonstration of how difference, including gender, racial, and sexual difference, is created in a discourse of national belonging. They also take a step forward in addressing the role of technology in those processes.
More attention could be given to the material artifacts and procedures involved in call centres, however, as well as the technologies themselves, which are drawing attention from the bourgeoning field of science and technology studies. Future works addressing the call centre industry would do well to look more closely at how the devices, codes, and production of technology, as well as their underlying ideologies, participate in difference- and similarity-making and are significant mediators and actors in forming the identities of call centre agents and the customers who call them.
Eileen Sleesman, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
BRIDGING THE SOCIAL GAP: Perspectives on Dalit Empowerment. Edited by Sukhadeo Thorat, Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal. New Delhi; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, 2014. xxvii, 279 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-81-321-1311-9.
In recent years, analysis of the status of disadvantaged groups such as Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in Indian society has emerged as a major area of research in the social sciences, which has created a need for statistical data to understand their socio-economic condition and levels of empowerment. While the issue of discrimination in the social sphere has been well researched, studies on exclusion in the economic sphere have not received as much attention. The volume under review, edited by Sukhadeo Thorat and Nidhi Sadana Sabharwal, attempts to fill these gaps. It was initially conceived as an “alternative” Human Development Report (HDR) that would include variables on exclusion and discrimination to be designated as a Dalit Development Report. But separating HD indicators by caste and ethnic groups of SCs and STs from the general data proved difficult as group-wise data is not available for many indicators, though the same data are available at the aggregate level. Hence, the editors decided to widen the conceptual dimension of the HD perspective by bringing in variables related to group inequalities, which they argue has made their analysis more “distribution-sensitive.” This necessitated disaggregation of the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Human Poverty Index (HPI) by various groups based on class, caste, ethnicity, and religion and second, analysis of the causal factors associated with a lower level of HD among the selected disadvantaged groups.
The adoption of this framework is significant as few countries—Malaysia, Gabon, Nepal, US, Canada, Guatemala, and India—have disaggregated indicators of HD by social groups. The HDRs of 2000 and 2004 prepared by the UNDP have also made some progress in providing data on some dimensions and indicators of exclusion. In India, national HDRs are available since 2001 and 14 states have also published such reports. The state level HDRs provide data on the deprivations suffered by the SC, ST and Other Backward Classes and observe that the HD levels of these groups fall below that of the general population. But they do not estimate the composite index of Human Development or Human Poverty of these groups, they avoid dealing with issues of inter-social disparity, and the indicators used are limited and vary from state to state. Moreover, as the editors point out, in these reports there is inadequate conceptualization, or attempt to develop indicators that capture caste-based exclusion and discrimination and linkages with the human deprivation faced by disadvantaged groups.
Using this framework the volume addresses four interrelated issues. First, based on the prevailing academic literature, it conceptualizes exclusion-linked deprivation and elaborates the concept of social exclusion and of caste, untouchability, and ethnicity-based exclusion of socially disadvantaged groups, namely SCs and STs. Second, it presents the status of these socially disadvantaged groups and their inter-social group inequalities vis-à-vis the general population by constructing an HDI and an HPI using indicators of well-being. Three, it analyzes deprivation among these socially disadvantaged groups in terms of lower levels of access to resources, employment, education, and social needs. Finally, it examines the role of caste discrimination in economic, civil, social, and political spheres, which involves a denial of, or selective restrictions on, the right to development or equal opportunities for socially disadvantaged groups.
While the introduction lays out the conceptual and empirical methodology used, it is the first three chapters that present the above-mentioned issues in detail. The discussion in these chapters indicates that while there have been improvements in the condition of these social groups, there is ample evidence to suggest that exclusionary and discriminatory practices persist in the functioning of public institutions. Societal discrimination and exclusion in multiple spheres, together with violent opposition by upper castes and state institutions, have narrowed the space for SCs and STs to utilize the civil, political, and economic rights and equal opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution. Some strategies and policies—such as legal enforcement of anti-discriminatory laws, reservations and financial schemes under the SC
and ST sub-plans, anti-poverty schemes and general empowering policies—have introduced positive changes. However, the rate of improvement has been slow and has not been sufficient to reduce the absolute level of deprivation between them and the non-SC/ST population. A high degree of “exclusion-induced deprivation” continues and socially inclusive policies need to be framed by the state.
Against this backdrop, the remaining chapters examine various seminal aspects of the socio-economic conditions of SCs and STs: levels of consumption, poverty, literacy and educational levels, housing, health, access to resources, and housing. Each chapter, written by a well-known scholar in the field, is well researched, informative, and provides an in-depth analysis of the condition of SCs and STs in the selected field; collectively, they provide an understanding of the disadvantages faced by these two groups and improvements and failures in public policy of the Indian state. While such studies exist, bringing them together in one volume and linking them to exclusion and discrimination make them valuable.
A basic difficulty with the volume is that the statistical data on which the study is based are dated, only including data up to the year 2000. The Indian economy experienced high economic growth in the early 2000s and it would have been useful to know if this has trickled down to disadvantaged groups, or, as alleged by some scholars, due to neo-liberal reforms, poverty and inequality has increased. It is hoped that this drawback will be addressed through an updated version. Despite this shortcoming, the volume makes three theoretical and methodological contributions: it has provided a conceptual framework to study the causes of low HD of excluded and indigenous groups and estimates the inter-group disparities in HDI and HPI; it has constructed the HDI and the HPI at aggregate level and disaggregated it by groups; and it has presented the situation of SCs and STs in comparison with others, with regard to individual indicators. These are valuable contributions and make the volume a tool for future research.
Sudha Pai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Interest in India’s system of education has greatly increased across the world over the last two decades. The opening up of the Indian economy—i.e., its “liberalization”—marks a change in earlier policies, both economic and educational. No new framework of state policy in education has yet evolved, and the recent political developments do not offer much hope that a new policy will be formulated with consensus. In the meantime, the National Policy on Education formulated in 1986 continues to be used as a point of reference by scholars who want to make sense of the bewildering diversity of schools and the systems that govern them. Those interested mainly in studying India’s economic liberalization often raise older, more familiar questions, such as: Is literacy going to remain a public agenda? Can universal schooling coexist with child labour? Such questions have returned because economic development and social change since independence from British colonial rule have not changed the larger picture of India as a country of sharp inequalities and hierarchies. Scholarship in different social sciences has enhanced common awareness of the complexities of this picture, by demonstrating how gender disparity is deeply implicated in older understandings of caste as a key axis of hierarchy and basis of class inequality. The role of religion too is now somewhat more candidly accepted when problems and policies of social justice are discussed. Compared to three decades ago, there is greater global interest now in studying India’s attempt to modernize itself which in turn creates a demand for deeper perspectives and descriptions of the different institutions shaping the socio-economic and political ethos.
For this purpose, the school is a prime institutional site. Meenakshi Thapan’s anthology of six long essays responds to this demand by offering ethnographic accounts of different types of urban schools. Citizenship is a common focus of these essays. The values that constitute citizenship supposedly form the basis of the socialization that takes place at school. The interplay between these values and the wider culture that shapes children’s life at home naturally interests social anthropologists. The scholars whose writings are presented in this volume are especially interested in gender-related values and practices. These scholars follow the ideas and methodological practices now widely appreciated in educational theory, specifically on the matter of observing children in the school setting. The editor and other authors of this volume regard children as participants in the creation of the school ethos. Imparting agency to children is an important decision, given the climate of both society and policy in India wherein children are perceived as objects or targets.
The other emphasis in these studies is on looking at schooling as experience. This is also an important decision, but the writers of this volume could have gone further than they have in defining the term “experience.” This is important because social categories like caste, class, and gender play a major role in shaping a child’s classroom experience. Experience also has to do with learning, both in terms of “what is learned” and “who succeeds in learning.” But schools are not merely venues for teaching; they are also dispensers of opportunity—to proceed beyond the school towards higher institutional and occupational destinations. How this role of the school is shaped by history—of society, community, politics, and policies—does figure in this book but not as much as one might expect. It figures most richly in the essay about a school for Muslim girls in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The three writers of this essay, Tanya Matthan, Anusha Chandana, and Meenakshi Thapan, construct a much larger explanatory framework than the other essays for analyzing the meaning that schooling acquires for the young. This essay fulfills the high expectations that the volume, as a whole, arouses. Here we learn how complex an institution a school is, straddling its traditional role as a social institution, on the one hand, and its modern incarnation as a state institution, or one that the state must “recognize” through codes of legitimacy, on the other.
The title and all the essays in this volume demonstrate the potential of ethnography for delving into the world that schools contain within them. There is plenty of ethnographic literature on education that establishes its scope and potential for application in educational studies. As all six essays included in this volume show, the ethnographer’s contribution to the study of education lies in drawing attention to the culture that life at any school embodies. Schools, however, are not self-contained sites. Life in a school is shaped as much by systemic forces, located in history and the political economy, as by interactivity within its four walls. Some of the authors acknowledge this wider affiliation but do not engage with it. The paper cited earlier stands out because it situates experience in a palpable systemic reality. It also shows why it may be useful to redefine and refurbish anthropological approaches to educational research by making provision for the historical dimension in human affairs.
Citizenship education is a major focus of this volume. Under this focus, the authors note the plurality of practices used in schools to nurture a civic identity and some of the contradictions in these practices. Surprisingly, a major policy shift is ignored. This shift involved the replacement of the old subject, called “Civics,” by “Social and Political Life” in the junior secondary classes. The epistemology of this new curricular area would have provided interesting material for inquiry into teachers’ efforts to negotiate critical pedagogy which was alien to the old subject of civics, but is central to the idea of a politically active citizen that informs recent curricular initiatives. How this new idea copes with wider political changes in the near future will be a matter of interest to those following India’s economic and political fortunes.
Krishna Kumar, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
AYYA’S ACCOUNTS: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India. By Anand Pandian & M.P. Mariappan; afterword by Veena Das. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014. xii, 216 pp. (Map, illustrations.) US$24.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-253-01250-0.
Ayya’s Accounts is a most wonderful product of listening, narrating, and co-writing between Anand Pandian, an anthropologist of Tamil descent born and bred in the US, and his grandfather, Ayya—as he is respectfully called by the family—a merchant whose life story started in colonial Burma and came to fruition in Madurai, South India. The book, which reads as an eminently enjoyable novel, presents an account of Ayya’s life as it was conveyed to Pandian over many conversations between the two of them, several other family members, and much-loved Paati, Ayya’s now deceased wife. The text consists of 27 short chapters, most of which are large chunks of Ayya’s Tamil voice translated into English and interspersed with shorter chapters by Pandian, who offers ongoing reflections on what Ayya’s narratives contain, mean, reveal, and hide as they were told to him over the years.
The title Ayya’s Accounts is intentionally plural. At one level, it refers to the rich accounts of life that Ayya keenly shared with his grandson, an ethnographer of Tamil Nadu. Ayya teasingly prodded him one day, “When are you going to write my story?” Starting with the birth of Ayya in 1919, the account covers a life straddling the twentieth century: from Ayya’s early involvement with the family’s shop in Burma, to a rushed and traumatic overland return to India in late 1941, to adulthood as a respected merchant and husband with eight children back in the village, and finally retired life with a son’s family in Madurai, punctuated by visits to children and grandchildren across the US. But the title also refers to a core aspect of Ayya’s person: his life-long involvement with trade as a respected merchant and his love for—and obsession with—counting numbers, keeping accounts, and maintaining ledgers to record even the smallest of business transactions he concluded. Trade was what Ayya knew, what he was good at, and whose profits enabled him to educate his children in the pursuit of a better life.
While the rich and touching narratives contained in this book cannot be summarized here, three things, among many others, stand out for me. First, in the introductory pages Pandian ponders what the particular quirks of a single life story can tell us about modern India. What can be learned from the stories of a poor Nadar boy who started life running a shop with his brothers in Burma and ended up as a successful fruit merchant in Madurai? The answer is, of course, that such a life story can teach us a great deal, and probably much more than what can be gleaned from grand narratives of independence, freedom, economic development or religious tradition—in Ayya’s village, we learn, they didn’t even realize that Independence had happened until weeks after the event! Ayya’s successes and failures reveal the broader upward struggles of his caste, whose members’ ulaippu (toil) and hardship ultimately translated into economic improvement and social mobility in post-Independence India. Or, as Veena Das summarizes in her afterword, Ayya’s accounts are “a witness to the stupendous changes that took place in the caste to which Ayya belonged, in the political systems of the nations in which he tried to make his home, and to the ways aspirations changed as each generation tried to make a different future for itself” (200).
Second, Ayya’s life story contains unique material to reflect on agency, or what is left of it in a changing world that imposes opportunities and challenges rather than allowing individuals to pick and choose. Indeed, much of
Ayya’s life course was not shaped by his own choices or wishes, but forced upon him by other people, other events, and good or bad luck. It was his father who brought him to Burma to work in the family shop, it was war that forced his return to India with his brother, it was his marriage to Paati that landed him in his in-laws’ textile shop, and it was his brother’s fruit trade that eventually made him into a prosperous merchant. Circumstances, one could call them, are what also led to the premature death of his daughter and to several of his adult children leaving the country in search of opportunities elsewhere. Ayya recounts his own story in terms of hard work, moral commitment, honesty and skill—and all of these were undoubtedly his assets. But his accounts also leave a strong trace of coming to terms with the realization that one lacks agency, control, and grip on most of life’s events.
Finally, the accounts provide wonderful insights into the ways in which as humans we confront the uncertainties and anxieties engendered by the unpredictability of life, and how we reconcile them with our aspirations for a “good life” and a “moral life”—topics Pandian has long engaged with in his work. Uncertainty and anxiety about past experiences and unknown futures always abound. For Ayya, Pandian concludes, counting, recording, hard work, and repaying one’s debts constitute practical ways—techniques—of retaining control, of creating some stability amidst the flux of everyday life, and of learning “simply to live with the unexpected” (191).
This book is anything but an ordinary ethnographic account of a life. It is a work of passion: the passion that Pandian holds for his family (reciprocated by them), for the power of listening and telling, for understanding life in contemporary India, and, perhaps most of all, for grasping how ordinary people make sense of what a good and moral life is all about. A book, intended as a tribute to his grandfather, does as much honour to anthropology and to the power of using narrative to convey social and personal lives. Ayya is a man whom I for one would like to meet, and the accounts he and Pandian have left us are ones that I will use to help students gain insight into personal lives, aspirations, and social change in India today. It is also highly recommended reading for anyone interested in questions of morality, meaning making, and survival in a rapidly changing world.
