Recent Issue – Vol 85, No 3 – September 2012

Special Issue

Celling South Asia: The Mobile Phone’s Impact on a Region

Guest Editors: Robin Jeffrey and Assa Doron


The Mobile Phone in India and Nepal: Political Economy, Politics and Society

Robin Jeffrey, Institute of South Asian Studies & Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Assa Doron, The Australian National University

Keywords: cell phone, social networks; consumption; political economy

This introduction scans the effects of mobile-phone communication, particularly in South Asia. It focuses on three important areas: political economy, politics and social practices. By 2012 India had more than 900 million telephone subscribers, 96 per cent of them on cell phones, and the majority of users were the poor. At the other end of the social scale, the mobile phone provoked bitter struggles among some of India’s biggest business houses and branches of government, and was responsible for criminal cases against politicians at the highest level.

The essays in this volume are a reminder that technology is anything but neutral. The essays examine the many facets of mobile phone communication and the institutions, agents, mechanisms and networks such communication relies on. The essays contribute to efforts to interpret the effects of this technology and to gain insight into the most important aspect of the mobile phone: the sheer variety of activity (political, social and cultural) on which it impinges. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

Cellular Mobile in India: Competition and Policy

Subhashish Gupta, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, India

Keywords: competition, cellular mobile, telecommunications, policy, market behaviour

Telecommunications has been one of the success stories of economic reforms in India. From a teledensity of 2% in the not too distant past the sector has grown to a point where the teledensity exceeds 60%. The Indian cellular market is marked by strong competition, a large number of operators and some of the cheapest tariffs in the world. The sector experiences growth rates in excess of 80% in terms of number of subscribers. However, all is not well in this sector. There have been a number of upheavals in the past and the latest one involves alleged favouritism in allocating spectrum.

This paper analyzes the state of competition in cellular mobile in India. Standard measures of competition such as HHI and concentration ratios are used as well as market share, revenues, access to funds and profits. We also look at the degree of rivalry in the industry through changes in rankings in market share. We provide a brief discussion of the major developments in telecommunications and cellular mobile in particular after the introduction of reforms. Effects of policy making by different institutions within India are discussed in relation to their effect on competition and market development. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

The Mobile Communications Services Industry in India: Has it Led to India Becoming a Manufacturing Hub for Telecommunication Equipment?

Sunil Mani, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala, India

Keywords: telecommunications, fixed, mobile, telecom equipment, India

India has one of the fastest growing and largest telecommunications services market in the world, Much of the increases in telecom services were met through imports to begin with The state has now responded to this by attempting to make India a manufacturing hub for telecommunications equipment. Although there is evidence of increased domestic production of telecom equipment, the surging demand has necessitated imports. The value added by domestic manufacturing is still very low, but is likely to increase as the scale of domestic manufacturing increases. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article


Dragon in the Elephant’s Backyard: Chinese Imports in India’s Mobile Revolution

Amitendu Palit, National University of Singapore

Keywords: China, India, trade, import, mobile, telecom, China-India

The explosive growth in India’s mobile telephony during the last decade coincided with a robust growth in its trade with China. A variety of imported equipment from China played critical roles in augmenting use of mobile phones and expansion of networks in India. This paper studies the trends of these imports and examines the reasons for their penetrating deep into the Indian market. It argues that Chinese imports bridged a serious supply-side deficiency in India’s telecom sector: absence of a modern indigenous equipment manufacturing industry. Pointing out that development of the latter has been stunted due to low R&D, limited innovations, lack of access to finance, and liberal access to imports, the paper argues that Chinese imports are likely to continue till these conditions prevail notwithstanding security concerns over such imports. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

Shutting Down the Mobile Phone and the Downfall of Nepalese Society, Economy and Politics

Peng Hwa Ang, Nanyang Technological University

Shyam Tekwani, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, USA

Guozhen Wang, Zhanjiang Normal University, Guangdong, China

Keywords: mobile telecommunications, Nepal, blackout, impact of mobile phone, shutdown in telecommunications

On 1 February 2005, the Kingdom of Nepal cut off all public telecommunication links to the outside world. According to the king, the shutdown in communications was to enable security operations against the Maoist insurgents. Landline and Internet services were restored gradually over the following weeks. But the pre-paid mobile phone service, the service used by the majority of Nepalese, stayed off for the public for 88 days. The shutdown in communications provided the environment for a natural experiment to look at the impact of the mobile phone. Researchers conducted interviews in three regions of Nepal that are taken by the Nepalese as representative of the country. Among those interviewed were politicians, including the then-prime minister, business owners, journalists, as well as military and police officers. The study found that the shutdown in mobile communications had limited success in helping security operations. The insurgents did not trust the mobile phone network and had developed their own parallel communication network. The larger impact was negative: it hurt the economy and alienated large swathes of the public, perhaps even contributing to the downfall of the king. The study suggests that the mobile phone is a social device and that if there is to be any shutdown of the mobile phone service, it should be done only briefly and for very clear security reasons. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