Geert De Neve, University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom
RITUALS OF ETHNICITY: Thangmi Identities Between Nepal and India. Contemporary Ethnography. By Sara Shneiderman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015. xvi, 305 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$75.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8122-4683-4.
Theoretically informed (but never pompous), attractively and clearly written (but not over-written), ethnographically grounded (but never boring), multi-sited and boundary-crossing, politically aware, engaged, and reflexive, Sara Shneiderman’s ethnographic monograph makes a significant, indeed brilliant, intervention in Himalayan anthropology, one that is (or ought to be) just as relevant for specialists of India as it is for scholars of Nepal.
Shneiderman’s people are the Thangmi/Thami ethnic group, around 40,000 people found principally in Nepal, in a small way just over the border in Tibet (People’s Republic of China), and importantly in Darjeeling, with a satellite settlement in the southeast Nepali border district of Jhapa. Before the work of Shneiderman and her linguistic anthropologist husband, Mark Turin, put them on the map, the Thangmi were as unknown and obscure to scholars as they were to most Nepalis. In the past Thangmis were classic hybrid Zomians—avoiding the control and gaze of the state as much as they could, remaining so far below the radar that even now few have heard of them. Shneiderman’s story focuses on how an entirely new kind of politically assertive identity emerged, focused on literary production, public performance, and making claims on the state. It began in Darjeeling and then moved to Nepal (the activists in the two places crucially being in dialogue and mutual support). Shneiderman’s theoretical bent is to stress how this new form of identity is (when understood more profoundly) in deep continuity with older ways of being Thangmi, not least in its focus on sacred origins and symbols.
Shneiderman traces the history of organized Thangmi/Thami ethnicity in Darjeeling, Jhapa, Dolakha, and Kathmandu, starting in the 1930s. The infamous Piskar incident of 1984, in which policemen shot dead two villagers celebrating a festival, on the grounds that they were singing subversive songs, occurred in a Thangmi village and the victims were all Thangmis, though this was not evident to many people at the time. Shneiderman shows how the build-up to the incident was intimately connected to underground communist organizing in the region. At the same time, very different campaigns were taking off in India, for OBC (Other Backward Class) and ST (Scheduled Tribe) status, which required middle-class activists who no longer spoke Thangmi or had any experience of shamanic traditions to prove the “backwardness” of their group; at one point, in order to prove “primitive traits,” there was a campaign for a “return” to eating mouse meat, a practice that only one leader of the relevant organization in Darjeeling actually claimed to be distinctively Thangmi.
Shneiderman is well aware of, and highlights, the multiple ironies that ensue when activists seek to make public points for a political purpose about cultural practices they are not very familiar with. The second national convention of the Nepal Thami Samaj was held to coincide with the key annual Bhume festival in Dolakha. Shneiderman comments, “The fact that the leadership could schedule [the convention] to conflict with Bhume Jatra, a ritual event that all of their publications proclaimed central to their ethnic identity, demonstrated that the activists had in fact constructed a parallel universe for the ritual production of ethnicity through political action” (167). The activists had timed their convention deliberately: they preferred not to have the ritual gurus present; it was easier to construct their own world, for all that it depended symbolically upon the existence of the gurus and their traditions, without the competition around. Meanwhile, in India, activists both needed the Nepal-based “traditional” Thangmis to provide material for their claims to “primitive traits,” yet simultaneously needed to downplay links to Nepal in order to make their claims as Indian citizens. These same activists are simultaneously proud of their ancestors’ traditions and embarrassed by the associated “primitive traits” (drinking the blood of sacrificed animals, acting as demons in a Devi festival, eating beef).
Yet another irony is that Shneiderman’s description of the Devikot festival, published in 2005, was submitted in evidence as part of the Darjeeling Thangmis’ application for SC status; the article argued, using high-flown theory from Judith Butler, that the Thangmis’ participation, though apparently subordinating, actually transmuted ritual power and asserted the pre-eminence of the Thangmis, thus explaining why Thangmis themselves viewed it as the key ritual defining Thangminess. Just a year after she published the article and submitted it to activists in Darjeeling, the Thangmis back in Dolakha stopped participating in the festival on the grounds that they were being exploited. Shneiderman candidly admits that this sudden decision shook her faith in her ethnographic analysis.
Perhaps because the Thangmi are a relatively small group, Shneiderman seems to have been acquainted with all the activists in every location. This gives her account of ethnogenesis—or better, ethno-transformation—a completeness that most other monographs lack. But, as her account makes clear, this did not mean (as in some even smaller groups) that this work of ethnic creation was accomplished by one man alone. On the contrary, as Shneiderman indicates (even if she does not always go into detail), there were fierce debates and differences on many issues. What is less clear is whether there was a yawning gap (as there certainly is in other larger ethnic groups) between the activists’ perspectives and many of those on whose behalf they claim to speak. Nor does Shneiderman tackle the question—a very difficult one for Janajati activists to face or even admit to—of the relationship between Thangmis and Dalits in Dolakha and Sindhupalchok (the more relaxed situation in Darjeeling is mentioned).
Rituals of Ethnicity is a subtle and important contribution to discussions of ethnicity everywhere. It will be particularly significant for scholars and students of the Himalayas. As such, the University of Pennsylvania Press should make it available in paperback and in an affordable South Asian edition as soon as possible.
David N. Gellner, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
There are two tendencies in the study of nuclear diplomacy: one to reduce the moves and turns to a kind of formulaic game-like calculus, the other to follow one side of the game more closely because the author enjoys an advantage there. Dinshaw Mistry successfully unites his access to and subtle understanding of both the Indian and American sides of this complex story, and avoids reducing it to formulas. He enters deep into the political labyrinths of the American and Indian policy-making environments to show how limited the mandates have been for the negotiating teams. Now at the University of Cincinnati, Mistry has made skillful use of very different sources, including the insight of skilled Indian and US journalists/writers who worked this subject almost every day. A good reason that Mistry’s balanced and detached work is important to Pacific Affairs readers, even those whose interest in nuclear history is slight, is because it is so revealing about the political cultures of both countries. As India’s influence in the rest of the Pacific Affairs region increases, such knowledge is inherently valuable.
The India-US nuclear relationship opened in 1949–1950 when American officials and leaders, alarmed by French moves on India’s huge thorium deposits, agreed to purchase a great deal of beryllium at an exaggerated price in a secret multi-year contract. In 1955 India asked for, and soon received, 20 tons of US heavy water for the new CIRUS reactor commissioned in 1961. The first functioning electrical power reactor was an American-designed light water reactor, commissioned in 1970. But when India tested its first atomic bomb in 1974, cooperation narrowed to the completion of an enriched uranium contract for the US reactor, and official sanctions were placed on further US involvement. Even the spent US fuel at this reactor had to be stored (by India) on site for more than thirty years. Just as these sanctions were unwinding, India tested five bombs (one of them thermonuclear) in 1998, thus attracting new sanctions. So the twentieth-century relationship between India and the US is best described as a history of “managing disappointment.”
When the Bush government realized in 2005 that India was more important to the US, and that most sanctions on India were counter-productive, the relationship entered the twenty-first century. Sanction-lifting had already occurred in September 2001, “but only because they were simultaneously lifted on Pakistan, whose assistance Washington required for its military campaign in Afghanistan” (39). The book skillfully treats the international dimensions of the process, such as India’s continued voting at the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency in favour of Iran’s nuclear program. Senior US officials had to work on nuclear lobbies in other countries (such as Canada, New Zealand, and Japan) to reduce those governments’ interference with the draft agreement. India and the US had tough negotiations with critical partners at both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group. But rather than standing out alone, with domestic politics subordinated to them, Mistry shows that these multi-national variables had their tangled domestic roots too. That is where his analysis has flourished.
One way to look at Mistry’s excellent book is to see this process as a time of “nuclear learning.” The teams established what Mistry calls “win-sets,” building from lists of issues around which separate negotiation had to occur. The learning occurred, in my view, when the proponents of an agreement realized where they could compromise with each other, and where opponents of the agreement (such as the left parties in India and members of the US Congress) realized the limits of their influence. Mistry says that inclusion of certain items in the win-set of the other country “allows” each of them to accept an arrangement leading to the agreement. He conveniently provides a quantitative scale to each of the options, and their consequences, for each party.
Some of the issues which Mistry examines are:
- Separation of military and civil uses of nuclear facilities in India, with “firewalls” between them.
- Access to new Indian sites for US electrical power reactor-building corporations, with limited liability in case of accidents and damages. India had not forgotten the 1986 experience with Union Carbide after the accident at its Bhopal fertilizer plant, and established stringent nuclear accident liability regulations. India opposed any IAEA checks on nuclear application of its liability laws.
- Restraints on India’s plan to test nuclear weapons, and a schedule for the termination of cooperation after a future Indian nuclear test.
- Restraints on India’s exports with weapons-of-mass-destruction potential (chemicals, organisms, equipment, and technology).
- Inclusion of India’s breeder reactor on the list for IAEA inspection; among India’s twenty-two reactors (some of them were operating at 50 percent of their capacity), only six were in a safeguarded position in 2005.
- Assurances of continuing US enriched fuel supply; India had not forgotten the difficulties and costs caused by US withdrawal of shipments of enriched uranium for Tarapur in 1974–1978.
Mistry contrasts the two country’s decision regimes, saying “the most powerful bureaucratic actors—the president, secretary of state, national security advisor, and under-secretary of state for political affairs—made the final negotiating decisions” for the US. But in India the top nuclear officials often drew the red lines beyond which they did not wish PM Manmohan Singh and/or External Affairs officials to move (14–15).
Mistry assembled evidence on how track-two diplomacy was used, including the roles of think tanks, strategic affairs elites, business associations with lobbying power, and the media. Positions of important individuals (such as Jimmy Carter), and editorials of influential sources like The Hindu are carefully analyzed. Americans were on the ground in India and their president and secretary of state went to meetings and worked the phones on this subject for years. India hired two US public relations firms close to both Republican and Democratic parties. Mistry carefully sifted through testimony before committees, shows how a US Coalition for the Partnership with India actually operated, and shows that the absence of such a coalition in India was not, in the end, a decisive flaw.
No conclusive knock-out punch leading to “yes” is suggested for either side, just a messy cluster of issues which had to be separately negotiated, one interest bumping into another. The business potentials, which had unlocked some American doors in 2005, still remained unfulfilled for the US (and for Russian and French reactor builders too) even seven years after conclusion of the agreement. Mistry curiously confines to a footnote the insight that the US and Indian negotiating styles were different, namely that “while Washington looks for specific answers in talks with India, New Delhi often pursues ‘the art of nondiplomacy’, meaning that it does not say yes or no” (242). This question of negotiating style should be more prominent, because political cultures contain negotiating cultures.
Mistry reminds us that this entire process was not for the nuclear establishments of each country alone. The curious thing about nuclear diplomacy is “the puzzle of why two major powers (that is, the US and India) that had strategic interests in building a partnership found it very difficult to do so” (242). Yes, a most curious thing.
Robert Anderson, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA’S ISRAEL POLICY: Continuity, Change, and Compromise since 1922. The Oxford International Relations in South Asia Series. By Nicolas Blarel. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015. xv, 411 pp. (Figures, tables.) US$35.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-945062-6.
India’s evolving relations with Israel provide a fascinating window to the hopes and aspirations, constraints and limitations, and diplomatic capacities and resilience to deal with unexpected and persisting challenges facing India’s foreign policy makers. The greatest mystery of this relationship has been the long gap between the recognition of Israel as a sovereign, independent nation by India in 1950 and the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1992. This book is a serious scholarly attempt by the author, Nicolas Blarel, to unravel this mystery of 42 years, and the subsequent developments in India-Israeli relations.
The author divides his subject into five time segments starting from 1922 and ending in 2012. In the first segment (1922–1947), the conflicting roots of Indian and Israeli nationalism are traced for their impact on one country’s approach toward the other. Gandhi and Nehru, who shaped India’s destiny during the initial years of India’s independence, were reluctant to accept the notion of a religious state. They supported the Khilafat movement as a protest movement but insisted on a secular identity for a state. The next two segments of 1948 to 1956, and 1956 to 1974 present detailed and meticulously researched accounts of many occasions when India could establish diplomatic relations with Israel but did not due to a variety of factors and forces, including the role of individuals. The analytical or thematic division between these two segments is a bit blurred and somewhat fragile. Then the author looks closely at a period of eight years, from 1984 to 1992, which is described as “From Estrangement to Engagement” of India with Israel. Finally, the book very systematically analyzes the “Consolidation of India’s New Israel Policy” during the two decades from 1992 to 2012, when establishment of diplomatic relations eventually led to the firming up of a “strategic partnership.” This segment is most informative and well organized and gives relevant and valuable details of emerging economic, defence, and political relations between the two countries. It even presents accounts of the visits of various chief ministers of Indian states to Israel (331–333). The author also compiles a list of India’s arms procurements from Israel, though the authenticity of this information may be debatable at many places in the compilation.
The role played by the “institutional” and “ideational” obstacles deterred the pragmatic approaches of many Indian rulers towards establishing diplomatic relations with Israel until 1992. Obstacles identified by the author include the religious identity of the Israeli state and India’s aversion to this identity, India’s support and sympathy for the Arab countries and the Palestinian people, the consideration of the political preferences and religious sentiments of the sizable Muslim minority within India, and the role of the Cold War and Israel’s aggressive posture towards the Arabs and Palestinians. The change in India’s approach towards Israel occurred as part of a significant shift in India’s foreign policy as a whole at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the 1990s. Since Narasimha Rao’s coming to power in 1991, India liberalized its economy, opened up to Southeast Asia under its Look-East policy and became increasingly sensitive to international and Jihadi terrorism. Political turbulence, ideological confusion, and a breakdown of solidarity within the Arab world also played a significant role in shaping the change in India’s policy towards Israel. The shift in US attitude towards India, the consequent change in Indo-US relations by the end of the 1990s, and subsequent growth dynamism in the Indian economy certainly gave impetus to India’s cooperation with Israel.
Major policy changes in a country like India do not occur through knee-jerk reactions. The author rightly questions Jeffrey W. Legro’s theory that change occurs only when one “orthodoxy” collapses and another gets consolidated in the realm of policy. In this questioning, the author of this study claims that he was breaking new theoretical ground by demonstrating that within a “sub-system” of policy, like India’s approach towards Israel, change can be both “gradual” and “dynamic” (360). This, however, is not a great theoretical formulation. Most of the changes take place gradually and incrementally, particularly in large, diverse, and complex societies like India. In the course of his discussion, the author also highlights the role of policy “shocks” in inducing the change, but fails to show as to why many such “shocks,” like the Arab failure to support India’s position in the 1962, 1965, and 1971 wars (151), could not deliver the expected change? What in fact the author describes as policy “shocks” were hardly considered to be major “shocks” within the Indian policy portals.
The value of this study lies not in any major theoretical contribution, but in presenting the evolution of Indo-Israeli relations in a historical perspective. It gives us a narrative that is meticulously chronicled and copiously researched. It makes the reader aware of the conflicting claims often made on Indian policy makers on sensitive and critical issues. Its value would have been enhanced if the author had detailed the parallel debate within the Israeli establishments about India. The book gives us a very comprehensive bibliography and an impressive database on the subject. The author’s efforts deserve commendation, as this study can be of immense value to serious scholars, analysts, and commentators, as well as policy makers dealing with India’s foreign policy.
Sukh Deo Muni, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
In this rich volume, readers are treated to an encyclopedic assessment of Indian presence in Singapore. From the Raffles treaty with the Sultan of Johor in 1819, and the more formalized incorporation of the island into British commercial horizons, through to the defeat of Japan in World War Two, the book utilizes an impressive array of primary sources to weave a textured narrative. Much of the tale and its methodological underpinnings are familiar to those engrossed in the now weighty literature on Southeast Asia’s Indian-origin communities and diasporas, but this engaging synthesis should be popular with students and citizens interested in the nation’s historical ethnic tapestry. It may prove slightly less appealing to a wider academic audience hungry for innovative transnational histories of the vibrant, networked Indian Ocean world, of which Singapore was a key node. Still, this attractive book is an admirable piece of scholarship that tells the reader a great deal about the diversity and multi-layered identities of Singapore’s Indian communities.
The book is broken into three chronological parts. Part 1, “Pioneers at the Frontier,” takes the narrative from Raffles to the 1867 transfer of the territory from British East India Company control to Crown Colony. Part 2, “Diasporic Transformations in the Age of Mass Migration,” ups the pace to the 1940s, with the shorter final section focusing on the well-studied period of Japanese Occupation and the Indian National Army. One might quibble that a work subtitled “diaspora in a colonial port city” could have played around with more counter-hegemonic chronologies, but the structure is generally helpful in orientating the reader through the long timeframe. Within its own Singaporean and transnational terms the book soon progresses on a dense and thematically rewarding journey. It summarizes well the changing contexts and historiography of nineteenth-century imperial militarism, colonial labour and independent commerce that brought Singapore into various scales of “Greater India,” “Greater Madras” or even “Greater Punjab,” at the same time as Southeast Asia itself impacted the social, economic, and demographic history of rural India. Rai’s attention to detail is impressive, for example in explaining the stages of linkage between the Madras Presidency and Singapore. He expertly describes the ebb and flow of British anxiety about Indian mobility and agency, especially from the 1860s to the 1920s. Rai is notably strong in evoking a teetering sense of colonial control and its attendant authoritarian turns, which emerge forcefully in his narrative with the 1867 Muharram procession (in the context of Chinese secret society activity) and the 1915 Singapore Mutiny (inflamed by the globalized Indian radicalism of the Ghadr movement).
The volume shines further as it delves into the socio-cultural arena, vividly presenting urban spaces as diverse Indian communities bedded down into agglomerations such as Serangoon Road into the twentieth century. Analysis of the taxonomies of communal difference, as well as trans-ethnic collaboration, is interesting and apt. The most original section is chapter 5, which engages the complexities of Indian associational culture. This fills a scholarly lacuna, even if the short sections and prose dictate a rather staccato style. The connections to Indian nationalist and regional ethnic politics tether nicely to the book’s conceptual ambitions and are informative, even if such Southeast Asian scholarship at large arguably lags behind comparable work on Africa and “Greater India” by scholars such as Isabel Hofmeyr, Jim Brennan, and Sana Aiyer. The final section, “The Japanese Occupation and the Indian National Army,” provides an excellent Singaporean (as opposed to wider Malayan) treatment of this most emotive episode in Singapore’s South Asian history. It is a good first port of call for those interested in the period and underlines Rai’s copious bibliographical industry within canonical and more unusual sources.
“Diaspora” is at the centre of Rai’s analysis, but in some senses, notwithstanding excellent source endeavour and conceptual flourishes book-ending the volume, he does not go far enough in dissecting and theorizing the cacophony of diasporic voices and transnational bonds across the Bay of Bengal. He is astute in consistently seeing the port city as a “porous site of confluence,” flux, and multi-directionality of connection (280–285). Colonial infrastructure intentionally and inadvertently sustained such webs, as well as regulated them, as Rai incisively observes. But for a book so explicitly concerned with “mobility and circulation across nodes spread over vast regions … best understood within the transnational networks frame” (xix), one might have expected deeper methodological liaison with Indian (and other Indian Ocean) sites that produced some of this transnational noise in Singapore, as well as new cutting-edge secondary literature. The excellent monograph cited in the introduction as influential in moving us beyond a “plantation frontier” and “homeland” focus of South Asian mobilities, Claude Markovits’ The Global World of Indian Merchants (Cambridge University Press), is now fifteen years old. Since then an effervescent body of Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian interventions—a driver of the latest avatar of the “transnational turn”—has also been directly preoccupied with Rai’s own task of assessing how dialogues of imperial, Indian, and Indian Ocean worlds in colonial port cities consistently re-negotiated a range of local, transnational, and global identities. With the supple analysis of multivalent print cultures, carceral archipelagos, pilgrimage networks, revolutionary undergrounds, and the permissive global languages of self-determination, scholars such as Sunil Amrith, Clare Anderson, Enseng Ho, Eric Tagliacozzo, Su Lin Lewis, Mark Ravinder Frost, and Tim Harper are building a sophisticated vista of connection, cleavage, and even cosmopolitanism within and beyond Empire. This book is pulling on the same rope and does so with empirical diligence. Its strength is a focus on the peculiarities of Singapore’s transnational porousness, which Rai states has been understudied. Yet, Rai’s diasporic focus would have been enriched conceptually by engaging more deeply and comparatively this newer work on regional connection and wider registers of permeability. As it stands, this fine book on Singaporean exceptionalism and regional relations misses certain historiographical tricks. Nevertheless, this busy synopsis does move us forward in addressing Indian diaspora in Asia. Anyone interested in the contingent ways in which Empire and migration shaped the “elaborate texture” of Singapore should digest its content.
Gerard McCann, University of York, Heslington, United Kingdom
THE INDEPENDENCE OF INDIA AND PAKISTAN: New Approaches and Reflections. Edited by Ian Talbot. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press, 2013. vi, 295 pp. (Maps, figures.) US$27.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-906478-6.
This latest work by Britain’s leading historian of the Punjab, the independence movement, and the history of Pakistan is an excellent collection that brings together established as well as young scholars in examining issues old and new regarding the partition of India in 1947. Divided into three parts, “Violence,” “Politics,” and “New History,” it offers a fine introduction which succinctly summarizes the historiography of the subject and the topics developed in the ten chapters that follow.
The “Violence” chapters include a republication of Paul Brass’s 2003 article where he delineates the concept of “retributive genocide” in the Punjab to account for the violence which occurred at the time. He argues that violence, instigated by political leaders, created the conditions for partition in Bengal, where it subsided once Pakistan had been granted, and then to ethnically cleanse various areas of the Punjab. The British categorization of ethnic groups as “Muslims” and “Non-Muslims” made violence targeted toward the “other” “highly likely” (30), especially if a group of people was left out of a category and made vulnerable by being interspersed with others. In the Punjab, the situation was complicated due to the third community, the Sikhs, and the 16 semi-autonomous states scattered around the province. Muslims in the Western part of the Punjab eagerly turned on Sikhs and Hindus, who retaliated in the east as they expelled Muslims, who as refugees in the west brayed for revenge; and so the cycle of violence continued, with all communities guilty. Ilyas Chattha, in an important contribution, looks at some 1,000 First Information Reports lodged at local police stations in Gujranwala, Sialkot, Lahore, and Sheikhupura. Written in Urdu and now almost completely disintegrated, they document everything from petty crimes to large-scale murder and serve to give details, hitherto unknown, about the violence and the means by which it was perpetuated with, for example, one policeman absconding with a rifle and 50 cartridges. Talbot, in a fine contribution, focuses on the city of Sheikhupura, a major communications hub especially prized by both Muslims and Sikhs for its economic and religious value. Some two-thirds of the city’s property and businesses were owned by Hindus and Sikhs and plans were long made by Muslims to ethnically cleanse them to seize their wealth. When Muslim refugees who had been “turned out” by Sikhs arrived from the east, the desire for revenge was overwhelming. His study helps to map the violence in the Punjab and to indicate a “clear connection” (115) between transport nodes and violence hot-spots. Gurharpal Singh examines the role of Sikhs and the causes and consequences of violence, and the theories behind it from a “planned conspiracy,” a “cultural given,” “retributive Genocide,” and a “function of militarization.” He offers six suggestions for further research but calls for the “systematic overview that the subject desperately deserves” (134).
The four chapters in “Politics” are a delight for political historians. Victoria Schofield looks at how Wavell, temperamentally unsuited to be Viceroy, but an astute and knowledgeable observer of India affairs, was never given the authority to negotiate and govern that Mountbatten had. Had he been given the same powers and the same political support as Mountbatten, many believe independence would have occurred without its disastrous consequences. As it was, Wavell, out of favour with Attlee, as he had been with Churchill, was unceremoniously dumped for Mountbatten, who was more keenly attuned, as Talbot rightly points out, to nationalist forces in Southeast Asia, and the need to satisfy them, than many British (and especially French) administrators. Nick Lloyd looks at the role of Sir Evan Jenkins, the staunch supporter of the Unionist Party and the last British governor of united Punjab, and how his warnings about the consequences of Mountbatten’s policies were ignored. Between a rock and a hard place, Jenkins was blamed for the breakdown of law and order by some of the same people who were causing it! Mountbatten is central to the saga of partition and its horrific outcome. He was always lucky that the people who could have offered an alternative narrative, such as Wavell, Sir Evan Jenkins, and the last British commander-in-chief of the Indian Army, Claude Auchinleck, chose not to do so. Schofield’s and Lloyd’s chapters offer ideas for an analysis that helps redress the balance in the narrative. Sten Widalman looks at the role of Kashmir in the events of 1947, critically assessing how it was important to India to establish its secular credentials and to invalidate the demand for Pakistan.
The final section offers two chapters. The first is by Paul Griffin on the Christians of West Punjab (less than 2 percent of the population) who supported the demand for Pakistan as they were attracted by the All-India Muslim League’s minority rights discourse. Many of them attended the Lahore session of the league when the Pakistan Resolution was passed. Many migrated to the cities after partition, where Protestants attended Catholic churches, seeing no problem in doing so. The chapter adds another dimension to the partition story. Ritu Bhagat rounds out the volume by exploring the new field of social memory as part of her innovative project on “Landscape and Memory: Refugee Rehabilitation in Post-Partition Delhi.” In this fragment of her study she examines how food “constituted an important component of the partition migrant’s memory” (260). In doing so, she explains how migrants from the North-West Frontier Province, Punjab, and Sindh established restaurants in Delhi, most notably Moti Mahal and Embassy, that established “Punjabi” cuisine, especially tandoori (clay oven cooking) and butter chicken (chicken cooked with butter and spices), as the most renowned cuisine of north India and the diaspora. “Punjabi” food and restaurants became sites around which migrants maintained communal ties and memories. This chapter, and the entire volume, adds food for thought on partition studies, and is a valuable contribution.
Roger D. Long, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, USA
THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF ETHNIC CONFLICT IN SRI LANKA: Economic Liberalization, Mobilizational Resources, and Ethnic Collective Action. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series. By Nikolaos Biziouras. New York: Routledge, 2014. xii, 226 pp. US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-74233-7.
In The Political Economy of Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka, Nikolaos Biziouras, an associate professor of Political Science at the US Naval Academy, argues that the conventional view posits a linear relationship between economic liberalization and ethnic conflict. In contrast, he seeks to demonstrate that the relationship between economic liberalization and ethnic conflict is non-linear: “I expect to find little, if any, ethnic conflict at low and high levels of economic liberalization, and high levels of ethnic conflict at medium levels of economic liberalization” (15).
Stating that “economic freedom requires … governments to refrain from many activities” (27), Biziouras defines levels of economic liberalization ranging from low to high in relation to the extent of state involvement in the economy, specifically fiscal exposure, trade openness, and regulatory intervention. Notwithstanding references to “measuring and coding,” the book does not provide details on how composite indices on levels of economic liberalization were derived. As a result, the categorization of low, middle, and high levels of liberalization appear vague and arbitrary.
Biziouras seeks to prove his thesis—high levels of ethnic conflict at medium levels of economic liberalization—through a historical case study of economic liberalization and ethnic collective action in Sri Lanka. Fitting the historical facts of the Sri Lankan case into this neat thesis, he attempts to trace ethnic conflict to a singular causal variable, namely economic liberalization.
Biziouras presents the British colonial period in Sri Lanka as characterized by “high economic liberalization” with a prevalence of caste-based as opposed to ethnic-based coalitions: “the market rather than the state determined the chances for upward mobility, and it did so without an emphasis on ethnicity” (40). In reality, however, the very origin and consolidation of the colonial economy, including its legal, fiscal, trade, land, and labour matters, were determined largely by a class of British “planter-officials” who constituted the colonial state rather than by objective market forces (Asoka Bandarage, Colonialism in Sri Lanka: The Political Economy of the Kandyan Highlands, 1833–1886, Mouton, 1983). Again, it was not the market but non-market forces, such as the greater number of English-language schools established by Christian missionaries in the Northern Province, that gave preferential access to Tamil Vellalas over the majority Sinhalese in the colonial administration.