Consumption, Technology and Adaptation: Care and Repair Economies of Mobile Phones in North India

Assa Doron, The Australian National University

Keywords: Cell phones, Class; Consumption; Informal economy, Appropriation, Middle class

On the edges of the digital world in India, there are millions of mobile phone users. To cater for these consumers, an economy of mobile phone care and repair has emerged in almost every town. Through the experiences of consumers and repairers, this article explores technology distribution, service practices and economic opportunity. How do they learn their trade? How do they make a living? And how do they position themselves in relation to the official branded manufacturers and licensed agents? Conceptually, the article is concerned with the nexus between consumer culture, the Indian middle class and the poor and how they engage global capitalism. It argues that middle class ideologies and practices of consumption are both exclusive and expansive. At the same time, the poor seek to engage this economy by tapping into the unauthorized sector that responds to their demands for local participation in the global economy, while keeping them also at a certain distance from the forms and symbolic capital of the new economy. Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

Re-Sourceful Networks: Notes from a Mobile Social Networking Platform in India

Nimmi Rangaswamy, Microsoft Research India, Bangalore, India

Screen Shot of GupShup advertising

Edward Cutrell, Microsoft Research India, Bangalore, India

Keywords: Social Media, Mobile Social Networking, India, Case-study

The paper analyzes SMSGupShup, a mobile-centric social networking platform in India. It focuses on a set of dominant users (young, male) who are re-defining the nature of micro-blogging and the creation of mobile networking communities. Like many social networking sites, assembling, maintaining and growing social networks are primary behaviors on GupShup. Unlike many others, where maintaining a personalized profile and conversing with a networked community take prominence, users of GupShup show markedly different messaging or broadcasting practices. While captivated by the idea of connecting with people all over India for the first time through the GupShup platform, the primary motivation of users is not conversation, forging a “second life” or building interest groups but optimizing the networking service to expand one’s own group membership. From a qualitative study of user profiles, the paper demonstrates how GupShup can inform thinking about facets of mobile communities in developing countries: specifically, changing ideas about the networking platform as “second social life” to one of pecuniary “resource.” Abstract in Chinese – 摘要 Purchase Article

Screen shot of GupShup advertising


Books Reviewed in this issue

Asia General

PAN-ASIANISM: A Documentary History. Volume 1: 1850-1920. Edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. xiv, 358 pp. US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-0596-3. Reviewed by Jessamyn Abel.

PAN-ASIANISM: A Documentary History. Volume 2: 1920-Present. Edited by Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. xiv, 422 pp. US$125.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4422-0599-4. Reviewed by Jessamyn Abel.

APEC: New Agenda in Its Third Decade. By Ippei Yamazawa. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012. xv, 149 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$35.90, paper. ISBN 978-981-4311-63-2. Reviewed by Robert Curry.

WATER: Asia’s New Battleground. By Brahma Chellaney. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2011. ix, 386 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$29.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-58901-771-9. Reviewed by Richard Paisley.

ASEAN-INDIA-AUSTRALIA: Towards Closer Engagement in New Asia. Edited by William T. Tow and Chin Kin Wah. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2009. xxv, 417 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$54.90, cloth. ISBN 978-981-230-963-1. Reviewed by Virginia Watson.

REBALANCING GROWTH IN ASIA: Economic Dimensions for China. Editors, Vivek Arora and Roberto Cardarelli. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 2011. xvii, 162 pp. (Tables, graphs, figures.) US$30.00, paper. ISBN 978-1-61635-056-7. Reviewed by John Walley.

China and Inner Asia

CHINA’S REFORM IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE. Series on Contemporary China, vol. 24. Edited by John Wong, Bo Zhiyue. Singapore; Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2010. xx, 416 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$96.00, cloth. ISBN 978-981-4289-24-5. Reviewed by Arthur R. Kroeber

BEYOND THE MIDDLE KINGDOM: Comparative Perspectives on China’s Capitalist Transformation. Contemporary Issues in Asia and the Pacific. Edited by Scott Kennedy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. xv, 256 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$65.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8047-6957-0; US$22.95, paper, ISBN 978-0-8047-6958-7. Reviewed by Stephen Noakes.