Biziouras attributes the “inter-ethnic peace” between the Sinhala and Tamil elite prior to 1936 to what he says was the maintenance of a high level of economic liberalization by the British (62). But the reason for the unity between the Sinhala and Tamil elite during the first two decades of the twentieth century was due largely to the assumed parity between the “two majority communities” (Asoka Bandarage, The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka: Terrorism, Ethnicity, Political Economy, Routledge, 2009, 33). Despite their much smaller numbers than the Sinhalese, the Tamils were able to gain a politically equal if not a dominant position in the Legislative Council. Again, this was due not so much to market factors as to the Tamil elites’ close cooperation with the British colonial state. It was the threat and eventual disruption of the assumed ethnic parity following electoral democratization, not the “medium level of liberalization,” as argued by Biziouras, that set the stage for the ethnic conflict.
Biziouras’s singular focus on levels of economic liberalization as the determinant of ethnic conflict results in a dismissal of the confluence of geographic, political, ideological, and other factors in ethnically-based political mobilization. The narrow focus on the domestic dimension leads to a neglect of the regional dimension of the Sri Lankan conflict and the role of South India. Separatist Eelamist sentiments were first heard in Sri Lanka when the majority status enjoyed by the Tamils in the Legislative Council was threatened in 1920. Following the break- up of the inter-ethnic Ceylon National Council, Sri Lankan Tamil leader Ponnambalam Arunachalam stated the objective of the Ceylon Tamil League at its inaugural meeting in 1923: “to keep alive and propagate … throughout Ceylon, Southern India and the colonies … the union and solidarity of ‘Tamil akam’, the Tamil Land” (Bandarage, The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka, 35). Arunachalam was influenced by growing Tamil nationalism in South India at the time. He was the first Tamil leader to articulate a sense of Sri Lankan Tamils as an oppressed group and seek refuge in a vision of Tamil Eelam.
Biziouras attributes the increasing ethnic conflict in post-independence Sri Lanka to a “medium level of economic liberalization” and mobilization by both Sinhala and Tamil ethnic political entrepreneurs of their respective critical masses. But, this limited explanation ignores the fact that to a large extent, from the beginning of Sri Lanka’s political independence from the British, Sri Lankan Tamil (as opposed to Indian or “plantation” Tamil) political mobilization was not motivated by upward mobility within the Sri Lankan state as much as by efforts to separate from it. In other words, economic benefit was and is never the sole motive of ethnically based political mobilization, as claimed in the book under review. Sri Lankan Tamil separatism was born irrespective of the level of economic liberalization and well before discriminatory language, university entrance, or employment policies were introduced by Sri Lankan governments to redress the subordination of the Sinhala majority during British colonial rule. The establishment of the Sri Lankan Tamil State Party in 1949 was preceded by calls from the Sri Lankan Tamil elite to the British to create a separate state, as in the case of India, in order to avoid majoritarian dominance following independence.
In attributing the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict solely to an arbitrarily determined “medium level of economic liberalization,” this book fails to grasp the complexity and multi-causal nature of the conflict and to make a useful contribution to the literature on Sri Lanka. The book states that most recent cases of ethnic conflict elsewhere (Yugoslavia, Chechnya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Indonesia) have also occurred at “medium levels of economic liberalization.” However, in failing to provide any comparative information whatsoever on these cases, the book also fails to make a contribution to the broader literature on the political economy of ethnic conflict.
Asoka Bandarage, American University, Washington DC, USA
VIETNAM’S SOCIALIST SERVANTS: Domesticity, Class, Gender, and Identity. Asia’s Transformations, 44. By Minh T.N. Nguyen. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. xxvi, 201 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$145.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-13-802341-3.
Domestic work is a subject much researched in international migration studies, but very little has been written on it in domestic rural-urban migration studies. Yan Hiarong’s and Sun Wanning’s research on Chinese domestic workers in the “post-socialist era” are among those few outstanding works. Put in this context, Nguyen’s book on Vietnamese domestic workers is an important contribution towards filling the research gap in domestic migration studies and post-socialist society.
This book’s research question examines “ways in which class identities are forged and contested through the practices and discourses of domestic service, which is central to middle-class domesticity in Vietnam” (xx). Her finding is that “these dynamics build on cultural notions of gender and rural-urban difference, which in turn have been shaped by the ethos of state socialism and a moral economy specific to the country” (xx). The major sources for this book are the author’s interviews with individuals from four different groups in Hanoi: live-in and live-out domestic workers, cleaners/junk traders, and private hospital caregivers.
The arrangement of the book’s chapters is as follows. The introductory chapter puts forth the author’s theoretical and major viewpoints, with a brief description of Vietnamese social change after Doi Moi. Chapter 2 depicts the backgrounds of employers and domestic workers, and the institutional arrangements used to recruit domestic workers. The title of chapter 3 is “Power at work,” but its main theme addresses Vietnamese cultural concepts like harmony or affection, which influence personal interactions. Set against this background, the following three chapters explore three dimensions that domestic workers experience: discursive (chapter 4: unruly servants, erotic bodies, and cultural delinquents); material (chapter 5: needs, consumption, and domestic service); and emotional (chapter 6: boundaries, connections, and gendered expectations). Chapter 7, “Narrating identity,” uses two cases to trace the domestic worker’s identification process intertwined with social change. The concluding chapter summarizes the research findings and dialogues with the work of other scholars.
For those wanting to know about Vietnamese social change after Doi Moi, this book provides abundant information and colourful stories to help readers understand how individuals attain their current social positions through the ceaseless workings of the social mill. For example, how rural women autonomously pursue modernity or how urban middle-class women in the new millennium return home under the state’s new discourse. For me, the most important contribution of the book is its detailed analysis of Vietnamese gender and rural-urban relations.
However, my main concern is that there are so many variables, including class, gender, rural-urban difference, socialist ethos, culture, and neo-liberalism, that it is hard to sort out the causal relationship between them. If the main research question is how class identity is forged and contested, then the dependent variable should be class identification. But in chapter 4, variables of class, gender, and rural-urban difference are used to explain how domestic workers are represented, and how a domestic worker deciphers herself. In this chapter, these three factors are not in a dependent-independent relationship. Similarly, chapter 5 talks about how people consume differently based on their gender, class, and rural-urban background. Chapter 6 only discusses the establishment and maintenance of intimate relations by domestic workers, without mentioning class. Chapter 7 tries to explain how two women of different generations experienced different routes to their current domestic worker status as a result of their class and rural-urban differences. In other words, the framework of the book is such that it takes discourse, consumption, and intimacy to examine the relationship between class, gender, rural-urban differences, and domestic worker identification. As the author writes, “gender interacts with class and rural-urban difference to make the post-socialist Vietnamese home a space occupied by subjects of [domestic worker and employer]” (182).
As such, it might be better to use an “intersectionality approach” in going through the book’s different chapters without worrying too much about theories that are somewhat confusing, for example Foucauldian power theory, Bourdieusian class theory, or Scott’s moral economy theory.
Methodologically, it might not be appropriate to view all employers as a homogeneous group. Table 2.1 and the consumption stories recounted in chapter 5 show that they are different. If the author wants to utilize Bourdieu’s “habitus” concept, it would be better to trace their life histories to know how their family background, educational differences, and social relations influence the tastes of these employers. In addition, a table listing the backgrounds of these employers and domestic workers would have made it easier for the reader to discern the patterns in the impact of gender, original class, and rural-urban differences on the interactions between employers
and domestic workers. It is also a pity that there is not much data on the middle-class identification process, save for the consumption behaviour detailed in chapter 5 in regards to cars, children’s education, houses, or holidays. The consumption of domestic services by the middle class is an important practice for class identification, and more relevant to the book’s “domesticity” theme.
For the four domestic worker groups, the author adopts the notion of “space” to distinguish them, so the methods of interaction with employers or consumption patterns differ among live-in help, live-out help, and cleaner/junk traders. However, the fourth group, private hospital caregivers, is very different from the former three, in that members of this group interact with their employers in a public space. Besides, the author mentions this group only five times, mainly to explain general concepts like “affection,” “rich employer,” or “dilemma between home and work,” which contributes little to the book’s main arguments.
Finally, this book successfully depicts the differences between Western and Vietnamese societies in terms of domesticity, e.g., socialist ethos and state-made rural-urban differences. But if one compares China and Vietnam, one wonders about the uniqueness of Vietnamese domesticity. The author mentions that the Vietnamese indigenous matriarchal culture might influence the formation of domesticity, but it is a pity that this is not discussed further in the book since, from my view, this could be the most important distinguishing feature of Vietnamese domesticity relative to its Chinese counterpart.
Overall, this is an easy-to-read work with engaging stories that do not damage its academic rigor. It provides us a window into understanding current Vietnamese society, gender relations, and daily family life. I learned a lot from this book regarding cultural practices and I trust that readers will also find many parts of this work very useful in their research into gender, labour, or migration.
Hong-zen Wang, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
RICE WARS IN COLONIAL VIETNAM: The Great Famine and the Viet Minh Road to Power. Asia/Pacific/Perspectives. By Geoffrey C. Gunn. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. xix, 322 pp. (Tables, maps.) US$89.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-2302-8.
As World War II came to an end in the spring of 1945, Vietnam experienced the worst famine in its history. Resulting in one to two million deaths, this famine was preventable. As Geoffrey Gunn shows, while countless people died in north and central Vietnam, enough rice to avert the catastrophe was available in the south and, furthermore, rice exports to other parts of the Japanese empire continued unabated. Despite the magnitude of this tragedy, few historians have written on the topic. In this respect, Rice Wars is a welcome addition to the scholarship on modern Vietnamese history as well as the history of war and famine. The book sets out to understand the causes of the famine and to argue that this humanitarian disaster contributed to the Viet Minh’s rise to power in August 1945.
In identifying the many causal factors and leading players of this famine, Gunn eschews the blame game and instead tries to pursue something akin to a “truth commission-style investigation” (230). In doing so, he casts his net wide, examining the actions not only of the usual suspects, the French and Japanese, but also those of the Allies during the war. According to Gunn, Allied bombing, which damaged dikes and the transportation infrastructure, had an important role in the subsistence crisis. However, while the bombing had an impact, it did not cripple the transport system completely. Therefore, food could have been sent northward, had there been the political will (181). Alongside Allied bombing, Japanese policies, particularly the forced requisition of rice from peasants, contributed significantly to the crisis. Unfortunately, because of the “absence of incriminating Japanese documentation” (235), the book offers few details about Japanese activities during the famine.
On the role of the French, Gunn is able provide a more thorough examination. While Gunn shows that the French colonial government was implicated in the famine, he also implies that had it not been for the circumstances of the Second World War, Japanese impositions, and the coup de force of March 1945, French colonial authorities might have been able to avert the famine as they had done in 1937. According to Gunn, French colonial officials’ quick and generous handling of the subsistence crisis in 1937 prevented the outbreak of famine. Relying heavily on the French official reports, Gunn writes: “with memories of 1931–2 [peasant rebellion] in mind, the authorities did not stand idly by” (124). Instead, French officials set up work projects which provided 192,000 paid workdays. Gunn asserts that this swift response in 1937 was “a dress rehearsal for management of future tragedies, as with the Great Famine of 1944–45, to the extent, of course, that the French were still in the driving seat” (127). However, considering that his main sources are French colonial reports, particularly writings of officials who were reporting on their own activities, Gunn may have overstated French accomplishment in the 1937 crisis by surmising that “[i]nternational relief agencies, such as the present-day FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), IOM (international Organization for Migration), and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), would not have been disappointed with this general approach to disaster management” (126).
For the 1945 crisis, Gunn argues that French colonial officials again took appropriate measures to alleviate the crisis. However, it is clear that there was bureaucratic neglect and mismanagement. Obvious signs of the crisis were already evident in the spring of 1944 and by the fall a number of typhoons had caused a subsistence crisis in northern Vietnam. In late 1944 a famine had broken out in Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces in central Vietnam (231). Despite these early warnings, French colonial officials did very little to ensure food security—no surveys were conducted to determine the impacts of the levy system on peasants (234), nor had a regular and reliable reporting of crop harvest been established (235). In January 1945, as the famine reached its peak, newly installed Resident Superior of Tonkin Paul Chauvet scrambled to assuage the crisis, but even then he was unwilling or unable to reduce the burdensome Japanese-imposed rice levy on peasants.
The subtitle of the book: The Great Famine and the Viet Minh Road to Power, highlights the second argument of the book. According to Gunn, the 1945 famine undermined the “hydraulic pact,” the supposed tacit understanding between the French colonial government and the Vietnamese masses that promises state protection from natural disasters in return for Vietnamese acquiescence. According to Gunn, the unravelling of this pact led France to lose the “mandate of heaven,” which was subsequently seized by the Viet Minh. Few historians would disagree with Gunn on the supposition that the famine provided the Viet Minh and other anti-colonial nationalists with another political weapon. However, I would like to have seen more concrete evidence linking the famine to the Viet Minh’s rise to power. The sources Gunn uses do not provide enough connection. In the section on “Viet Minh Exploitation of the Famine” (206–208), there is only one paragraph describing the actions of the Viet Minh during the famine. The rest of the section is about Chauvet’s relief activities and French suspicion of Viet Minh manipulation of the crisis. The argument would have been more compelling had there been more information about the social mobilization and relief activities undertaken by the Viet Minh, and the famine’s role in Viet Minh propaganda and in the mainstream Vietnamese press. Moreover, revolutionaries were not the only people who participated in famine relief. As David Marr shows, Vietnamese of all political and economic backgrounds were mobilized for relief (1945 The Quest for Power, University of California, 1995, 103). It would be useful to learn how the Viet Minh’s relief activities differed and how the Viet Minh capitalized on this endeavour to win political power.
Notwithstanding the above observations, Rice Wars provides a good overview of the agrarian situation of French colonial Vietnam, and more importantly, it affords a comprehensive examination of the Great Vietnamese Famine and its context.
Van Nguyen-Marshall, Trent University, Peterborough, Canada
COMPARATIVE STUDY OF CHILD SOLDIERING ON MYANMAR-CHINA BORDER: Evolutions, Challenges and Countermeasures. SpringerBriefs in Criminology. By Kai Chen. Singapore; New York: Springer, 2014. xii, 97 pp. (Figure.) US$54.99, paper. ISBN 978-981-4560-01-6.
The author improves the field by amassing information from different disciplines about child soldiering in Myanmar on the Chinese border, and organizing this into a coherent structure. Readers enjoy a better understanding of child soldiering and regional affairs after reading this brief.
The author’s introduction is a thorough historical review. It contributes to the discipline by showing child soldiering is both a Western and non-Western phenomenon. “So the definition of child soldiering should refer to a process of associating any person below 18 years of age with any armed force or group which contains recruitment, training and deployment” (18). By this measure, one of the reviewers was a child soldier; rejected at 16 and accepted at 17 as a volunteer by the US Marines. “Child soldiering is a by-product of the long-lasting ethnic conflicts since the independence in 1948” (19). The author surveys the history and attitudes of the main military forces: Tatmadaw Kyi (Myanmar Army), United Wa State Army (UWSA), and Kachin Independent Army (KIA). This section lacks a discussion of covert and overt interventions by Myanmar’s neighbours.
The author highlights a relevant demographic fact: 39 percent of Myanmar is of potential child soldiering age. Of the 58 million citizens, 23 million are under 18, a rich target for recruitment (41–42). More such illustrations, especially maps of Shan State, Kachin State, and Yunnan Province, will improve a second edition of this brief.
Chapter 5 is especially strong. The author shows original thinking by devising a plausible typology for the child soldier/recruitment relationship, and discusses it with specific examples: victim-coercer relationship; patron
-client relationship; and comradeship.
Chapter 6 purports to show why other children are not recruited. The author looks at disabled children, child labour, and children seeking evacuation, but does not prove these factors bar recruitment. Those already using child soldiers as cannon fodder (28) might enlist children with disabilities. He assures us that employed children are safe from combat since ethnic-based militias do not recruit them; then notes some child laborers are abducted into child soldiering by the Myanmar Army (65). He jams several disparate categories into “children seeking evacuation.” Sending boys to Buddhist monasteries may protect them from the Army, but not necessarily from any non-Buddhist militias. If an evacuation is successful, or the child falls victim to the extensive human trafficking industry, they are by definition out of the reach of the military—for better, or perhaps far worse.
The author overreaches in chapter 9 when he suggests as an area for future study, “China-U.S. cooperation in governing child soldiering on the Myanmar-China border … In contrast with the issues in North Korea and South China Sea, child soldiering on the Myanmar-China border would provide a strategic opportunity for China-U.S. security cooperation in the future” (94). The author defines limited statehood as a situation in which the “central government is unable to implement and enforce rules in certain parts (or part) in its territory (Risse 2012)” (11). He asserts that child soldiering is beyond Myanmar’s control. He uses NGO allegations to support designating Myanmar as a failed state. It is then a simple step to consider foreign “cooperation in governing” (95).
By asserting that Myanmar is a failed state due to allowing human rights abuses, the author contemplates usurping the sovereignty of Myanmar. We leave it to the readers to remember other situations, historical and current, with similar justifications for foreign intervention.
The author is well situated to make this research his life’s work. As a native Chinese scholar, he can study academic journals as well as government documents from China and the UWSA regime—which, he points out, governs in Chinese (24). Some former child soldiers speak Chinese, so he can conduct primary research interviews in Yunnan with border crossers.
He’ll need research allies. A lecture series in Chinese by the author (in person or social media), targeting the three dozen universities in Yunnan Province, might interest academics to study child soldiering in their own backyard.
This region and problem are highly topical. The author references the 2009 “Kokang Crisis” (32). In 2015, after the publication of this work, Kokang (a predominantly ethnic-Chinese county in Myanmar) erupted again. Reviewing a March 2015 photo set by Reuters, we estimate 30 percent of the images depict child soldiers (REUTERS/Stringer, “Myanmar’s China-backed rebels,” 10 March 2015, http://tinyurl.com/jdbq3sf/ accessed 6 July 2016).
The dozens of grammar, bibliographic, citation, spelling, spacing, and word choice errors are distracting: “The KIA insists to recruit such kind of children without outside involvement” (25), “the situations of child soldiers and other groups of venerable children” (12). An article he discusses extensively (46) is not in the references.
The author should guard against internal inconsistencies: “The depictions of child soldiers as morally stunted and relentless killers are quite common and are often uncritically propagated by the media (Wainryb 2011)” (88–89). Earlier, he warns China: “It’s critical to note that some child soldiers’ very ignorance of normal morality would make them extremely dangerous (Singer 2005)” (32).
The author needs more government publications/position papers by Myanmar and China. Overreliance on either NGOs or governments for information is a mistake, as each might report selectively based on self-interest.
When discussing Myanmar child soldiering, the author sometimes cites non-Myanmar works without geographic disclosure. For instance, he references Christine Ryan’s book on Sudanese child soldiers to support his point on negative consequences to China (32). The reader deserves to weigh human nature vs. cultural/regional differences.
We recommend you read this compact volume. The author successfully organizes disparate information, enhancing our understanding of a little-studied, complex region, and thus encouraging the reader to care academically about Myanmar and child soldiering. This is a preview of a future book advancing the field in multiple disciplines.
Franklin Mark Osanka, Independent Scholar, Racine, WI, USA
Jeffrey Franklin Osanka, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA
OPPOSING THE RULE OF LAW: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order. Cambridge Studies in Law and Society. By Nick Cheesman. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 317 pp. US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-107-08318-9.
Nick Cheesman, a research fellow in the Australian National University’s Department of Political and Social Change, provides an excellent study of a complex issue of particular interest to students of Myanmar’s modern history and its prospects for the future. Reflecting years of research and multiple visits, his work includes a review of a vast documentation in both Burmese and English of law reports from colonial times to the present. Facilitated by access to Myanmar legal experts, he has studied hundreds of criminal cases from courts at various levels. The book consists of an introduction, nine chapters, an appendix, glossary, bibliography (fascinating by itself), and index. Chapter 1 sets down the key dichotomy between “rule of law” and “law and order.” Here, the rule of law (taya ubade somoye) is linked to the ancient theme of dharma or universal law, roughly described as “what ought to be,” as apart from law and order (ngyeinwut-pibyaye), essentially a political ideal associated with commands and directives that seek “stillness,” the opposite of anarchy. These concepts are “intertwined in history as well as in current usage” (27), so that in Burmese jurisprudence today, they are often used synonymously. Chapter 2 reviews the legal legacy of the British colonial period (1824–1948), the ongoing remnants in Myanmar of the Indian Penal Code of 1865 and 1898, and how rule of law and law and order were seen to be competing ideas long before independence. The discussion in chapter 3 on “re-ordering law” in the contemporary era provides a cogent historical synopsis of government in Myanmar up to 1988. An initial chaotic period led directly to Gen. Ne Win’s 1962 coup, the introduction of a “mass party designed to suit the army’s purpose,” and a “sliding decline in the rule of law” (77). The appointment of Maung Maung as chief justice ensured that law and order, and the socialist claim to a monopoly on truth, became the central focus of what passed for the legal system, a development which ironically kept intact many colonial laws and structure adapted to suit the junta’s purposes. A fourth chapter continues the saga of military rule from the uprising in 1988 to the present. The new government’s nomenclature as the State Law and Order Restoration Council was unambiguous, and although “legal principles” were still part of the “official language,” they were rendered entirely subordinate to administrative aims, including the total reconfiguration of citizenship and its rights. Cheesman addresses the concept of Burmese “sovereign cetana,” a legal notion which gained added prominence in the Ne Win era. A traditional Pali term for volition (and thus loaded with Buddhist implications), its usage has been redirected to reflect the “positive mental process of someone in authority” (109). Thus the “public enemy” is the one from whom “sovereign cetana” has been withdrawn. This can refer to ordinary criminals, but as early as 1964 it became the basis for rendering hundreds of thousands of non-Bamar people stateless, a practice reinforced with Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law that currently discriminates against the indigenous Rohingya. The chapter further reflects on the innate authority of the policeman, “who physically represents the rule of law and order far more powerfully than the judge” (124). Chapter 5 expands on the whole question of so-called judicial torture, which in general is not aimed at obtaining information “but at exercising power to have someone admit guilt” (148). A sixth chapter turns to the issue of corruption apparent at all levels in the present legal system. Judicial protocol is the stated objective, but “every official involved in a criminal case has at least a small amount of control that he can use to get a payment” (176). Thus Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking as head of the Rule of Law and Tranquility Commission in 2013, could testify that the legal system is completely broken and not trusted by 99 percent of the population. Chapter 7 gives an account of the three recent large-scale uprisings against the military government (1974, 1988, 2007), and the state vilification of protestors as criminals. In chapter 8, more recent instances of speaking up for the rule of law are reviewed, including a National Human Rights Commission and permission for people to demonstrate (but with the proviso to avoid “institutional criticism”). A final chapter returns to the question of definition, with the rule of law (universally, not just Myanmar) described as “a rich plurality of political ideals bound to the historical, cultural and political conditions from which it emerged,” and the conclusion that its role in ensuring effective government is limited unless it is based “on the reciprocal granting of liberties among members of a political community” (265). In both theoretical analyses and concrete examples of these crucial legal terms in Myanmar’s history and present circumstances, Cheesman’s book makes a vital and welcome contribution to modern Burmese historical and legal studies.
Bruce Matthews, Acadia University, Wolfville, Canada
This is a persuasive and compelling book. It tells the commonplace story of ordinary young women and their experiences with schooling. But it becomes less ordinary when we learn that they actually have to micro-navigate a grand agenda of the nation through their daily lives. The grand agenda is Malaysia’s affirmative action program, or the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP’s purpose is to reverse the historical misfortunes of racial placements, narrow ethnic socio-economic inequality and create the ideal Malaysian citizenship, where only loyalty to the nation-state matters. Although not explicit in their consciousness, the female students who were the respondents in Joseph’s study seemed to have embraced, accommodated, negotiated, but also, circumvented the NEP.
The study is notable as it is a longitudinal ethnography which captures changes among the author’s respondents over a period of seven years. The first phase of the study was conducted in 2000 and the second phase was in 2006/2007.The book is also compelling because its subject of study is young women in their formative years, transiting from school to work to courtship and to marital life. By locating her study within this frame of reference, one is persuaded to engage with many theoretical and conceptual puzzles about the construction of subjectivity, or of the complex self: the gendered, ethnicized, nationalized, globalized and classified self.
The NEP’s implementation started in 1972. Joseph’s study of schoolgirls in a premier all-girls’ high school in Malaysia’s second largest city, Penang, was conducted some thirty years after this. Her conclusion seems unequivocal: the NEP has not only not succeeded in removing the identification of race with economic status, it may have even widened the differential socio-economic gap between ethnic groups.
Joseph classified her twenty-five or so respondents into various identifiable archetypes such as being “super achieving kiasu global women” to the “traditional young Malaysian women.” But they were mainly regarded as belonging to one or the other: the academically high-achieving girls or the academically low-achieving girls. In all this, Joseph explains how these young females circumnavigate the social, economic, and political spaces that are available for them. Traits and values such as competitiveness, as opposed to complacency and rebelliousness, distinguish one group of females against the other.
She documented cases of how some female students successfully strategized to outwit the social engineering obstacles of the NEP, while others ended up becoming the victims or collateral damage of the policy’s implementation. Her respondents employ varying strategies to deal with their material and social resources, or lack thereof. The ones who succeeded were also economically well off (mainly Chinese females). But Malays who got scholarships were also not necessarily the poorer ones. Indian females were the most disadvantaged. Having no recourse to state subsidy for tertiary education nor to the private business networks of the Chinese community, their post-schooling prospects were less bright. Indian females who do not excel academically will end up being the most deprived of the lot.
Although the book has many strengths there are a few shortcomings. For example, the first chapter on “Ethnicities in Colonial Malaya” could contain more description and data on the educational system from colonial Malaya and up to the present period. Since the focus of the study is a critique of the NEP, some macro-data on the professed achievement of the NEP, particularly through the projection of major social indicators such as schooling enrolments and occupational trends on the basis of ethnicity, could have also been included. This would provide a more general overview of the implementation of the NEP within the education sector.
The stratification and ethnicization of the education system which the author stresses may have also been unduly attributed to the present schooling system. However, this can be traced even further back from colonial times. Colonial policies created a segregated system which differentiated between the vernacular stream from the English stream of schooling. Although Joseph uses the context of postcoloniality in the transformation of schooling, more space should be devoted in discussing the implication of this colonial legacy. “Streaming” as a tool for allocation, division, and filtration, whether on the basis of language use (as in colonial days) or on the hierarchy of knowledge (science versus the arts stream), does have consequences in terms of self-worth and self-identification.
Joseph’s conclusion can be summarized this way: Chinese students excel because they have survival-competitive “cultural practices” (kiasu or “fear of losing”). They are supported by family resources that enable them to traverse the obstacles of the NEP and continue their higher studies overseas. These high achievers are akin to being the role model of success in a neo-liberal global economy. Some Malay students also succeed in being high achievers, but their countenance is one of passivity by using the benefits of the NEP in their pursuit of higher education. By and large Malay students predominate in the middle range of academic success. It seems that there are more Indian girls who are in the weaker academic category. They are also of the poorer socio-economic class. Furthermore, there seems to be a correlation between the cultural traits of liberalism and open-mindedness with higher academic attainment while the trait of “traditionalism” coincides with lower self-esteem and lower academic achievement. Schooling experiences in the study ultimately stratified and ethnicized identities, reinforcing the differences which were supposed to have been broken down by the NEP.
The narratives of young females making sense of their subjectivity within the schooling system disproves the success of the NEP or even the necessity for such a pervasive social engineering instrument to devalue the notion of race and its signifiers. Joseph’s study of young females within the schooling system strikes at the heart of the many questionings and critiques of the NEP.
Maznah Mohamad, National University of Singapore, Singapore
TAMILS AND THE HAUNTING OF JUSTICE: History and Recognition in Malaysia’s Plantations. By Andrew C. Willford; with the collaboration of S. Nagarajan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014. xviii, 318 pp. (Black and white illustrations.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-5254-2.