NEGOTIATING RELIGION IN MODERN CHINA: State and Common People in Guangzhou, 1900-1937. By Shuk-wah Poon. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2010. ix, 208 pp. (Maps, B&W photos.) US$45.00, cloth. ISBN 978-962-996-421-4. Reviewed by Virgil K.Y. Ho.

CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AND DISPUTE SETTLEMENT IN EAST ASIA. Edited by Ramses Amer and Keyuan Zou. Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. xii, 228 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$99.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-4094-1997-6. Reviewed by Pitman B. Potter.

MAO’S NEW WORLD: Political Culture in the Early People’s Republic. By Chang-tai Hung. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2010. xv, 352 pp. (Maps, illus., B&W photos.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-4934-5. Reviewed by Michael Schoenhals.

ARRESTED HISTORIES: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War. By Carole McGranahan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. xvii, 307 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4771-2. Reviewed by Joseph G. Morgan.

THE STRUGGLE FOR TIBET. By Wang Lixiong and Tsering Shakya. London; New York: Verso, 2009. vi, 275 pp. (Maps.) US$17.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-84467-043-7. Reviewed by Jack Patrick Hayes

Northeast Asia

POPULAR DEMOCRACY IN JAPAN: How Gender and Community are Changing Modern Electoral Politics. By Sherry L. Martin. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011. xv, 191 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8014-4917-8. Reviewed by Lynne Y. Nakano

RETHINKING JAPANESE PUBLIC OPINION AND SECURITY: From Pacifism to Realism? Studies in Asian Security. By Paul Midford. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. xviii, 250 pp. (Tables, graphs, figures.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8047-7217-4. Reviewed by Thomas Stow Wilkins

SPENDING WITHOUT TAXATION: FILP and the Politics of Public Finance in Japan. Studies of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. By Gene Park. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. xiv, 321 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$55.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8047-7330-0. Reviewed by Junko Kato

TROUBLED NATURES: Waste, Environment, Japan. By Peter Wynn Kirby. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011. xi, 250 pp. (Figures.) US$49.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-8248-3428-9. Reviewed by Scott Schnell

MINORITIES AND DIVERSITY. Stratification and Inequality Series, 11. Edited by Kunihiro Kimura. Balwyn North, Vic.: Trans Pacific Press; Portland, OR: Distributed by International Specialized Book Services, 2011. xiii, 156 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$84.95, cloth. ISBN 978-1-920901-64-6. Reviewed by John Ertl

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN POSTWAR JAPAN: The Revival of a Defeated Society. By Rieko Kage. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. xv, 195 pp. (Tables, graphs.) US$91.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-521-19257-6. Reviewed by Daniel P. Aldrich

IMPERIAL JAPAN AT ITS ZENITH: The Wartime Celebration of the Empire’s 2,600th Anniversary. Studies of the Weatherhead East Asia Institute, Columbia University. By Kenneth J. Ruoff. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2010. xv, 236 pp., [16] pp. of plates. (Figures, maps.) US$39.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-801-44866-9. Reviewed by Roy A. Starrs

AIRBORNE DREAMS: “Nisei” Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways. By Christine Yano. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2011. xv. 228pp. (B&W photos.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8223-4850-4. Reviewed by Joy Hendry

SEX IN JAPAN’S GLOBALIZATION, 1870-1930: Prostitutes, Emigration, and Nation Building. Perspectives in Economic and Social History, no. 13. By Bill Mihalopoulos. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011. xi, 181 pp., US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-84893-201-2. Reviewed by Timothy David Amos

RECONSTRUCTING KOBE: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity. By David W. Edgington. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010. xxii, 301 pp. (Tables, graphs, figures, maps, B&W photos.) C$95.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-7748-1756-1; C$45.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-7748-1757-8. Reviewed by William J. Siembieda

MAPPING MONGOLIA: Situating Mongolia in the World from Geologic Time to the Present. Penn Museum International Research Conferences, vol. 2. Edited by Paula L.W. Sabloff. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; Distributed by University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. xxvi, 273 pp. (Tables, figures.) + 1 CD-ROM US$65.00, cloth. ISBN 978-1-934536-18-6. Reviewed by Dalaibuyan Byambajav

THE KOREAN STATE AND SOCIAL POLICY: How South Korea Lifted Itself from Poverty and Dictatorship to Affluence and Democracy. International Policy Exchange Series. By Stein Ringen et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, vii. 137 pp. US$49.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-973435-1. Reviewed by Joseph Wong

South Asia

INDIA SINCE 1980. World Since 1980. By Sumit Ganguly, Rahul Mukherji. Cambridge [UK]; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. xii, 201 pp. US$27.99, paper. ISBN 978-0-521-67804-9. Reviewed bySudha Pai