In reviewing this book, one naturally thinks of the earlier well-known anthropological study of South Indians on the Plantation Frontier in Malaya (University of Malaya, 1970) by Ravindra K. Jain. This is, however, a very different kind of anthropological study, and indeed the author hardly refers to Jain’s work. It is a study of the former Tamil estate workers and their descendants’ feelings of victimization after the lands that they had worked were taken over by developers or claimed by Malays. It is also a study of the Tamil’s ethnic sentiments that “were increasingly shaped by the racialized landscape of Kuala Lumpur’s development policies” (2). As the book title suggests, the study analyzes the use of legal means to fight against displacement and for compensation, but more significantly, it is a study of the violence of the law that contributed to their displacement, injustice, and loss of land to the Malays, and the allocation of their land for building mosques while the Tamils’ own temples were demolished or relocated to a distant place. In this Willford is inspired by the works of Derrida, especially the idea of “archive fever,” and this includes how archiving injustice nurtures “a sense of victimization” (13). For the Tamils the recognition of their long-time presence in the estate land is an important part of their struggle for recognition and justice.
Following the introductory chapter, chapter 2 describes the political process in Malaysia and the plantation industry. It discusses the “bureaucratization of ethnic politics” in favour of the Malays and the displacement of Tamil estate workers from plantation lands which are used for racialized urban development, such as the making of new townships for middle-class Malays. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the compensation struggles by bringing readers along with Willford and Nagarajan’s visit to various estates. They documented their observations on the condition of the estate community and former estate workers. They noted the significant roles of temples to the Tamils. Both the temples and Tamil schools are important communal symbols and they played important roles in mediating politics. Chapter 5 deals with temple demolition by developers and the strategies of resistance. Again the author and his collaborator share with their readers their visit to a number of estates as well as their interviews with activists. Chapter 7 analyzes the clash between Malays and Indians in Kampung Medan in 2001. While the officials and the media portrayed the incident as Indian gangsters acting against Malay residents, the narratives from the Tamil victims suggested otherwise, that they were attacked by Malays. Chapter 8 describes how the relocated former plantation residents adjusted to living in low-cost flats. The negotiation for compensation and relocation was done through the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), and the people felt cheated in both. The perception of racialized prioritization is evident in the complaint about the playground for Tamil children having to make way for building a surau (Muslim prayer house), while their own temple was built a distance away. The feelings of the former estate workers were expressed in their perception of being “like refugees.”
While the book is about estate workers, chapter 9 documents interviews with Tamil professionals who also provide narratives of bureaucratic victimization of the Tamil workers as well as their own resentment of the chauvinist agenda of the UMNO, the ruling Malay party, and of increasing Islamization of the Malaysian society. The author pays attention to the professional Tamils’ “perceived racialization or perversion of Law” (222). Chapter 10, the concluding chapter, describes the Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force) protests in 2007, when 30,000 to 40,000 Indians demonstrated against the government in Kuala Lumpur. While the conclusion of this last chapter returns to discussing the relevance of Derrida’s work, this reviewer wishes the “haunting of justice” were given a more general overall discussion beyond the abstract ideas of Derrida. The book contains lots of ethnographic interviews from visits to many estates and deserves a full concluding chapter that brings together the various important discussions on displacement, communal process in Malaysia, and Tamil ethnic sentiment. Indeed, the data can help to illustrate more clearly Derrida’s idea of the institutionalization of law and the deconstructive analysis of archiving.
Overall this is a good study of the Tamils in Malaysia and their narratives of victimization as well as the violence of law and injustice. Perhaps more significantly it is a good study of ethnic nationalism and development, which involves “arbitrary orderings of ethnic entitlement” (11) buttressed by law. In particular, this is a study of Tamil and indeed non-Malays’ ethnic sentiment with regards to increasing Islamization and Malay bureaucratization. The perception of “ethno-religious transformation of the landscape” (86) and that “a new and insecure Malay identity is increasingly brash and assertive” (270) as well as the nostalgia for a “better” time are in fact felt not just by the Tamils but increasingly by most non-Malays, too. This is a timely study that engages directly with non-Malay sentiment about racial politics and development in a country that many see as becoming more polarized.
Tan Chee-Beng, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China
MINING CAPITALISM: The Relationship between Corporations and their Critics. By Stuart Kirsch. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2014. xiii, 314 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28171-4.
Kirsch’s earlier book Reverse Anthropology (Stanford University Press, 2006) was multiply and favourably reviewed. Its focus on the Yonggom worldview was more conventionally anthropological, examining the way that Yonggom myth, ritual, and sorcery shaped their responses to the devastating environmental impact of the Ok Tedi copper-gold mine. The concept of “unrequited reciprocity” (akin to negative reciprocity) helped them to understand the damage in terms of Melanesian (and Melanesianists’) interest in systems of exchange. Now Kirsch has followed up with an equally well-written account that details the continued downstream impact of the mine from the theoretical perspective of political ecology.
In a multi-sited ethnography that takes him from Dome village to Melbourne, London, and beyond, he examines Yonggom efforts, with which he actively collaborated, to seek redress in the courts for environmental damages. They chose litigation rather than following the path of violent resistance that was pursued in Bougainville.
My husband Bill Townsend, the engineer employed by the Papua New Guinea government to monitor the construction phase of the Ok Tedi Mine, and I met Stuart Kirsch nearly 25 years ago as a young anthropologist naively hopeful that his consultancy with the mining company would insert Yonggom perspectives where they would make a difference in corporate policy. Scarred by experience in trying to influence the company’s environmental decisions, Bill knew better: apparent short-term advantage trumps long-term thinking. (In this case, BHP Billiton’s (BHP) long-term loss from walking away from its investment might amount to billions of dollars.) As Kirsch matured and inevitably acquired his own cynicism about corporate and state power, he stuck with the Yonggom, negotiating a role as anthropologist/activist that respected their ability to speak for themselves on an international stage, yet articulating their story in other places to which he had access.
The core of the book (chapters 2 and 3) is the insider account of the 1994 Australian court case against BHP, the return to court in 2000, and BHP’s exit from the mine in 2002. Yonggom activism led to the development of a coalition of international environmental organizations concerned with mining and the opposing effort of the mining industry to form a coalition to protect their interests through claims of self-regulation. In discussions of corporate responsibility in the mining industry, Ok Tedi/BHP was indeed central as the precipitating case. It deserved to be recognized in the title of this book, which aspires in its title to more general coverage of corporations and capitalism in mining than it achieves in actuality.
Despite Kirsch’s subsequent experience in other field sites, including Suriname, and brief reviews of five other mines in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in chapter 1, this is indeed another book on Ok Tedi, and rightly so. Indeed we could use a few more books on the Ok Tedi mine by future anthropologists, including its impacts on communities located in the middle Fly River, on women in a male-dominated sphere, on the fate of subsistence agriculture as the staples sago and bananas are grown on now-polluted flood plains. A fuller science and technology study of Ok Tedi’s extensive environmental research and modelling would be valuable, despite Kirsch’s stab in that direction in chapter 4.
Ok Tedi represents only one form of mining capitalism, one in which the regulatory regime is very weak compared to developed countries. It is also somewhat of a special case in that Yonggom activists were able to exploit a moment of attention to indigenous rights in the 1990s, despite formally lacking indigenous minority status. That Ok Tedi Mining, Ltd. plans to continue to operate until at least 2025 speaks of the extraordinary conflict of interest that the state enjoyed as regulatory authority and shareholder from the beginning, a conflict of interest that has only escalated with the withdrawal of the corporate shareholders one at a time. Yet another form of mining capitalism is emerging in Papua New Guinea, as Chinese capital acquires mines formerly accountable to Canadian (Porgera) and Australian (Frieda) shareholders for their “social license to operate.”
The title Mining Capitalism mimics Tobacco Capitalism, the book by Peter Benson, with whom Kirsch has collaborated fruitfully in the study of corporate science and public relations in stigmatized industries (chapters 4 and 5 here and previous co-authored articles). This comparison presents a problem for an applied anthropology of mining. Copper is a major and respectable commodity used in wire and pipes and necessary to the environmentally favourable technology of hybrid automobiles and wind turbines. Some copper may be replaced by recycling or by using substitutes, but it is not so readily replaced in the producer economies of Chile or Papua New Guinea (or the United States, for that matter). Is there indeed no possibility of responsible mining, as Kirsch queries in chapter 6? If there is, it will only come when the industry is able to listen to its critics rather than working to silence them.
Mining Capitalism should be read with interest by university students and general readers seeking to understand global corporations and their operations.
Patricia K. Townsend, State University of New York, Buffalo, USA
A NATION RISING: Hawaiian Movements for Life, Land, and Sovereignty. Narrating Native Histories. Editors, Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, Ikaika Hussey, and Erin Kahunawaika‘ala Wright. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. xvi, 399 pp. (B&W photos.) US$27.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-5695-0.
The history of Hawaiian political struggle has been subject to systematic erasure and the deficit is one that the editors of this volume seek to remedy. In her introduction Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua sets out two broad aims of this important and timely volume. Her first aim is to outline the scope, histories, and diversity of approaches that have contributed to the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and in doing so address a need for Kanaka Maoli to narrate their own stories of “resistance and resurgence” (3). Second, she foregrounds the notion of ea, in partial response to the question from Kanien‘kehaka (Mohawk) scholar and activist Taiaiake Alfred, who asks indigenous people to consider political philosophies that are not based on Western models or developed in reaction to them. Ea is not a concept that can be easily translated into English and encompasses multiple, concurrent meanings. The division of the book into three parts—life, land, and sovereignty—draws on the many connotations of ea and unequivocally constructs the concept as a decolonial methodology. A Nation Rising highlights Kanaka Maoli authorship and the list of contributors brings together activists, journalists, scholars, lawyers, researchers, and filmmakers.
Integral to the structure of the book are portraits or ki‘i, which is another multivalent term that can refer to “likeness.” Ty P. Kāwika Tengan constructs a likeness of Sam Kaha‘i Ka‘ai, whose body of work is too wide to encompass with the word artist. Mehana Blaich Vaughan meanwhile transcribes conversations with Puanani Burgess discussing her motivation and activism at sites like West Beach and Kaho‘olawe, and her work with Hawaiian women prisoners at the O‘ahu Community Correctional Center. Leon No‘eau Peralto’s ki‘i is a mo‘olelo (history, story) of Mauna a Wākea, “the highest peak, and piko, in all of Oceania” (233). The summit of Mauna a Wākea is the proposed site of a planned astronomical observatory, which will add to the “Astronomy Precinct” already on the mauna and the site of many years of protest itself. Peralto’s piece is prescient and highly pertinent because the current (at the time of writing in July 2015) occupation of the site by Kanaka “protectors” (rather than protestors) and the resistance to construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has ignited a widespread “We are Mauna Kea” solidarity movement, and provides a beacon for similar actions by indigenous land rights activists outside of Hawai‘i.
The many stories of “resistance and resurgence” in this volume respond to Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s call for “rewriting and rerighting our position in history” (Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples, Zed Books, 1999, 28). “Homelessness at home,” Hawaiian language revitalization, the Akaka Bill, Sand Island, Biocolonialism, cessation of the US military bombing of Kaho‘olawe, the anti-eviction struggles of Waiāhole-Waikāne and “the pitched battle over Hawai‘i’s fresh water resources” (199) map histories and tell stories of the many identities associated with Hawaiian sovereignty, their politicization, and their hard-won victories and ongoing resistance movements. The success of coalitions such as Ke Kalo Paa o Waiāhole in the Hawa‘i Supreme Court Waiāhole decision of 2000, in which the public nature of Hawai‘i’s water resources were affirmed, came after decades of struggle. Their achievement and perseverance offers hope for those who are engaged in similar efforts to reclaim resources and cultural heritage and who seek to achieve justice.
Self-determination and cultural sovereignty are deeply connected to the ‘aina and no more so than in the “Homeless at home”(37) stories of Marie Beltran and Annie Pau by Anne Keala Kelly that open Part One: Life. Keala Kelly describes a “brutal paradox,” one familiar to many disenfranchised indigenous peoples throughout the world in which “they have a genetic and cultural knowledge of belonging, but foreign peoples and institutions have been coveting, undermining, and criminalizing that belonging for two centuries” (38). As with each of the chapters, the struggles that these two women and their ‘ohana undergo are contextualized in political decision-making and strategies that crystallize the past within the present. Historical events such as the Great Māhele and the privatization of Hawaiian land are keenly felt in the lived reality of these two women, but Keala Kelly is unsparing in her depiction of class structure in contemporary Hawai‘i and is heavily critical of privilege and the “Hawaiian intelligentsia” (46). Keala Kelly’s interpretation of Beltran and Pau’s struggle and Kūhiō Vogeler’s “Outside Shangri La” (chapter 11), in which he makes the distinction between colonization and occupation, are two of many positions and perspectives represented in the volume.
More identities are portrayed through the chapters that follow Keala Kelly’s portrait and along with their mo‘olelo is a wider-angle depiction of Hawaiian resistance, or kū‘ē. Through the development of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the contribution of Marion Kelly, or the self-portrait of Puhipau and his politicization after witnessing the destruction of homes on Sand Island, manifold dimensions of the history of such events unfold and more importantly are revealed now for a wide readership within and outside Hawai‘i. This volume will be of particular interest to indigenous scholars and students of Hawaiian history. The authors have highlighted and begun to address a gap in the history of Kanaka Maoli and have simultaneously provided a template for further storytelling.
Ea is rooted in Kanaka Maoli notions of creation and as a framework for the structure of the book it connects the past, present, and future with a dynamic ethic that also responds to current resistances against enterprises such as biocolonialism and the TMT. In chapter 9, “A Question of Wai,” D. Kapua‘ala Sproat asks: “Why has the kuleana (responsibility) of righting this […] been consistently left to community groups, especially Maoli?” An answer to this question can be found in ea. Ea is life, and life is the ‘aina.
Andrea Low, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
The inherent social nature of human beings is no longer disputed and no biologist or anthropologist would subscribe to a view of our human ancestors as isolated individuals wandering pristine forests in search of food and mates, ready to fight off competitors for either. But many sociobiologists, such as E.O. Wilson, and evolutionary psychologists, such as Stephen Pinker, would still maintain that the group as a basic social unit is competitive, bellicose, and murderous. Indeed, the idea of competition as the driving force in human evolution has required conviction that those in each generation who survive to transmit their genes are fit enough to resort to violence to do so.
The emphasis on competition has a number of depressing concomitants. It is masculinist; it presents individualism as a virtue; and it represents altruism as self-interest and those who are selfish as the victors in the evolutionary struggle. John Terrell proposes an alternative view of human nature as a determinant of successful evolution. While acknowledging that no single set of qualities provides a template for what might be called Human Nature, he argues that the human capacity for friendship is of primary importance and a major factor in the evolutionary success of the human species.
Terrell derives his argument from a diverse range of disciplinary traditions including anthropology, social theory, archaeology, primatology, neuroscience, psychology, and biology. He recounts the origin of his interest in a research project for the Field Museum of Natural History, during which he and his colleague observed the patterns of long-distance exchange networks that link people and goods along the north coast of Papua New Guinea. These networks, like many similar ones in non-industrial societies, enable people to gain access to scarce resources, and to exchange information, cultural knowledge, and specialized products. They incorporate people across geographical and linguistic barriers and they persist for generations. The people who form nodes in the network are friends who offer hospitality and sometimes refuge. The bonds between people are characteristically warm and visits to and fro are often festive occasions. He insists that these relationships are different in kind from instrumental cooperation observable in other species, for these people form friendships. For Terrell, the Sepik people whose exchange networks he studied constitute and demonstrate the talent for friendship that he maintains is essentially human.
“The Friendship Hypothesis” presents the human ability to make friends as a unique “biological and psychological capacity” that has enabled humans to develop advantageous social networks that are based on companionship. Terrell insists that “as a species, we are not struggling against the odds to control our bestial inner selves or wild savages lurking beyond the security of our campfires; instead … we are struggling to create reliable ways to cultivate trust and communication”(31). He explores this capacity as an effect of the evolution of the human brain, which enables us to reflect, imagine, and to transform our environments, both physical and social, in ways that are beneficent and advantageous to the species.
Terrell has much to say about the human brain and the ways that our minds work. In the chapters that deal specifically with the subject, he adopts a heuristic device of naming three different types of thinking which he calls Lou, Laurence, and Leslie. Lou and Laurence are recognizably type 1 and type 2 cognitive processes defined psychologically: the first automatic, emotional, and often “unconscious”; the second conscious, intentional, and rational. The reflective, imaginative, and contemplative mental capacity he designates Leslie. The ability to imagine forging friendship with a stranger is a critical “Leslie effect.”
While most of the book is structured around the demonstration of the social force of friendship, the concluding section is didactic. Here he elucidates six “Principles to Live By” that he believes enhance social connectedness. This includes a description of a Maori marae meeting ceremony in which two groups encounter and alternately engage in greeting and listening according to a formal procedure. Terrell includes an appendix that sets out the rules for such a meeting clearly and precisely and advocates their usefulness cross-culturally.
The book is written for a general reader and the author adopts a chatty, didactic style that draws on his own experiences, his relationships with others, and his experience as an anthropological researcher. His enthusiasm for his subject is quirky and engaging. It is recognizably a genre of popular “natural history” writing that renders the exotic familiar and the bizarre perfectly rational. Terrell ranges far and wide, occasionally veering off on tangents. He offers comments and asides that are sometimes amusing, other times distracting or simply odd. At times I wondered whether his eclecticism was a strength or a weakness. But his book raises questions about the nature of “Human Nature” that confront and confound the notion that selfishness and a propensity for violence are the human capacities that have determined our evolution as social beings.
Martha Macintyre, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
CRITICAL CHRISTIANITY: Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea. The Anthropology of Christianity, 16. By Courtney Handman. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015. xiv, 307 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$29.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-520-28376-3.
The impact of Pacific ethnography in shaping the sub-discipline of the Anthropology of Christianity in the last decade can be hardly overstated. Courtney Handman’s ethnography of the Guhu-Sumane people of Papua New Guinea makes a contribution to important debates currently going on among scholars of Christianity. Handman argues against secularist positions that interpret schisms as part of this-worldly political projects, suggesting that schism is indeed intrinsic in Protestant religious worldviews and practices, calling for a view of “politics as contestation or critique. In this sense, Protestant Christianity is fundamentally political, because critique is a fundamental part of the religious experience” (241). Much scholarship on Protestantism, the argument goes, focuses primarily on the individualization of the Christian self, overlooking those forms of sociality from which people exercise a critical reflection on their social realities, leading to schisms in the effort to produce more effective moral worlds. The argument of the book is supported through the analysis of denominational fights among two Pentecostal churches active among the Guhu-Samane: New Life Church (NLC) and Reformed Gospel Church (RGC).
The theoretical and highly readable chapters that form Critical Christianity are organized in a logical chain that prepares the ground for, and at the same time teases out, the threads that support the author’s main argument. The first part of the book provides the reader with a detailed (although sometimes teleological) history of evangelization of the Waria Valley. The first chapter sketches how Lutheran missions, established in the area during the German colonial regime, bypassed the linguistic diversity of the area by adopting different linguae francae and creating a regional network of evangelization. The second chapter analyzes the Church Growth movement’s missiology as elaborated in the USA, with their emphasis on developing countries, an anti-colonial and anti-institutional attitude, and particularly the idea that the evangelical mission is not to make people into Western Christians but rather indigenous ones. These principles led to specific projects of Bible translation into vernaculars to enable people to access God directly and in their own terms. The third chapter details how this missiology informed Ernie Richert, a translator from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), and his translation of parts of the Bible into the Guhu-Samane language, creating a linguistic and ethnic identity previously unknown, connected to a sense of having been chosen by God. It is from this standpoint that, since the late 1970s, stemmed the revivalism investigated by Handman.
The second part of the book focuses on specific forms of sociality. In chapter 4, Handman describes how revivalists made “the village” into the centre of the new Christian sociality as dictated by the Holy Spirit. Contrasting this new focus of sociality with previous forms of social organization (the not-localized matrilineal clans as opposed to the usually unstable and schismatic villages), the author teases out how these frictions shape the project of creating a Christian life. Chapter 5 describes how Christian sociality enabled an overwhelming multivocality, sometimes perceived as “inconclusive talk,” in contrast with a previous time when parsimonious speech led to action.
The previous sections provide the overarching context to fruitfully engage with the remaining chapters describing aspects of the denominational fights, articulated through positioned comparison and critical reflections on worship practices. NLC and RGC differences are produced locally by critically reflecting on the relation with the initial SIL project, producing a friction between those who strictly adopt the Guhu-Samane language in their biblical readings during services and those who also use other languages. More differences between the two Pentecostal denominations are brought up by the embracement or refusal of some traditional elements (for example, musical instruments) during services. The last chapter engages with the forms of genealogical imagination implicit in the speculations about a common lineage encoded in the view of Guhu-Samane being the “lost
tribe of Israel” (with its promises of future unity into Christianity overcoming the denominational differences). All these ethnographic chapters contribute to delineate how the theological paradox of Christianity as a universally achievable goal, and its multifaceted local realizations, are articulated locally.
A conclusive chapter is remarkably absent. The book offers thought-provoking insights on the study of forms of sociality, but it fails to knot together the points made throughout the chapters into an explicit theory that could effectively dialogue, as Handman unequivocally aims to do (18), with the scholarship on non-Protestant forms of Christianity. The argument that a socially positioned critical reflection on one’s own “culture” is indeed part of certain forms of Christianity (notably Pentecostal; 245), has important implications for reconfiguring the ways in which an Anthropology of Christianity poses its questions. The focus on a linguistic analysis, which undoubtedly stems from local discourses as much as research agendas, supports Handman’s argument that theological positions as much as local practices drive to schismatic movements. With the notable exception of chapter 7 and scattered ethnographic vignettes, the reader seldom comes to know how these tensions are experientially perceived and used in the daily lives of the Guhu-Samane, and the conflicts are not made as alive as the powerful ethnographic vignette vividly sketched at the very beginning of the book.
Those critics of the study of “Christianity per se” will find to a certain extent the same shortcomings they impute to studies relying on language-focused analysis and ultimately on Christianity as a peculiar form of “cultural logic”; nevertheless they will also find extremely stimulating insights. Critical Christianity will appeal to scholars of Christianity and world religions more generally for its arguments, linguistic anthropologists for the careful attention to linguistic ideologies, and Melanesianists in general for its potent questions and hints to a different perspective on the study of sociality.
Dario Di Rosa, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
CONSUMING OCEAN ISLAND: Stories of People and Phosphate from Banaba. Tracking Globalization. By Katerina Martina Teaiwa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. xx, 246 pp. (B&W photos., illus., maps, tables.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-253-01452-8.
Since the end of 1945, the indigenous people of Ocean Island, the Banabans, have lived on Rabi Island in Fiji. They were resettled there at the end of World War Two in order that phosphate miners could have a free hand to mine, and largely destroy, their home island. In December 1945, 1005 people arrived at Rabi to settle; 703 Banabans, 300 Gilbertese (I-Kiribati) from other islands in the Gilbert Group and two Ellice Islanders (Tuvaluans). Today their descendents are the result of intermarriage of Banabans with not only Gilbertese and Tuvaluans but also Fijians, Indo-Fijians, and others. The people of Rabi are now commonly known in Fiji as “Rabi Islanders” or “Rabians.” Those who can trace their ancestry back to Ocean Island prefer to be known as Banabans. The author of Consuming Ocean Island, Katerina Teaiwa, is one of these people.
The standard works about phosphate mining on Ocean Island are Williams and Macdonald’s The Phosphateers (Melbourne University Press, 1985) which is an institutional history of the British Phosphate Commission (BPC) and Macdonald’s Cinderellas of the Empire (Australian National University Press, 1982), an administrative history of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. These works rely on official sources, the BPC company records and government records of the colony.
Katerina Teaiwa has also researched these and other official records along with many other sources, including oral and unpublished personal accounts from Banabans, Gilbertese and Europeans who were not employed by either the BPC or the colonial government. The book is one in a series called “Tracking Globalization,” published by Indiana University Press, addressing how globalization can be understood and questioned ethnographically, historically, and theoretically. Her book therefore covers a wide range of subjects such as the chemistry and geology of the phosphate, the use of superphosphate in Australia and New Zealand, and the ethnography and plight of the Banaban people. Her work complements previously published material with new information and new dimensions to the story.
Parts of the book explore the author’s personal, ethnic, and family history, written in a travel writer’s style, as she journeys back to her ancestral home islands of Ocean Island: Tabiteuea in Kiribati, and Rabi Island in Fiji. She presents oral history storytelling, collected from her Banaban relatives who suffered from the loss of their land and home island. There are also stories from her Tabiteuean relatives, who were phosphate miners and thus contributed to the destruction of Ocean Island. They benefitted from the good pay and working conditions provided by the BPC.
Other chapters of the book are the result of thorough research into historical records. These deal with the history of phosphate mining and the political and ethnographical history of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, of which Ocean Island was a part.
Using a transdisciplinary approach the author links together a wide variety of topics and stories, all concerned in some way with the matter of phosphate mining on Ocean Island and its far-reaching effects on people and the environment. A theme running through it all is the injustice suffered by the Banaban people who lost their land, were cheated out of receiving a fair royalty for their phosphate and lost their case for full independence from the Republic of Kiribati.
A good portion of Banaba was scattered across Australia and New Zealand in the form of super-phosphate fertilizer and the author questions the spiritual affects of this: do Banabans have a specific relationship with Aboriginal Australians and Maori people because of the agricultural integration of their island into those landscapes? By asking this question she forces us to consider aspects of globalization which may be of importance to indigenous peoples but which are foreign to Europeans accustomed to thinking in terms of capitalist or colonial globalization.
The Banabans’ failed bid for independence from Kiribati was based on their claim to be ethnically and linguistically different from Gilbertese people. The I-Kiribati, however, believed, and the British courts agreed, that people of the same ethnicity settled all the Gilbert Islands and Banaba about the same time. Even the name Banaba is a Gilbertese word meaning “rock island.” Also traditional villages on Banaba all have Gilbertese names. Author Teaiwa states in the book that Banabans originally spoke their own language but she does not present any evidence or references to support this (xix, 15).
The book begins with a Banaban creation myth on the formation of Banaba and its people. The spirit characters who appear in this story are the same as those in other Gilbertese creation myths: Tabakea, the giant turtle on whose back islands can be supported; Nareau, the creator, who is also the trickster who can take human form; and Auriaria, the giant with an ancestral connection to Samoa.
The first chapter serves as an introduction, a summary of the book and explanation of it structure. Chapter 2, with the title “Stories of P,” makes a rather abrupt change of direction into the chemistry of phosphate, complete with chemical formulae on the production of super-phosphate. But even to readers who are not chemists, this chapter makes interesting reading on the importance of phosphorus in all living matter and especially its use in agriculture. The geology of the phosphate island is also discussed. The third chapter focuses on the early years of mining on Ocean Island, over the period from 1900 to World War II, based on research into BPC records.
The story thus moves around from phosphate to personal pilgrimage to the trials and tribulations of the Banabans and Rabi Islanders and their relationships with the governments of Kiribati and Fiji.
Peter McQuarrie, Independent Researcher, Auckland, New Zealand
OCEANIA: Neocolonialism, Nukes & Bones. By Andre Vltchek; foreword by Noam Chomsky; introduction by Steven Ratuva. Auckland: Atuanui Press, 2013. 256 pp. (Illustrations.) NZ$45.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-9922453-3-7.
“Oceania” as represented by Vltchek is addressed in eight essays about separate nation states, with a lengthy introduction on the New Pacific Wall. While Chomsky’s one-page foreword suggests the author reveals “festering sores,” Dr. Steven Ratuva’s six-page introduction places the essays as “a critical appraisal of the destructive forces of colonialism and neo-colonialism as these have shaped and reshaped the very essence of Pacific humanity” (9). Vltchek himself sees Oceania as despoiled and divided by what he calls “the New Pacific Wall” erected as a result of the intrusions of neo-colonialist ideology, in the form of aid, from the US, Australia, and New Zealand. He omits discussion of French colonies in the Pacific.
Regional integration is his answer to overcoming the fragmentation in order “to construct a new Pacific bloc able to negotiate with the rest of the world as an equal partner “ (53). To overcome the corruption and imposition of new ideas introduced by those educated abroad, Pacific Islanders have to break free from the “ridiculous western concepts” by which they have become “imprisoned,” he argues (28).