NATIONBUILDING, GENDER AND WAR CRIMES IN SOUTH ASIA. Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, 29. By Bina D’Costa. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. xv, 246 pp. (Tables, figures.) US$130.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-56566-0. Reviewed by Purna Sen

RETHINKING RELIGION IN INDIA: The Colonial Construction of Hinduism. Routledge South Asian Religion Series, 4. Edited by Esther Bloch, Marianne Keppens and Rajaram Hegde. London and New York: Routledge, 2011. xv, 192 pp. US$42.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-415-50002-9. Reviewed by Chris J. Fuller

Southeast Asia

NO MAN’S LAND: Globalization, Territory, and Clandestine Groups in Southeast Asia. By Justin V. Hastings. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2010. xii, 256 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$22.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-8014-7679-2. Reviewed by David Martin Jones

THE LIMITS OF ALIGNMENT: Southeast Asia and the Great Powers since 1975. By John D. Ciorciari. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010. xii, 320 pp. (Tables, figures, maps.) US$32.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-58901-696-5. Reviewed by Donald E. Weatherbee

VIETNAM AND THE WEST: New Approaches. Studies on Southeast Asia; 52. Wynn Wilcox, editor. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2010. vii, 210 pp. (Figures.) US$23.95, paper. ISBN 978-087727-752-1. Reviewed by Tracy Barrett

THE CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM OF THAILAND: A Contextual Analysis. Constitutional Systems of the World. By Andrew Harding and Peter Leyland. Oxford; Portland, OR: Hart Publishing, 2011. xxxv, 273 pp. £18.99, paper. ISBN 978-1-8411-3972-2. Reviewed by Andrew Walker

REVOLUTION INTERRUPTED: Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand. New Perspectives in Southeast Asian Studies. By Tyrell Haberkorn. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. xix, 230 pp. (Map.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-0-2992-8184-7. Reviewed by Charles F. Keyes

SAYING THE UNSAYABLE: Monarchy and Democracy in Thailand. NIAS Studies in Asian Topics, v. 47. Edited by Søren Ivarsson and Lotte Isager. Copenhagen: NIAS Press; Abingdon: Marston (distributor), 2010. x, 271 pp. US$32.00, paper. ISBN 978-87-7694-072-0. Reviewed by Jim Glassman

CHINESE INDONESIANS AND REGIME CHANGE. Chinese Overseas, v. 4. Edited by Marleen Dieleman, Juliette Koning, and Peter Post. Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2011. xv, 232 pp. (Illus.) US$137.00, cloth. ISBN 978-90-04-19121-1. Reviewed by Wu-Ling Chong

Australasia and the Pacific Region

EXPERIENCE AND REPRESENTATION: Contemporary Perspectives on Migration in Australia. Studies in Migration and Diaspora. By Keith Jacobs. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2011. xi, 164 pp. US$99.95, cloth. ISBN 978-0-7546-7610-2. Reviewed by James Jupp

CONSUMING PLEASURES: Australia and the International Drug Business. By John Rainford. North Freemantle (Australia): Freemantle Press, 2009. 400 pp. A$21.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-921361-43-2. Reviewed by Dean Wilson

THE LIHIR DESTINY: Cultural Responses to Mining in Melanesia. Asia-Pacific Environment Monograph, 5. By Nicholas A. Bainton. Canberra, A.C.T.: ANU E Press, 2010. xxiii, 229 pp. (Tables, figures, maps, colored photos.) US$24.95, paper. ISBN 978-1-9216-6684-1. Reviewed by Geoffrey Hobbis

IMPERIAL ARCHIPELAGO: Representation and Rule in the Insular Territories Under U.S. Dominion After 1898. Writing Past Colonialism. By Lanny Thompson. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xi, 282 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3488-3. Reviewed by Glenn Petersen

CULTURES OF COMMEMORATION: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands. Pacific Islands Monograph Series, no. 25. By Keith L. Camacho. Honolulu: Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai’i, Mānoa; University of Hawai’i Press, 2011. xvii, 225 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$52.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8248-3546-0; US$25.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-8248-3670-2. Reviewed by Stephen C. Murray

INTIMATE STRANGERS: Friendship, Exchange and Pacific Encounters. Critical Perspectives on Empire. By Vanessa Smith. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. xii, 323 pp. (B&W photos.) US$99.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-521-43751-6. Reviewed by Martha Macintyre

PACIFIC ISLAND ARTISTS: Navigating the Global Art World. Edited by Karen Stevenson. Oakland, CA: Masalai Press, 2011. x, 203 pp. (Colored illus.) US$69.95, paper. ISBN 0-9714127-7-4. Reviewed by Anne Allen

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