Each essay addresses “the plight of the people in this part of the world” that he visited between 2005 and 2009. He welcomed the vibrancy of music in Port Moresby, but that contrasts with the violence and corruption that keep the many cultural groups apart. His vision was tarnished by the garbage dumps beside the road in Tuvalu and elsewhere, and overcrowding, lack of electricity, and children without shoes as signs of poverty. The corruption of officials, particularly in the use of aid money, is a dominant theme. His vision itself appears to have become jaded by his personal experiences of delays in plane connections and the costs of air travel, as well as the lack of air conditioning and the abundance of cockroaches in his hotel room in Ebeye.
He attributes the Tragedy of the Marshall Islands and Fiji’s Mercenary Military, as he entitles two essays, to uncurbed external invasions mainly by the US for their own US benefit. Employment opportunities available either in UNIFIL (mistermed a US agency), or on mainland US under the terms of the Compacts of Freely Associated States of Micronesia are not considered to have positive outcomes.
Tuvalu and Kiribati, as presented in separate essays, are viewed as a “natural and human-made disaster” (158) where dependency on aid supports the monetary economy, yet “most of the population is involved in subsistence fishing.” Tuvalu is preparing itself, or being prepared by others, for the threat of sea-level rise. But just what regional solution will address this disaster is unclear. The author cites long paragraphs from the various people he interviewed to conclude that islands such as the Marshalls, Tuvalu, and Kiribati will not “disappear under the surface of the ocean” but will instead become uninhabitable with no local produce, so “there would simply be no point in living in the islands or atolls of bare coral” (167). Cultural attachments to the land are not considered.
The author regrets the separation between the two Samoas, which he labels as “two failed states” where they “hardly bother to grow anything or to fish” (142), but with no further explanation of that “failure.” Despite the high numbers of educated Tongans, he sees their situation as “bleak” due to unemployment, reliance on remittances, poverty, and a tightly controlled press. The essay on Solomon Islands, entitled Paradise Lost, attributes the loss of this exalted state to logging, and environmental degradation, particularly polluted lagoons. The despoliation of “Paradise” is a major concern for the author, as tourist facilities replace protective mangrove swamps, and the super-rich visitors are enveloped in a world that sets them far apart from the locals.
The readership to which this volume is addressed is puzzling. Vltchek clearly states that this is not a book for academics, as such a work “would disqualify many of the people of Oceania and many visitors to the region” (21). So what will readers gain from the volume? The absence of an index and citations and omission of timelines for the numerous interviewees’ comments diminishes the usefulness for a whole range of readers. The organization of the various essays into some thematic sequence, when readdressed in a succinct conclusion, would help to draw the essays together, and thus clarify the book’s intentions. Long paragraphs of opinion provided by those the author spoke to detract from any coherent links between the ideas, or between the various nation-states. Close reading by an editor would have ironed out some of the errors such as misspellings (e.g., Pohnpei, Betio, and others), and omissions such as the numbering of chapters in the table of contents, but not in the text.
That this book took three months in 2015 to cross the ocean to reach me in New Zealand from North America suggests to me that it became becalmed somewhere, to linger amongst the “islands” of flotsam and jetsam that pollute the ocean today. Such delays draw attention to the importance of time frames, where so much happens in Oceania in such a short period of time. Since the book began its journey to me (March 2015) the people of Vanuatu have been severely impaired by Cyclone Pam—from which they have reinvigorated themselves and their environment, incorporating new ways with the old. Such resiliencies over time, and untoward experiences, tell us of the various strategies that the people of Oceania have used to their advantage to enable their survival in their chosen location.
Nancy J. Pollock, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand (retired)
THE NATURALIST AND HIS ‘BEAUTIFUL ISLANDS’: Charles Morris Woodford in the Western Pacific. By David Russell Lawrence. Canberra: ANU Press, 2014. xiv, 420 pp. (Figures, plate, maps.) US$33.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-9250-2203-2.
Environmental anthropologist and Melanesia scholar David Russell Lawrence draws on his additional expertise in museum curatorship and librarianship to shape his narrative of Charles Morris Woodford’s life and work as naturalist and British resident commissioner of the Solomon Islands between 1882 and 1915. Adeptly fusing anthropology and history, Lawrence writes the history of British colonialism in the Pacific, the story of late Victorian scientific imperialism, and of nation-state formation in the Solomon Islands through his detailed, expansive, and empathic portrait of Woodford. He sees through Woodford’s eyes seamlessly as ethnographer, naturalist, and colonial administrator while placing the Solomons at the centre of Pacific processes of exploration (37).
Woodford was first a naturalist who combined exploration, scientific discovery and ethnographic collecting as he engaged in “bringing the unknown home, of opening up the world” (22). In his longest and most engaging chapter, Lawrence devotes sixty-six pages to Woodford’s contribution of 483 material objects to such collections as the British Museum of Natural History, the Pitt Rivers Museum, and the Australian Museum as well as his collection of 17,000 specimens including new genera and species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and Lepidoptera. The chapter encompasses a review of the relationship of science and empire, natural and cultural history, the role of the scientific societies, and photography as a form of “virtual witnessing” as formulated by Elizabeth Edwards. Woodford’s publications include his extensively reviewed A Naturalist Among the Headhunters, (reviewed by even Alfred Russel Wallace), contributions to the Royal Geographical Society’s Proceedings, and articles in The Illustrated London News, and Popular Science Monthly, among others.
Woodford was also a colonial administrator who created a new social order in which the British Protectorate would be self-supporting through a plantation economy, one dependent on pacification. From the perspective of a materialistic Western Pacific High Commission, the protectorates were not to impose an expense on Britain. Lawrence documents that 8,000 of the 27,000 indentured labourers in Fiji between 1865 and 1911 were from the Solomon Islands. In the Queensland plantations, more than 17,000 labourers were recruited (44). Woodford condemned the concomitant colonial promotion of an external labour trade that brought back weapons, disease, and social destabilization (287), and Lawrence’s voice merges with Woodford: “It was capitalism that created rich and poor Solomon Islanders” (197). From Woodford’s perspective—in constant conflict with his superiors—naval or “Commodore Justice” (147) and the violent and ruthless suppression of headhunting by Arthur William Mahaffy and his police force (202) inflicted violence that far exceeded that attributed to the Solomon Islanders so in need of “pacification.”
Lawrence illustrates and underscores two aspects of Woodford’s legacy, the first rooted in his passion for the place and its diverse peoples encapsulated in his sense of the islands as “beautiful.” The title of his book prompts us to ask what constituted this beauty for Woodford. He recognized physical (128) and ethnological wonder in an archipelago perceived by traders, missionaries, the Royal Navy, and the colonial office as particularly “savage” because of its headhunting traditions and practices of ritualized warfare; and he understood the elegance of the indigenous logic of headhunting and its link to retribution cycles, thus challenging the one-dimensional British imperative for pacification. He saw beauty also in his vision of a prosperous future for the Solomons, a goal to be achieved through the pacification of headhunting and the advancement of a plantation economy. This was best “achieved when European military, naval and policing actions intersected with the local people’s perception of that power and with the new social, religious and economic forces that grew up around colonialisation” (330).
The second aspect of Woodford’s legacy is embodied in his own writings in a quotation cited twice by Lawrence: “I know of no place where firm and paternal government would sooner produce beneficial results than the Solomons. The numerous small tribes into which the population is split up would render any organized resistance to properly constituted authority quite futile, while I believe the natives themselves would not be slow to recognize the advantages of increased security to life and property. Here is an object worthy indeed the devotion of one’s life” (5, 349). Woodford’s devotion spanned thirty-three years, concluding with honours that recognized his role in establishing the framework of the first colonial state between 1897 and 1915.
Although seemingly colonialist in this viewpoint, Woodford recognized remarkable internal variation across the six main continental islands, twenty smaller islands and the 900 coral reefs and small islets comprising the Solomon Islands. Of these 347 were inhabited. By mining Woodford’s primarily official, archival papers, David Lawrence illustrates his understanding of customary trade as “a successful, functioning, integrated system with its own internal dynamism” (56). Equally significant was Woodford’s insight into the logic of headhunting and ritualized warfare as fulfilling the dual desires of a man for prestige and to “propitiate spiritual powers” (59)
Forty-three carefully prepared images, mostly Woodford’s, convey the richness and perceptivity of his ethnographic record; they are concentrated in the chapters on his three natural history expeditions (nineteen images), the British Protectorate of the Solomon Islands (eight images), and the plantation economy (six images). A listing of the figures, the three maps, and the inclusion of an index would be a helpful aid to readers in navigating the text, as would larger maps. Source materials for all of the chapters are comprehensive and broad in chronological, archival, and disciplinary scope.
The Naturalist and his ‘Beautiful Islands’ is clearly written, with attention to historical and statistical detail while also conveying the shared and complex tensions for Woodford and Lawrence in conveying both indigenous and colonialist understandings of their Pacific encounters in the Solomons during the height of British colonialism and indigenous resistance.
Michèle D. Dominy, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, USA
INDIA’S DAUGHTER: The Story of Jyoti Singh. Directed and produced by Leslee Udwin; an Assassin Films production; co-produced with BBC Storyville and DR; in association with Gamini Piyatissa Foundation, Vital Voices Global Partnership. New York, NY: Women Make Movies, 2015. 1 DVD (62 min). US$395.00, Universities, Colleges and Institutions; US$89.00, K-12, Public Libraries and Select Groups. In Hindi and English, with English subtitles. URL http://indiasdaughter.com/home/.
Leslee Udwin’s documentary film India’s Daughter is about the much publicised gang rape that took place in December 2012 in Delhi, India. Rape, sexual violence, and gender-based violence cannot be brushed under the carpet and need to be tackled head-on in all societies where they occur. In India, it is reported that a woman is raped every 22 minutes and the conviction rate is a low 24.2 percent (http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.
uk/blog/2013/11/violence-against-women-in-india). Globally, one in three women experience sexual or physical violence, often at the hands of an intimate partner (unwomen.org). The film follows closely the victim’s parents, a male friend, one of the convicts, his family, activists, and legal experts. In a context where parents’ value for their daughters is not highlighted often enough, the film movingly captures parents’ aspirations and sacrifices for their daughter. But it is the words of the convicts and the defence lawyers that have garnered most attention. Their words while shocking and disturbing do not come as a surprise or are unique to this case and point to the deep-rooted culture of hegemonic masculinity and of male privilege. They will haunt for a long time to come like the comments of a Toronto police officer that inspired the global slutwalk (http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/). The film works at a certain level because it centres on the almost raw voices of some of the men who were involved in one of the most publicised rape cases in recent years.
Beneath the good intentions to make a loud noise about sexual violence, however, there are some unsettling aspects of the film that need to be equally highlighted. Criticising a film that has generated polarised discussions and managed to place conservative, male chauvinist nationalists and progressive gender advocates in the same camp is not easy. The intended audience and purpose of the film are unclear. This matters because if the purpose was to raise awareness and discussion (advocacy) in India by reconstructing a highly publicized rape incident in an almost amateurish haphazard manner, the film offers nothing new; millions of women across the country from different backgrounds are aware and experience varying degrees of sexual violence in every walk of life, and are aware of the patriarchal double standards and privilege that work against them. This incident of gang rape in particular marks a watershed in the awareness generated and engagement with sexual violence in India. For weeks after the incident there were public protests in New Delhi and across the country; different media were saturated with debates and discussions on sexual violence, its causes and responsibilities, and strategies to prevent them. At the government level an important response was the constitution of the Verma Committee and the passing of the stringent Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. Since December 2012, Indian mainstream media reporting of rape has seen an increase, more women have been emboldened to report sexual abuse, and there is relatively more noise in public fora. It is not clear what the film brings to this context.
The film is said to be part of a global campaign of the same name launched in New York a day after International Women’s Day (http://indiasdaughter.com/home/) to tackle gender inequality and violence against women. What is global in the film? What and how does it engage global audiences? Rather than getting people to reflect on sexual violence in their particular contexts and of gender regressive attitudes that we encounter everywhere, the main takeaway seems to be India’s rape culture and misogyny, and Indian women as victims.
Yet again in Udwin’s words, the Indian rape film as it has come to be now known was “to give a gift of gratitude to India, to actually praise India, to single India out as a country that was exemplary in its response to this rape, as a country where one could actually see change beginning” (http://tinyurl.com/jdlqoa2). Neither does the film focus on India’s response to this rape nor does it acknowledge the valuable work of activists, feminist groups, and organisations, the significant progress that has been made and the challenges ahead, so much so that it offers hardly any air time to feminists and/or women’s activists in India. The film and the global campaign are symptomatic of the white woman’s burden to free India’s daughter. By focusing quite narrowly on rehashing the shock and awe of one particular rape incident, the film is limited in scope for reworking gender relations.
The director and celebrities supporting the campaign note that the mindset of the convict and defence lawyers must be made to know it has no place in the civilised world. In the aftermath of the Delhi gang rape, millions of men must have felt that this had nothing to do with them or that they were being blamed/victimised for a rare dastardly act carried out by men unlike them; supposedly psychopaths. Blame is located in the mental inabilities of the perpetrator, in his class, or in his lack of education (http://tinyurl.com/zhlxfsg). The August 2012 Steubenville rape case that was being tried in the US at the time of the Delhi gang rape is just one other example of how rape is used as a tool of male assertion, universally, embedded in the intersection of male privilege and class and other (caste) privileges, which is missed in narrowly focusing on “the mindset.” The film side-steps many such important issues which feminists and activists in India have repeatedly pointed out both for understanding and preventing sexual violence. It is guilty of oversimplification and of reproducing dangerous stereotypes of “good” and “bad” guys; the protector versus the rapist; and the “good” woman who does not deserve to be raped.
Udwin has had unprecedented access to the convict and to other people portrayed in the film and to international attention. With privilege comes responsibility. The film misses quite a few opportunities that lend themselves to thoughtful reflection, to move away from one convict to connect different aspects and levels of a global problem. The struggle to end rape, sexual violence, and gender-based violence (in India and elsewhere), to create and sustain a healthy conversation that focuses not on shaming, must go hand in hand with the fight against inequality, exploitation, and orientalism.
Thanks to Yuriko Cowper-Smith, Jess Notwell, Alaina Osborne, Mangla Shandal, Brandon Sommer, Zena Teferi Kitaw, and Harshita Yalamarty for their feedback.
Sharada Srinivasa, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada