Daily Archives: May 19, 2014

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Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Joseph Tse-Hei LEE

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

The Spirit of Things: Materiality and Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia
Julius Bautista, ed.
Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 2012, x+220p.

Southeast Asia is a region of great religious diversity. A variety of ethnic religions interact with world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, all of which, with the exception of Judaism, are still flourishing there. While advocates of secularization thesis previously deemed religion to be an antithesis to modernity, recent scholarship has shown that religion succeeds in adapting itself to the modernization process, and that it continues to shape personal beliefs, moral values, and faith practices in Southeast Asia today.

The 13 essays in The Spirit of Things vary in research scope and interest. The contributors are committed to analyzing the religious material culture from historical and ethnographic perspectives. They explore how religion manifests itself in different forms of material culture ranging from icons and liturgies to architecture and artifacts. These material forms not only make doctrinal teachings easily accessible to commoners but also define the world of beliefs and practices.

The opening essay by Julius Bautista and Anthony Reid conceptualizes the overlapping relations between materiality and religiosity in colonial and postcolonial Southeast Asia. Using the materiality of religion as a theoretical framework, they argue that religiosity is closely linked to collective rituals and sacred objects, and deeply embedded in local society. Because religious material culture covers a spectrum of sensory experiences and emotional sentiments, it is important to examine how certain icons, commodities, and acts come to be identified with devotional meanings in specific temporal and spatial contexts. Therefore, belief and material culture are not independent variables. Rather, they constantly interact with each other in both sacred and secular domains and shape the religious landscape.

The first two chapters highlight the effects of marketization on piety in Vietnam and Malaysia. Laurel Kendall, Vũ Thị Thanh Tâm, and Nguyến Thị Thu Hương investigate the widespread circulation of sacred objects in contemporary Vietnam. Although the late twentieth-century Vietnamese reformers attacked organized religion and the devotional and liturgical practices of commoners, religious practitioners never remained passive subjects in the state-building process. They reacted to top-down institutional change by shifting their bargaining strategies, which in turn affected the socialist government’s anti-religion policies. As a result, popular religions continue to flourish, providing people with moral guidance in a fast-changing world and enabling them to access the cosmological power of gods, ghosts, and ancestors for protection. Johan Fischer studies the efforts of middle-class Malay Muslims to reconcile next-worldly piety with worldly concerns like wealth and health (p. 31). As automobiles become a major marker of socioeconomic status in Malaysia, many middle-class Muslims favor the ownership of locally-manufactured Proton cars as a moral and patriotic choice against the purchase of Western luxury cars.

People in Southeast Asia have experienced a long history of intra- and inter-state conflicts. In time of peace and stability, ecumenical infrastructure is thought to be capable of resolving religious and ethnic divides. Chapters 4 to 6 address the symbiotic relationship between religion and politics. Janet Hoskins analyzes the visual expression of Caodaism, a homegrown religion based in Tay Ninh, about 100 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. The Caodaists carved out a separate space for themselves at the margin of French Indochina. Owing deference neither to the French nor to the Communists, Caodaism was suppressed by the socialist state after 1975, and was only given legal recognition in 1997. The religious architecture in Tay Ninh today expresses a theological desire to operate as a self-autonomous faith community and to distance itself from secular politics. In a similar fashion, the Burmese regime has imposed direct control over the Buddhist monastic institutions that foster localism and ethnic identity. According to Klemens Karlsson, the Burmese rulers have actively supported the restoration of some largest Buddhist statues and temples in the ethnic minorities’ regions in order to maintain national unity. While the homogeneous Buddhist order affirms the Burmese hegemony, it offers the subalterns a limited space to assert their local distinctions. This is true for the Buddha image-makers in Burma’s Arakan as shown by Alexandra de Mersan. When the artisans are commissioned by the military commanders to make Buddha images, they incorporate their Arakanese sentiments into an imagined Burmese national order. By comparison, Malaysia witnesses a culture of interfaith unity at the grassroots level. Yeoh Seng Guan refers to the commodification of Saint Anne’s water at a popular Malaysian Catholic pilgrimage shrine. Even though the popular belief in the efficacy of holy water is quite incompatible with the orthodox teachings of the Church, many lay Catholics, Malay Hindus, and Muslims still come to collect the water for their own use.

The power of sacred icons and liturgy is the focus of attention in chapters 7 to 9. While Anglicans and Catholics combine the use of word and icon as alternative modes of religious transmission, the Borneo Evangelical Church or known in Malay as Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), the largest Protestant denomination in Malaysia, considers the Bible to be of utmost importance. Despite the absence of tangible sacred objects, Liana Chua points out that the SIB Christians combine the evangelistic, performative, and ritualistic modes of practices in order to live out their faith. ­Richard A. Ruth draws attention to the mass-produced Buddhist amulets, medallions, and talismans worn by Thai soldiers during their participation in the Vietnam War. Although these soldiers had access to advanced American weapons, they turned to these religious objects to overcome their fear of death. The US military even integrated the popular belief in these amulets into their psychological warfare against the Northern Vietnamese (p. 144). Kenneth Sillander looks at the private altars among tribal communities in Indonesian Borneo, and reveals that these altars occupy a unique sacred space at home, enabling the households to access the protective power of village spirits.

The last three chapters concentrate on the making of sacred space among Thai Buddhists, Philippine Catholics, and Singaporean Chinese worshippers. According to Sandra Cate and Leedom Lefferts, the widely circulated Buddhist scrolls are significant ritual objects in northeastern Thailand. During religious festivals, people carry the colorful scrolls in temple parades and carve out a space in the public sphere for personal religious petitions. Cecilia De La Paz offers insights into the ritual of carrying a wooden statue of crucified Christ during the Holy Week procession in the Philippines. As women perform the ritual at home and men are in charge of the procession outside, they completely turn their homes and the streets into a giant sacred space. Margaret Chan ­revisits the diversity of Chinese popular religions in Singapore. Of all the statues, the most colorful one is the Imperfect Deity which is made to exhibit the physical pains of worshippers such as bad eyesight, amputated legs, and crippled hands (p. 205, figure 2). This visual adaptation caters to the spiritual needs of tired and stressed-out moderns.

Several important themes can be discerned in these essays. Conceptually, the idea of bringing materiality and religious diversity together in an interactive dialogue is original and refreshing. The contributors reveal strong historical, doctrinal, ritualistic, and socioeconomic connections between these two spheres. They write clearly and give those unfamiliar with religious diversity in Southeast Asia a sense of its dynamics and change in recent decades. They use numerous photos to illustrate the rich ethnographic data, and integrate analytical insights with concrete historical and anthropological examples.

Another important theme concerns the fact that religious diversity in Southeast Asia does not necessarily lead to ethnic divide and hatred as in other parts of the world. What these faith practitioners have in common is their ability to transcend ideological, religious, and cultural boundaries. These ritual activities display the important global, regional, and local links, and religious material culture exhibits a performative mode of faith practices that involve people from all walks of life. A good example of interreligious harmony is St. Anne’s water that appeals to lay Catholics, Hindus, and Muslims.

Equally significant is the ongoing negotiation between religion and state over sacred and secular matters. In these countries, religious leaders and government officials appear to be more interdependent than has been acknowledged in the literature. When the state is strong, be it authoritarian or democratic, the religious organizations often participate in the formation of the state’s legitimacy. But as the state reduces its control over scared matters, religious leaders revert to their original autonomy and assert their influence in the public domain.

In short, this essay collection is timely and full of insightful details. It should belong to the shelves of anyone interested in Southeast Asian religions, the study of religious material culture, and the spiritualization of modern world.

Joseph Tse-Hei Lee 李榭熙
Department of History, Pace University


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Gianluca BONANNO

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Greater Mekong Subregion: From Geographical to Socio-economic Integration
Omkar L. Shrestha and Aekapol Chongvilaivan, eds.
Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2013, xvi+270p.

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), arguably the most glittering development opportunity in Asia, is steadily attracting an international audience. After a period of mistrust and instability, the subregion has been the stage for a number of successful development stories as well as a few failures. When peace prevailed over the conflicts that divided its peoples, an unprecedented wave of regionalizing efforts in the entire area enticed many foreign institutions into investing in the development of the GMS. Given the peculiar situation characterizing most of the bloc’s countries, the first priority was that of upgrading the existing infrastructure and building new links in order to improve the spatial connectivity of the subregion. In other words, priority was given to geographical integration through the abatement of physical barriers.

With this book, a collection of selected papers presented at the eponymous conference organ­ized by ISEAS in Singapore in 2010, the editors attempted to present the events that have characterized the development of the GMS during the last two decades, with an overarching focus on the transition from geographical to socio-economic integration that the subregion is undergoing. The book is divided into two parts: the first is country-specific and aims to discuss some of the emerging issues from a national perspective (chapters 2–7); the second is thematic and each chapter aims to look at single issues from a subregional perspective (chapters 8–12).

Larry Strange (chapter 2) provides the reader with a very simple, yet exhaustive and persuasive description of the events that have characterized Cambodia’s development over the last few decades. The analysis of the new development paradigm after 1998 and of the response subsequent to the 2008–9 global economic crisis is very accurate, and praises the timeliness and the appropriateness of the government’s policies during this period. Unfortunately, the author fails to acknowledge some systemic flaws that hinder a more thorough incorporation of Cambodia into the GMS scheme, while giving too much attention to Cambodia’s relation with ASEAN, China, and the rest of the world. Cambodia’s strength in the GMS is weighed mainly in terms of its advantageous geo­political location, which might produce economic benefits in the future. While remaining challenges and weaknesses are acknowledged, the conclusion is indeed not conclusive, as it does not properly consider the GMS context. It simplistically states that the country’s future lies in exiting the vicious circle of aid-dependency and in graduating from LDC-status (Least Developed Country) in order to eventually distribute more equitably the national wealth.

Oudet Souvannavong (chapter 3) provides a good overview of recent development indicators in Lao PDR, although almost all of them are macroeconomic. Too much attention is given to government policies, and the author fails to explain with concrete cases how such governmental intentions are implemented on the ground, nor what people’s reactions to them are. Policy suggestions presented within the chapter are simplistic, and the tables shown lack units and could be clearer. However, the overall image of the country in the GMS context is very clear and objectively drawn: inadequate education, weak exports, unfriendly business environment, corruption, poor infrastructure, low population density, urban-rural divide, and the omnipresent lack of the rule of law are arguably the biggest obstacles hindering a more constructive participation of the country in development programs. The author also clearly identifies the country’s strengths, such as the huge hydropower potential and a young population, and provides very down-to-earth policy suggestions on cross-border customs operations and the transit system, specific infrastructural pro­j­ects, special economic zones, electricity for domestic consumption, a national rail grid to transport raw materials, smart agriculture (i.e. sustainable agriculture), and tourism.

Unfortunately, time and circumstances mean that the facts presented by Michael von Hauff in chapter 4 could not be updated after the recent developments following the general elections of 2010 in Myanmar. The author further develops an idea already presented by Andreff (p. 49), arguing that the country is currently in a double-transition from underdevelopment and from socialism. He goes on to explain how controls over the overall development of the country in the past decades were heavily driven by political objectives, which being inconsistent and impulsive, could not contribute to a positive growth. His analysis of the connection between the country’s political situation and the economic mismanagement by the junta is very objective and accurate. Here he stresses the omnipresence of “levelling tendencies” (p. 66) as a political tool to curb social unrest, and the negative influence that such have had on health and education systems. He concludes with some suggestions but, as stated earlier, they were written before the elections and are no longer applicable. For instance, the shift towards a social market economy is already being implemented and the new challenges in this regard would be balancing the influence that external actors, such as the United States and China, are likely to have, not only on the country’s economy, but on its political develop­ment as well.

Narongchai Akrasanee (chapter 5) bravely represents his country by not only mentioning the advantages Thailand accrues from being centrally located in the subregion, but also by vehemently voicing the challenges that rapid, yet loosely controlled connectivity has unintentionally brought about, i.e. cross-border illegal activities and the unregulated movement of people. Although addressing an audience with some awareness of the issue (some readers might not be able to ­easily follow most of the arguments), this chapter clearly argues that Thailand did, does, and will play a central role in the development of the GMS, particularly with regard to the provisioning of more responsible development assistance.

Vo Tri Thanh (chapter 6) explains in clear prose the importance of counterbalancing cooperation efforts in the GMS with what is happening at a broader level within ASEAN and East Asia. The author acknowledges that so far, economic progress has not been followed by social and environmental advances and that cross-border trade, while undoubtedly helping most economies, is too often associated with serious non-traditional security issues. It is a real pity that the author, despite being a Vietnamese national, does not present his facts from the perspective of Vietnam, which it turns out, is the only GMS country not sufficiently covered in this book.

The last chapter of the first group (chapter 7), written by Guangsheng Lu, looks at the GMS integration process from Yunnan’s perspective, although with a predominantly economic focus. Unfortunately, the general impression that the reader gets from this chapter is that what really bothers China is not the overall development of the subregion, but what it can gain from it without greatly damaging its own image.

The second part of this edited collection focuses on issues from a subregional perspective, respectively Foreign Direct Investment (chapter 8), financial markets (chapter 9), governance (chapter 10), energy (chapter 11), and social development (chapter 12). And although the economic aspect of each of the sectors is comprehensively explained, the only chapter of the whole book that really addresses social issues—the human dimension of the socio-economic transition mentioned in the title— is the last one. Even chapters 10 and 11, which would have made for a perfect platform to voice some of the extremely serious social concerns afflicting people in the GMS, take as case studies, respectively, the transport system and economic growth scenarios.

Chris Lyttleton (chapter 12) lends weight to the book’s title by gauging the by-product of rapid economic development in the GMS through its impact on the local population. He constructively applies Michael Cernea’s mitigation models to the reality of the GMS. This includes the impossibility of preventing interactions based on losses that can only be perceived and not computed because people interact in multidirectional ways with no specific causal primacy, thereby inevitably creating exploitative relations. The author concludes by explaining how intra-regional affiliations are strategically used by people willing to “invest whatever they see as having value in marketplace engagement” (p. 248), such as their labor, land, bodies, families, and emotional companionship. These all intersect in the subjective realm of identity, experience, and progress, where people who are not always equipped to make choices that are in their own long-term best interests engage in “experimentations with freedoms” (p. 248) that always more than sometimes put all they have at risk.

Altogether, this book provides the reader with a comprehensive analysis of the array of development efforts being implemented in the GMS. Unfortunately, the editors’ intentions of clarifying the nexus between geographical and socio-economic integration were not sufficiently reflected in the chapters and the near absence of coverage on social issues is, alas, likely to overshadow many of the findings presented.

Gianluca Bonanno



Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Oral History in Southeast Asia: Memories and Fragments
Kah Seng Loh, Stephen Dobbs, and Ernest Koh, eds.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, xiv+205p.

Oral History in Southeast Asia brings together a number of committed young scholars who discuss the applicability of oral history in two inseparable arenas: research and social involvement. It consists of nine chapters (four on Singapore, two on Malaysia, and one each on Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines) that are methodologically diverse and split into three parts.

The first part, “Oral History and Official History,” engages with the themes of interaction between official narratives and oral accounts that have played a role in constructing the nation. How official narratives seized, captured, and suppressed “people’s voices” to consolidate national histories is well recorded in volumes of historical discussion on Southeast Asia (see for example Reynolds 1993; Wieringa 1995). The post-independence period of the countries in the region offers fertile ground for academic debates, partly owing to post-colonial scholarship that deconstructs official narratives. The three chapters of this first part (all on Singapore’s case) relate to such debates. Blackburn’s chapter gives an interesting account of the results of a life-history project conducted by senior students who interviewed elderly family members. They found narratives that are not parallel to the “Singapore story” that they learnt from their text books. Koh’s chapter describes the way the uneasy political climate of the newly created nation-state shaped the remembrance of the Second World War. Loh’s chapter, based on candid interviews, presents an appealing description of people’s daily lives after British military withdrawal in the late 1960s. While both Blackburn and Koh’s chapters interrogate the official history by providing accounts that differ from such history, Loh’s chapter provides a “moderate” account that does not necessarily dispute it. With these converging perspectives, readers are made aware that people’s accounts—whether they be alternative or collaborative ones—are diverse and the project of de/constructing an official narratives can find many ways to accommodate them.

The second part, “Memories of Violence,” brings out the delicate issue of people’s memories of mass violence in the context of the changing political landscapes of the nation-states in the region. All three chapters in this part operate in a similar vein in that they unpack the constitution of mass violence as an “event” to be remembered. Curaming and Aljunied’s chapter analyzes the “intertwining coherent strands” of memories of the 1968 Jabidah massacre in the context of political conflict in Mindanao (p. 86). They show how the personal memories of Jibin Arula, the only key witness of the massacre, are encoded within the tragedy of his personal life and form part of a “cultural myth” of injustice and political conflict. Damrongviteetham’s chapter, based on fieldwork, discusses the collective and individual memories of the “Red Barrel” (ถังแดง/thang daeng) incident of the early 1970s in Lamsin, Phattalung province. The incident and the annual ceremony that now marks it are a delicate issue, touching on the dynamics of Thai state-society and illuminating a discourse that touches upon human rights and state impunity. The chapter is an important contribution in the English language to the topic, helping scholars who do not read Thai (and are unaware of the debate among Thai scholars on the issue) to make sense of the incident. It also highlights the diverging collective memories of the community. Leong’s chapter, based on eclectic sources, takes the troubled episode of the 1948 Batang Kali massacre as a departure point to lay out the political considerations of Malaysia’s official narrative of the nation and the threat of communism. But despite the use of strong comparative post modernist vocabulary, it does not offer fresh engagement with an issue that is already well recorded. The three chapters in this part highlight the struggle over social memories of violence (no matter how selective they are) and how the nation-state neutralizes and undermines the political impact of any form of social justice within society. Although this understanding is not novel for historians of Southeast Asia, the chapters have done detailed work in recording this struggle as a reference for future generations.

The third part, “Oral Tradition and Heritage,” has three chapters that carefully examine the configurations of oral tradition and heritage development within specific communities on the “fringe.” Wellfelt’s chapter deals with the narratives surrounding Du Bois, a Swiss-American anthropologist, and her stay in Alor and how she became a heroine in the community’s oral traditions; it offers a fresh account of how oral tradition is shaped and transmitted. Chou and Ho’s chapter on the heritage conservation of Sungai Buloh leprosy settlement—the world’s second largest—narrates the authors’ social activism within the community in an effort to “position the present” (p. 170). While the authors insinuate that leprosy sufferers are “subalterns,” their work help protect the community’s social identity is outstanding. Dobbs’ chapter on the selective memories of the Singapore lightermen on redevelopment of the river highlights the ongoing transformation of meaning surrounding the project. It shows how their accounts were subjected to a dominant narrative of modernity (this chapter, in fact, fits well in the first part of the book). Although the three chapters in this part have put forward an interesting discussion centering on oral tradition and heritage transformation, how these narratives have become marginalized remains largely untouched.

The chapters make for interesting reading. But as a collection, they do not pose any original questions on the issue of oral history. Each chapter has its own specific concern, yet they do not relate to each other in terms of aiming for a common objective that can stimulate a more fruitful academic debate on the praxis of oral history. This is not to say that there are no Southeast Asian particularities that can offer insights for inter-regional comparison. But there is a need for a ­stronger academic rationale that can develop a praxis based upon the region’s diversity. The volume lacks conceptual analysis that binds all the chapters together. Although the editors present a well-researched introduction, “Oral History and Fragments in Southeast Asia,” where they assert the concept of “fragment” as “a point of departure” (p. 4), this is hardly apparent in the discussion that unfolds in the chapters. In that regard, Oral History in Southeast Asia unintentionally underscores how intricate the praxis of oral history is within the boundaries of each country’s national histories. This alone has generated different and divergent interpretations for young scholars (as well as public intellectuals) in the region who seek to engage with the current conditions of reproduction of what constitutes history and heritage. The issue of contemporariness has indeed provided a contextual terrain for the popularity of oral history among young scholars who seek to understand their present conditions. Yet we should not forget that diligent scholars on Southeast Asia history have already provided us with a series of excellent works—not exclusively in oral history form—that go beyond official narratives and social memory (see for example Heidhues 2003; Mojares 1985; Kasian 2001 to name a few).

Jafar Suryomenggolo


Heidhues, Mary Somers. 2003. Golddiggers, Farmers, and Traders in the “Chinese Districts” of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Ithaca: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.

Kasian Tejapira. 2001. Commodifying Marxism: The Formation of Modern Thai Radical Culture, 1927–1958. Kyoto: Kyoto University Press.

Mojares, Resil. 1985. Theater in Society, Society in Theater: Social History of a Cebuano Village, 1840–1940. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Reynolds, Craig, ed. 1993. National Identity and Its Defenders: Thailand, 1939–1989. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books.

Wieringa, Saskia Eleonora. 1995. The Politicization of Gender Relations in Indonesia. PhD dissertation, University of Amsterdam.


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Arndt GRAF

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Words in Motion: Language and Discourse in Post-New Order Indonesia
Keith Foulcher, Mikihiro Moriyama, and Manneke Budiman, eds.
Singapore: NUS Press and Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2012, xi+312p.

This book is the outcome of a long cooperation between Australian, Japanese, and Indonesian scholars in the field of Indonesian language and discourse. Previously, books in Japanese ­(Moriyama and Shiohara 2009) and Indonesian (Moriyama and Budiman 2010) had already been published by the same editors. Some of the chapters in this current English-language edition are revised translations of the earlier volumes.

The book is divided into 12 chapters and a very interesting Introduction by Keith Foulcher, on “Fluid Transitions in an Era of Reform.” As one of the most accomplished scholars in the field of Indonesian literary and textual studies, Keith Foulcher situates in this chapter the actual contributions to this volume within the greater context of the drastic shifts in Indonesian intellectual discourse since 1998. It was not only new domestic freedom of expression after the downfall of President Suharto, but also Indonesia’s now much more intense exposure to the global flow of information that Foulcher identifies as the main reasons for the fundamental shifts. As if the editors wanted to illustrate the drastic changes that took place with the reformasi movement in 1997 and 1998, interestingly, the slot of the very first chapter is then given to Untung Yuwono’s contribution on “Swear-Words in Contemporary Indonesian Youth Slang.” The examples and the discussion in the chapter illustrate aptly some of the atmosphere of the grassroots movement that the ­reformasi once was. Manneke Budiman’s analysis of “Foreign Languages and Cosmopolitanism in Contemporary Indonesian Fiction” builds more on the second theme developed in Foulcher’s Introduction: the wide range of international impulses before and after 1998. This topic is dealt with implicitly also in George Quinn’s highly informative chapter on “Post-New Order Developments in Javanese Language and Literature.” At the same time, Budiman’s and Quinn’s chapters are the only ones in this volume that deal with literature.

As the book is not divided into parts or sections, readers might find the reasons for the exact sequence of the chapters not very clear: after the chapter on swear-words come two contributions on literature, then a number of case-studies on regional languages (Sundanese, Eastern Indonesia, North Sulawesi, Bali), then two contributions on the role of Chinese in post-New Order Indonesia. The final two chapters deal with media rhetorics (referring to the President in Indonesian media) and the politics of language standardization in Indonesia. Here, the editors could have helped the readers a bit by structuring the volume more clearly.

Having said this, the interested reader will find the high quality of most contributions in this book very helpful. This is, for instance, particularly visible in the seven contributions by Japanese scholars on regional languages in Indonesia, which follow Quinn’s chapter on Javanese language and literature. It is a great merit of this volume to make these works by Mikihiro Moriyama, Asako Shiohara, Atsuko Utsumi, Mayuko Hara, Haruya Kagami, Koji Tsuda, and Yumi Kitamura available to a non-Japanese reading audience. It is not only the individual qualities of these contributions that are so impressive; rather, viewed together, they demonstrate the depth and range of contemporary Japanese expertise in Indonesian linguistics. There might be very few other countries outside of Indonesia which have such specialized scholars in this field in the moment, covering various regions and regional languages of Indonesia, including the varieties of Chinese used in the country.

The final two chapters of the volume bring the attention back to the national stage in Jakarta. Dwi Noverini Djenar’s analysis of Indonesian media texts referring to the President is a highly informative contribution not only to linguistics in a narrower sense, but also to media studies, political science, and rhetorics. On the other hand, the final chapter, by Jan van der Putten, on “The Politics of Language Standardization in Indonesia,” is not a textual analysis such as Dwi Noverini Djenar’s contribution. Rather, it outlines major aspects of language standardization in Indonesia from a macro perspective, which could make this particular chapter very useful also for teaching purposes. Students who are unable to read Jérôme Samuel’s authoritative French-­language work on language planning in Indonesia (Samuel 2005) can therefore refer to Jan van der Putten’s contribution in the future.

In general, this volume offers a range of very interesting contributions to the field of Indonesian linguistics, literature, and media studies. At the same time, it demonstrates to international readers the very high quality and broad range of the Japanese expertise in Indonesian studies, and it also showcases a very useful outcome of international cooperation in this field, in this case between Japanese, Indonesian, and Australian colleagues.

Arndt Graf
Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe-University of Frankfurt


Moriyama Mikihiro 森山幹弘; and Budiman, Manneke, eds. 2010. Geliat bahasa selaras zaman: ­perubahan bahasa-bahasa di Indonesia pasca Orde Baru [How language changes in harmony with the times: Changing languages in post-Suharto Indonesia]. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.

Moriyama Mikihiro 森山幹弘; and Shiohara Asako 塩原朝子, eds. 2009. Tagengo Shakai Indoneshia: Kawariyuku Kokugo, Chihogo, Gaikokugo no Shoso 多言語社会インドネシア―変わりゆく国語, 地方語, 外国語の諸相 [Multilingual societies of Indonesia: Changing national, local, and foreign languages]. Tokyo: Mekong Publishing.

Samuel, Jérôme. 2005. Modernisation lexicale et politique terminologique: Le cas de l’indonésien [Lexical modernization and terminological policy: The case of Indonesian]. Paris: Peeters.


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Wil de Jong

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Redeeming REDD: Policies, Incentives and Social Feasibility for Avoided Deforestation
Michael I. Brown
London: Routledge and New York: Earthscan, 2013, xii+330p.

In September 2013 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN global authority on climate change, presented its fifth assessment report. Its main message is that more solid evidence proves that human caused emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) indeed drives climate change. Global average temperatures will likely rise with more than 2°C. Global weather patterns will change, causing more severe droughts in dry regions and more severe storms and downpours in wet regions, for instance in the typhoon prone region of Southeast and East Asia.

Experts have realized that forests can and should be considered in climate-change mitigation efforts. According to FAO (2011; 2012), forests worldwide contain 650 billion tons of carbon and absorb about a quarter of carbon that is emitted into the world’s atmosphere. Indonesia and other countries of mainland Southeast Asia have vast forest stocks or extensive peat lands that can significantly influence future climate change, depending on how they are being managed. To lose the capacity of forests to absorb atmospheric carbon, or allow the carbon stored in them to be released into the atmosphere would be disastrous and should be avoided. The Kyoto Protocol, which is the implementation program for the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), only allowed permanent afforestation and reforestation activities as measures eligible for compensation under UNFCCC. At the 11th UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) in 2005 a new measure was proposed to compensate countries to prevent deforestation through Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). Through the program, proponents of REDD aim to reduce tropical deforestation and forest degradation by half which should roughly reduce global emissions of atmospheric carbon by about 10%.

Michael Brown’s book makes a well informed and thorough assessment of how complex the global REDD program has become since it started seven years ago, and of the apparently insurmountable challenges that lie ahead to make it work. The book reviews the program’s history, analyzes its scope and magnitude, and introduces the reader to the many actors involved, their stakes, tasks, and strategies. Redeeming REDD analyzes with much detail the complex science that lies behind the REDD program, but also the multiple discourses and politics that shape how the program is being implemented. The United Nations, World Bank, and other international organizations execute the UN-REDD program, relying largely on ODA funds to compensate for avoiding deforestation. However, at the same time a parallel stream of REDD projects is implemented by NGOs and BINGOs (big international non-government organizations), other civil society groups and the private sector. In addition to implementers, there are those who set standards, who develop tools, and who conduct research. As a result, REDD has—from an innovative idea—that galvanized much enthusiasm and interest among the global climate change community, transformed itself into a new global action behemoth.

However, Redeeming REDD has a clear main message. In Brown’s view, and in the view of many others, REDD can only become successful if and when it is fully supported by local forest communities, the people who live in and depend on the tropical forests that are targeted in REDD projects. He argues that at present the REDD deliberations and planning excessively focus on technical issues, like Measuring Reporting and Verification (MRV). MRV basically assures correct carbon accounting by calculating how much carbon emission reduction is achieved, how that is being reported to bodies that pay for reduced emission, and how to verify that the amount of carbon is indeed being stored permanently. At later UNFCCC-COP meetings, measures were adopted to minimize negative impacts of REDD initiatives on local forest communities and biodiversity identified as “safeguards.” In addition it was demanded that in new REDD projects, those affected will have given free and prior informed consent (FPIC), before implementation can start. Countries that want to qualify for the UN-REDD program, like Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, Vietnam, and others in Asia need to submit so called Read Readiness Proposals (RPP), and in them they need to clarify how safeguards and FPIC are assured. Projects that operate outside that UN-REDD mechanism are expected to be certified, for instance by the Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) and this certification only happens if safeguards and FPIC are adequately addressed.

In Brown’s view, the rigor to judge whether RPPs or REDD projects comply with safeguards or FPIC standards is too weak. For instance, FPIC, in many cases, only implies that project developers subject people affected by future REDD projects to one or a few meetings where the project is explained using PowerPoint presentations. According to Brown, the REDD community is using very much the same approach as used in development projects and biodiversity conservation projects since the late 1980s. There is a considerable literature on why the majority of development and biodiversity conservation projects have had poor results. These highly valuable experiences and reflections are ignored by almost everybody who is involved in REDD projects and as a result the same mistakes are made. The results of REDD projects in which those experiences are not considering are not hard to predict.

REDD, if it is to be redeemed, needs to be done in a fundamentally different fashion, according to Brown. It is not sufficient to assure that the people who live in or next to the forest, and who will be affected by REDD projects, are not negatively affected. Rather it is necessary that REDD projects have a clear positive impact on local forest communities’ livelihoods, and that as a consequence they will actively support these projects. This means, for once, that the FPIC principle needs to be taken serious and that all those that are affected by prospective REDD projects, in particular forest dwelling communities, are a true part of significant decision making in their planning and implementation. A grand transformation of the REDD discourse and practice is needed. The way to achieve this is through a “new social contract” to which all those involved in the global REDD project should commit themselves.

The Redeeming REDD volume is written by an author who is extremely well informed on the subject, because Michael Brown has been involved in REDD issues since its beginning, and because he has reviewed a remarkable amount of references on the subject. This is reflected in the many details that are covered in the 11 chapters of the book. The book, however, is not always easy to read. This is in part because of the ground it covers, which is a result of the complex matter that the global REDD program has become. Yet, it also appears that the book has been written too hastily or at least with insufficient attention to its readability. Some of the chapters lack a natural flow, as they sometimes contain a sequence of disjointed topics under consecutive subheadings. The writing itself could have been improved as quite often sentences are too long and their meaning is not always easy to grasp. A sign that the volume suffered editing attention is, for instance a four line direct quote from a “high placed senior manager at a major conservation organization” who expresses quite a pessimistic view on REDD on page 58, and the very same quote is repeated on page 112.

But despite these imperfections, Redeeming REDD is a valuable contribution to the REDD literature. Even if one does not share the main views and message that Brown tries to convey, the book will allow any reader to get up to speed on where we are with trying to re-direct global forestry and promote awareness of, and help formulate adequate responses, to its important role in mitigating global climate change.

Wil de Jong
Center for Integrated Area Studies, Kyoto University


Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 2012. Building Bridges between REDD+ and Sustainable Agriculture: Addressing Agriculture’s Role as a Driver of Deforestation. Rome: FAO.

―. 2011. Climate Change for Forest Policy-makers: An Approach for Integrating Climate Change into National Forest Programmes in Support of Sustainable Forest Management. Rome: FAO.


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Olga DROR

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City
Erik Harms
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011, xiv+294p.

In his introduction to the book, Erik Harms states that there are no Vietnamese poems about Hóc Môn, a district lying on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, one of its five outer-city districts. Perhaps this statement was true when Harms was conducting his research there at the beginning of the 2000s and when he was writing this book. But the appearance of this book has changed the situation—in Harms, Hóc Môn found its own poet, as his book, even if written in prose, is nothing short of a poem of appreciation if not of this industrializing area then of its inhabitants.

To be sure, it is a sophisticated and complicated prose poem, not an easy afternoon read. The book is firmly grounded into anthropological and sociological theories: spatial-temporal considerations, analyses of edginess, conflations and confrontations of rural and urban, dichotomies of kinship. It thoroughly considers the relationship between idealized myth-making and practical reality.

The book consists of three parts with each part subdivided into two chapters. The first chapter delineates the historical-sociological framework of the primary binary distinctions between inner city and outer city, the city and the countryside. They are not only in opposition to each other but also complement each other—their mutual interdependence seems to be inevitable as without one the other cannot exist, cannot even be identified. Harms skillfully analyzes trajectories that influence the development of each space and the changes produced by their proximity, reaching the conclusion that the outer city, regardless of this proximity and these changes, persists in maintaining its own identity.

Chapter Two explores the reasons for this persistence: economy, culture, upbringing, opportunities or lack thereof, and—perhaps most importantly—power are the factors that perpetuate the distinctions between urban and rural, inner city and outer city, Ho Chi Minh City and Hóc Môn. Disparity between the center and the margins has a dual effect on the latter: some people get depressed by what they perceive as their inevitably inferior position, while in others the disparity generates creative forces as well as the desire and ability to overcome invisible but firmly established borders.

In Chapter Three Harms considers temporal changes in the material landscape of Hóc Môn and in the perception of Hóc Môn by its insiders. He examines the ideas of real time, social time, universal time, and “Party time” (the Communist Party’s interpretation of temporal changes and its own role in them). Harms argues that even though the Party sees and presents itself as an engine unfailingly moving Ho Chi Minh City and its suburbs towards their successes and the development of socialism, it does not necessarily interfere with the other ideas of time; “Party time” is a political stance rather than socio-philosophical concept. While progress in the center and on the margins is uneven, the developmental drawbacks of the outskirts are “compensated” by their celebration as the keeper of traditions, also viewed as an aspect of the relationship between continuity and change.

Chapter Four discusses the relationship between time and space in terms of spatiotemporal oscillation. Harms argues that “[u]ltimately, the power of spatiotemporal oscillation depends not so much on expressing distinctly rural or urban time orientation but on the ability to move, according to contingent social circumstances, between states” (p. 124). He further considers the concepts of labor and leisure in the negotiation of spatiotemporal oscillation. Peasant households, operating their businesses out of their homes, can achieve unity of spatiotemporal forms as the spaces of labor and leisure are shared. But it is impossible for anyone else. Harms ties the idea of spatiotemporal oscillation to the strategies people use to reproduce themselves as ideal social persons.

Chapter Five considers the role of road as social space for encounter and interaction among the people. Harms discriminates between the role of roads in the city and in the countryside. The city sees a proliferation of front-facing property, while on the outskirts front-facing property creates an approximation of the city’s development—as Harms put it, “a pseudo-urban corridor of services, modern shops, and homes” (p. 164). However, the backside remains countryside. It is around roads that communal life often forms. That translates not only into social interactions in numerous cafes located along the roads but also into the public performance of rituals. The road also represents a transformation of the outskirts as it changes the connection between the inner and the outer city, and the way of life in the latter.

Chapter Six details complexities of the very existence of a rural entity in a socialist society. Even though the revolution in Vietnam was carried out in the name of the peasantry, peasants were and still are considered as underdeveloped. According to Harms, Vietnamese urbanization texts suggest that Vietnamese history should move from a rural (underdeveloped) society to an urban (developed) one. In this chapter, Harms considers the attractions and ills of city life for the inhabitants of the outskirts. Following the history of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City during different historical periods, the author shows the complexity of the mutual perceptions in the center and on the edges.

In his Conclusion, Harms stresses that Hóc Môn “embodies the uncomfortable position of sitting between” socialism and capitalism, between the center and margins (p. 237).

The book is very successful in creating a portrait of the Hóc Môn community and in tracing the changes connected to its proximity to Ho Chi Minh City. It is somewhat short on analysis of whether or not the Hóc Môn community exerted any significant influence on the city.

Another point that perhaps deserves a clearer explanation or deeper exploration and is somewhat interconnected with the above observation lies in the very title of the book Saigon’s Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City. Given that the author mainly relates the situation in Hóc Môn during the modern period dwelling very little on the “Saigon period” and that the book is largely based on synchronic anthropological research rather than historical investigation, what role does the shift from “Saigon” to “Ho Chi Minh City” play in his analysis and in the title of the book?

Harms states that he has “attempted to use the tools of a native discourse in order to unravel that discourse and show what it reveals, what it masks, and also what it does” (p. 238). However, it is hard to imagine that those same people living on the fringes he described with palpable sympathy using the tools of a native discourse would be able to fully or even partially grasp this study created in a highly academic and urban theoretical register, both in concept and in vocabulary. Thus, Harms’ warm and, in my opinion, poetic study of Hóc Môn cannot be heard by the people of Hóc Môn or of any other outer-cities for that matter, but it will resound among specialists of Vietnam and cultural anthropology and sociology to whom it will be very useful.

Olga Dror
Department of History, Texas A & M University



Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

The Family in Flux in Southeast Asia: Institution, Ideology, Practice
Yoko Hayami, Junko Koizumi, Chalidaporn Songsamphan, and Ratana Tosakul, eds.
Kyoto: Kyoto University Press and Bangkok: Silkworm Books, 2012, ix+546p.

The Family in Flux in Southeast Asia: Institution, Ideology, Practice is a long-awaited addition to family studies in Southeast Asia. It is edited by a multidisciplinary team of leading scholars on Thailand and Myanmar, Yoko Hayami and Ratana Tosakul (anthropology), Junko Koizumi (history), and Chalidaporn Songsamphan (political science). Presently, both Hayami and Koizumi are professors at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University, and Songsamphan and Tosakul are associate professor and senior lecturer, respectively, at Thammasat University. The volume consists of an introduction (by Hayami) and 23 chapters, and examines wide-ranging aspects of family change and continuity in modern Southeast Asia that loosely spans from the nineteenth century to the present. While the book primarily focuses on Thailand, it also features comparable cases from Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The present volume is a product of a three-year research program entitled “Changing ‘Families’” in which Thammasat University and CSEAS at Kyoto University served as home institutes between 2006 and 2009. The contributors are the former participants in this research initiative and come from diverse disciplines, including history, political science, economics, sociology, literary studies, and anthropology.

The book starts with an overview of family change or “macro demographic trends” in Southeast Asia over the past three decades with a specific reference to Thailand (pp. 1–2). These trends are marked by declining fertility rates, prolonged life expectancy, rising divorce rates, and an increase in female-headed households, and have been observed in a time of greater labor migration. While these phenomena find a plethora of global parallels, much of the theorizing in family history has focused on experiences in the West, particularly in Western Europe, and our understanding of family change in modern Southeast Asia remains inadequate. Thus, one chief objective of the present volume is to “fill in this gap” in family studies (p. 2).

Such an exploration into the course of family change in Southeast Asia inevitably involves comparison, especially with Western Europe, where industrialization was a decisive phase in ­family formation. During the industrializing period, families were institutionalized and came to constitute “the domestic sphere as separate from the public productive sphere” (p. 2). What ensued was a cluster of ideals about the modern family that emphasized the universal nuclear family and its reproductive function, romantic conjugal relationships, and blood ties among family members. In Southeast Asia, as Hayami aptly points out, “[T]he historical trajectory in which institutionali­zation of the family took place . . . has been different” (p. 2). Therefore, we cannot take for granted the notion of the “family” stemming from Western industrialized societies. The book argues that to understand “family” in Southeast Asia, we must take into consideration such historical processes as colonialism, nationalism, encounters with the West, state building, and the middle-class formation (p. 18). Through these processes, the very concept of the “family” was “debated, contested, and negotiated” in everyday practice and ideology (p. 2). Under these common concerns, 23 chapters fall into three areas of inquiry, “Family Law and Related Debates” (chapters 1–6), “State Policies, Ideology, and Practice” (chapters 7–13), and “Families and the Network of Relatedness in Flux and Flow” (chapters 14–23). Some of the featured issues include (but not limited to): the evolving notion of the family as a closed and monogamous unit in language and law; patriarchy buttressed through polygyny, transnational businesses (among overseas Chinese families), and national policies; various forms of kin and communal networks at work in family cycles such as child rearing of migrant female workers (many of whom were in transnational marriages). Together, these observations caution against making an easy association of the modern family with con­sanguinity and conjugality, the nuclear household, and the gendered divisions of roles championed by male wage earners and female homemakers. What the present volume illuminates is the fluid and plural notions and practices of the family across Southeast Asia then and now.

Family history is a relatively untapped area of research in Southeast Asian studies. One main reason for the paucity of historical studies on the family is that the topic has often been pursued (somewhat in disguise) through alternative and interrelated subject matters, such as women, households, gender, sexuality, kinship, and state, to name a few.1) Therefore, any contribution that is specifically about the “family,” as The Family in Flux demonstrates, is a welcome addition. One vantage point of taking a family-specific approach is that it opens room for comparison among cases from Southeast Asia and beyond that so far have remained largely overlooked in the existing scholarship. The book is already forthcoming in drawing parallels as to how the practice of polygyny and the accompanying discussion on monogamy as a modern ideal served as a focal point of colonial and nationalist politics in Thailand, West Sumatra, and Malaysia (chapters 2, 3, 4, 7).2) This line of comparative conversation can easily be extended to other similar studies on late-colonial Java and Egypt under the British protectorate, to name just two.3)

Another common thread for comparison concerns language. A few studies in the present volume illuminate linguistic ambiguities towards the nuclear family household in Southeast Asian vernaculars. In pre-modern times, the Thai word for family khropkhrua commonly referred to “a network of diverse relationships” (p. 7). In the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the meaning of the word evolved into one that emphasized the conjugal pair and their children. What propelled this linguistic evolution towards a bounded notion of the family were legal reforms and the accompanying state campaign for a modern monogamous family (pp. 7–8). Such encoding of khropkhrua with marriage and blood relations stands side by side with yet another word for “family” or ban in contemporary Thai, which literally means house and denotes a group of people sharing a residence (p. 29). In Javanese, the closest to the Indonesian word for family keluarga is somah whose meaning besides the nuclear family household includes “other family members, usually parents, unmarried siblings, or married siblings with their children might live together” (p. 288). Another case in point is the Burmese equivalent for family mithazu, which to this day remains relatively foreign among the Karen. Local conceptions of “family” in the Karen language center on “people of the same brood, child-mother, child-father relationship” (p. 297). Tagalog is another language marked by the initial absence of “family” until colonial times. While the existing indigenous concept focuses on “bilateral relatedness” or mag-anak, a new lingo and definition of the family or pamilya as “a basic autonomous social institution” was introduced and localized through colonial influences (p. 10). Similarly, colonial encounters in West Sumatra were the vehicle for introducing the Dutch word familie. In the 1920s amidst Dutch colonial rule, familie along with the Indonesian alternative rumah tangga or household were staple vocabularies for “family” thus overshadowing keluarga (Hadler 2008, 80). These preliminary observations further reiterate the problematics of the evolutionary and linear trajectory of family change looming so large in family theory.4) Moreover, further research into Southeast Asia’s linguistic complexity and local notions of “family” centered on a web of (bilateral) networks, when read against the background of colonialism and nationalism, could collectively form a pillar of theoretical critique in family history.

While The Family in Flux constitutes a rich depository of empirical and methodological issues in family studies, a few editorial limitations maybe noted, including the inconsistencies in the depth and length of the featured case studies, the underrepresentation of cases from Thailand (especially in Part II), and the concentration of anthropological literature primarily drawn from Japanese scholarship.

There is no question that The Family in Flux is a path-finding volume that paves the way for meaningful dialogues among scholars of the family. Each case study combined with the well-informed introduction offers a point of reference for global and regional comparisons on family change and continuity in modern world. The Family in Flux is highly recommended for researchers and students from all disciplines interested in family studies in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Sugiyama Akiko 杉山顕子
Department of History, University of Macau


Andaya, Barbara Watson. 2006. The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Early Modern Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Day, Tony. 2002. Fluid Iron: State Formation in Southeast Asia. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Hadler, Jeffrey. 2008. Muslims and Matriarchs: Cultural Resilience in Indonesia through Jihad and Colonialism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Ikeya, Chie. 2011. Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Koning, Juliette et al., eds. 2000. Women and Households in Indonesia: Cultural Notions and Social Practices. Richmond: Curzon.

Locher-Scholten, Elsbeth. 2000. Marriage, Morality and Modernity: The 1937 Debate on Monogamy. In Women and the Colonial State: Essays on Gender and Modernity in the Netherlands Indies, 1900–1942, pp. 187–218. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Loos, Tamara. 2006. Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Pollard, Lisa. 2005. Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing, and Liberating Egypt, 1805–1923. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Stoler, Ann Laura. 2002. Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Thornton, Arland. 2005. Reading History Sideways: The Fallacy and Enduring Impact of the Developmental Paradigm on Family Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

1) The scholarship on these subject matters is extensive. A few of the recent contributions (monographs) include: Koning et al. (2000), Locher-Scholten (2000), Stoler (2002), Day (2002), Andaya (2006), Ikeya (2011).

2) The book also refers to the recurrent debate over polygyny in the years leading to the legal abolishment of polygamy in Thailand in 1935 as chronicled in Loos (2006, 7–8).

3) For a study on Java, see Locher-Scholten (2000, 187–218). Pollard has shown that the debate on polygamy in the vernacular print media was one of the geneses of nationalism among the Egyptian bourgeois elite (2005, 94–97).

4) For a recent study on the historiography of family theory, see Thornton (2005).


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Guo-Quan SENG

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Strangers at Home: History and Subjectivity among the Chinese ­Communities of West Kalimantan, Indonesia
Hui Yew-Foong
Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2011, xvi+342p.

Hui Yew-Foong has written a highly nuanced ethnographic monograph on how the Chinese of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, negotiate their stranger-subjectivity with their host locale. The author begins with a two-chapter section, “Looking for Home in a Foreign Land,” by performing a dual-task: reconstructing the history of the Chinese community in West Kalimantan during the Japanese Occupation (1942–45) and the Sukarno years (1945–65) in light of the emergence of post-Suharto era local Chinese historical narratives, while at the same time deconstructing the narrativity of these recent Chinese histories.

Chapter two reconstructs the history of a hitherto unnoticed (e.g. in Heidhues 2003) anti-Japanese underground organization, the West Borneo Anti-Japanese Alliance (西婆羅洲反日同盟), an organization that has a big place in the aforementioned post-Suharto historical narratives. The Alliance was organized by a group of progressive Chinese sojourners in the region, and they carried out low-level tactical resistance during the Occupation. The Alliance’s leaders were executed together with, according to one estimate, some 3,000 other community leaders, half of whom were Chinese, on trumped up charges of conspiring to overthrow the Japanese (p. 55). Hui argues that although their tactical resistance meant little to overall wartime strategy, and probably had no direct connection with the alleged plot leading to the Japanese massacre, “framing . . . [their resistance] in close proximity to the force of death during the Occupation dissimulates the helplessness of the Chinese communities” (p. 63). This serves as an “important signpost” for the narrators’ memory of subsequent events in the post-war years.

Chapter three examines the histories of the struggle between the pro-Guomindang (Republic of China, ROC) and pro-Chinese Communist (People’s Republic of China, PRC) factions of the Chinese community between 1945 and 1965. As most ethnic Chinese remained Chinese citizens in the early Indonesian years, intra-communal politics continued to be divided along Chinese political lines. But what remains to be explained is the overwhelming support for the PRC during the 1950s and 1960s. According to an Indonesian survey in 1957, some 25,125 (72%) students went to pro-PRC schools while 9,792 (28%) attended Catholic or pro-ROC schools (p. 84). Hui argues that the memory of anti-Japanese resistance and the common experience of the massacre led the Chinese to shed their previous dialect-group divisions, and to throw in their lot with the newly established PRC. Examining the popular progressive plays and songs from the period, he finds that they have “no resonance with the everyday lives of the Chinese in West Kalimantan who sang them, but they nevertheless resonate within the imagination of the singers” (p. 97). This resonance, argues Hui, stems from the “convergence of two desires—identification with the idiom of origin, and identification with the force of history” (p. 105).

Chapter four, “The New (Dis)order: Making Strangers at Home” looks into the “Narratives of Violence” surrounding the memories of the Suharto regime’s mass expulsion of the Chinese from the West Kalimantan countryside in 1967. From October to December 1967, in a bid to flush out communist guerillas in the region, the military instigated local Dayaks to evict between 50,000 and 117,000 rural Chinese to the cities. Between a few hundred to two to three thousand were estimated to have been killed in the process (p. 131). Hui’s is the first academic account to critically examine the Chinese experience of the event (see also Davidson 2008). Corroborating Davidson’s findings that the Dayaks were instigated to issue eviction orders first, and kill where the Chinese failed to comply, Chapter four uses personal interviews and narratives published in the post-Suharto ­Chinese press to confirm that the Chinese were indeed given a day to a week’s notice to leave their homes before the massacring bands arrived. The chapter shows the various ways by which the state “de-subjectivized” the Chinese by means of extortionist objectification of them as mere “signifier of wealth,” or by classifying them as illegal foreigners. By recounting their stories in the press, Hui argues that “Chinese Indonesians are re-producing their subjectivity through the Chinese press” (p. 146).

Chapter five, the “Vicissitudes of the Communist Underground,” argues that for the hundreds of West Kalimantan Chinese who joined up with the Sarawak communists guerilla fighters to form the Mount Bara Force (1967–69), or the New-Style Partai Kommunis Indonesia (PKI) force led by the regional PKI chief Sofyan Said Achmad (up to 1974), their act of taking up arms to defend themselves against the injustices of state violence and their post-Suharto era attempts to record their histories for posterity constituted exceptional “moments of sovereignty.” Unlike the subjects in Chapter three who longed for China as an ancestral homeland, or those in Chapter four who yearned to defend their physical homes from state destruction, these voluntary fighters were able, Hui argues, to transcend the “master-guest dialectic,” and to “speak not as strangers, but as settlers who have a right to the land” (p. 172).

Taking a detour beyond the political trajectory thus far charted, Chapter six surveys the major forms of contemporary localized popular Chinese deities and spirit-mediums—the Dabogong (大伯公) and Datuk Gong; and the religious practices which help the local Chinese to “negotiate estrangement.” On the perennial debate over whether the Dabogong serves as the localized ­Tudigong (土地公, the common Chinese tutelary deity) of the Southeast Asian Chinese, Hui finds that the Dabogong in West Kalimantan takes on the names of local legendary Chinese pioneers, and are known more generally as kaishan dizhu (山地主)—literally, a pioneering landlord (pp. 197–198). Hui makes a more original contribution to the study of Chinese popular religions by arguing that the Chinese fetish of conversing with the Other through an ethnic-Other spirit-medium (the Datuk), mediates the foreign-ness and “reflect(s) a primordial sense of ‘not-being-at-home.’” The “haunting force” of the “foreign,” is externalized and “(mis)recognized” as antagonistic spirits (pp. 217–218).

Chapter seven and the epilogue summarize new developments for the community constituted within the New Order from 1965 to the regional elections of 2007. After 1965, funeral associations became the only bodies the state could tolerate to serve the Chinese. But with time, they too acquired quasi-representative functions when the state used these funeral associations to help register the stateless Chinese in the 1980s and to canvass the community for support in the highly manipulated elections of the 1980s and 1990s. In spite of this, the West Kalimantan Chinese found other means of evolving a more meaningful social existence: providing private voluntary fire-fighting services in cities across the region, an effort that has persisted to this day. After the fall of Suharto, the revival of Chinese language education through private tuition classes was facilitated by the West Kalimantan Chinese’s homecoming exile network in Jakarta and Hong Kong. Non-governmental organizations emerged to champion the rights of the Chinese as a minority group within a multicultural vision of Indonesia. Even as the Chinese made significant political gains in the 2007 regional elections, the recurring pattern of inter-ethnic violence (most recently targeting the Madurese migrants) in this region continues to weigh heavily in the minds of the observer and his subjects.

This is an ambitious project that aims to analyze the subjectivity (desires, fetishes, and memories) of the West Kalimantan Chinese, all of which, as the author argues, fell short of any meaningful identity with their host nation. Hui engages mainly with Georg Simmel’s sociology of the stranger and Derrida’s deconstruction of the estranged subject’s desire for primordial origins in thinking through the problem of foreign subjectivity in a given locale. The wide range of topics covered under the umbrella term “subjectivity” is breathtaking, but it is at times also limiting in terms of how it helps readers achieve a more objective knowledge of the condition of the Chinese in West Kalimantan against what we already know through scholarship on Indonesia and Overseas Chinese. Some potentially critical themes—the relationship between history, memory, subjectivity, and contemporary society; the objectification of a group as mere “signifiers of wealth” under the New Order; and the Derridian trope of an impossible longing for an originary home, could have been developed further if there had been a tighter focus. The book deals exclusively with the subjectivity of the stranger guest. More engagement with the objectifying forces of the host would help to clarify how and why identity was truncated, but will perhaps also show how, glimpses of which we caught in Chapter seven, some form of accommodative identity was achieved under the New Order regime. All in all, its theoretically novel ethnographic approach, and pioneering research on the Chinese in West Kalimantan make this a key reference work for future scholarship in the fields of the Overseas Chinese and Indonesian regional studies.

Guo-Quan Seng 成国泉
Department of History, University of Chicago


Davidson, Jamie. 2008. From Rebellion to Riots: Collective Violence on Indonesian Borneo. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Heidhues, Mary Somers. 2003. Golddiggers, Farmers, and Traders in the “Chinese Districts” of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Ithaca, NY: Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University.



Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia
Timothy J. Killeen
Singapore: NUS Press, 2012, xxviii+354p.

Cambodia is facing two main issues in its struggle over development after a long period of social unrest: development and conservation. Between the 1990s and 2010, Cambodia experienced rapid economic growth with an annual growth rate between 8–10 percent. However, this growth has taken place at the expense of natural resources exploitation and sustainability, an issue of deep concern. How can Cambodia maintain this growth while conserving its natural resources? From a conservationist perspective, Timothy Killeen raises this question and addresses “development” and “conservation” through his book The Cardamom Conundrum: Reconciling Development and Conservation in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

In this book, Killeen discusses development and conservation in Cambodia, focusing on the Greater Cardamom Region. The Cardamom Mountains has abundant natural resources, but its exploitation and utilization have reached alarming levels to the extent that Killeen describes them as a “conundrum.” The Cardamom Conundrum denotes the choice between pursuing economic development and poverty reduction versus the conservation of natural resources, particular forms of biodiversity, and native habitats that characterize the landscapes of the Cardamom Mountains, if sustainable economic growth is the goal.

The book has eight chapters and from chapters one through to eight, an overarching theme is that natural resources play an important role. However, if natural resources are not well conserved, they will have an impact on economic growth. Killeen introduces the “green economy,” which is about “pursuing economic development and poverty reduction through the conservation of its natural resource, particularly biodiversity and native habitats” (p. xxi). Killeen sees the green economy as a way of addressing this challenge through which Cambodia could potentially pursue economic growth through conserving natural resources. As such, his argument stresses that the conservation of natural resources will benefit from carbon finance and this in itself will contribute to the economic development of the country. The Cardamom Mountains could help Cambodia achieve the status of a “green economy.”

In the first chapter, Killeen introduces three scenarios—the utilitarian scenario; utopian ­scenario; and business as usual scenario—to determine ways forward for Cambodia’s development. The utilitarian scenario focuses on satisfying the needs of people in which natural resources are utilized to improve human welfare and poverty reduction; the utopian scenario will promote the utilization of natural resources to create a diversified economy, while conserving natural resources; and the business as usual scenario will lead to increased deforestation that will benefit the few while leaving many in poverty and degrade the environment.

Chapter two presents an overview of the richness of natural resources of the Greater Cardamom Region: forest covers 55 percent of the region (p. 36); mangrove forest covers 85,000 ha along the coast (p. 53), and the Tonle Sap Lake and rivers flowing into it from the main aquatic ecosystem. In line with this, in chapter three, Killeen illustrates the importance of natural resources for the livelihood of 3.7 million people living in nine provinces (p. 66). While a large number of families (28 percent) still live in poverty (p. 69), Killeen states that “poverty is largely a rural phenomenon in Cambodia” (p. 68) which leads to misunderstandings over the facts of poverty in Cambodia. On the other hand, Cambodia Development Resources Institute (CDRI) illustrates that poverty is a multi-dimensional phenomena. At the national level, Cambodia’s legacy of conflict, repression, and isolation stands as a central explanation as to why the country has become one of the world’s poorest. This legacy lingers on in broad key determinants of poverty, particularly those which relate to low levels of physical and human capital and poor governance (CDRI 2012).

Additionally in chapter four, Killeen discusses how natural resources in the Greater Cardamom Region are managed by various government institutions. He also highlights the importance of development assistance by donors in the support of the management of natural resources in Cambodia. Since 1993, Killeen demonstrates that more than 1,400 separate ODA projects have been implemented in Cambodia for a total of $10 billion (p. 103).

Chapter five provides facts on the current context of development and the changes that are taking place in Cambodia. Two major highways are expanding across the Greater Cardamom Region (p. 116) and five hydropower dams have been proposed, two of which are now under construction, including both Atay and Tatay dams (p. 120). The government has identified 63 sites for hydropower, 21 of which are located in the Cardamom and Elephant mountains (p. 122). About 1.012 million ha of forestlands covering 95 economic land concessions (ELCs) in 17 provinces were granted to 60 companies from China, Singapore, India, Vietnam, Korea, and the United States. Other develop­ments include rubber plantations, shrimp farming, and mining which have all been increasing within the country.

In chapter six, Killeen introduces the concept of “ecosystem services” where the “goods” and “services” generated through the conservation of natural resources. The Cardamom and Elephant mountains, if well-protected, could provide goods and services for long-term use. Killeen states that “because ecosystem services are in the public domain, they are perceived as being free” (p. 167) and if the natural environment is degraded, these goods and services will disappear. Thus, to continue receiving goods and services from the natural environment, it is important to protect it, and then pay for those taken from it. Killeen calls this a “payment for ecosystem services (PES).” Simultaneously, hydropower dams are seen as positive in the “green economy,” as energy storage devices, converting water flowing downhill to generate electricity and providing a foundation for a low-carbon economy.

In chapter seven, Killeen adopts the “green economy” as an approach to the future development of Cambodia through conserving natural resources in the Greater Cardamom Region. This has the potential to enable Cambodia to achieve a “green economy.” For Cambodia, the “green economy” would involve a low-carbon economy in four main areas: forest conservation, agricultural intensification, renewable energy, and mass transit. Killeen argues that forest conservation will contribute to carbon sequestration and Cambodia would be able to negotiate significant revenues from the international REDD+ system so as to avoid both deforestation and forest degradation. The revenue from a carbon market could be used for agricultural extension services, access to fertilizers and irrigation, and help promote an expanded and diversified agricultural sector. Forest conservation and land-use planning could design a watershed management strategy that maximizes hydroelectric power generation in the Cardamom Mountains. An urban mass transport system could also be designed to operate on electrical energy with an electrical energy grid expanded across the countryside. For me, this is an ideal situation, yet it is too theoretical and impractical for a crucial reason: in Cambodia, it involves the politics of resources use, where there exist weak institutional capacity and an insufficient legal framework to adapt to climate change.

In chapter eight, Killeen indicates that “green development” is ideally suited for the Greater Cardamom Region, because of its natural resources. He further argues for re-examining the conserva­tion strategies as current ones were designed without an assessment of future development options and are based on a process that did not consult important stakeholders. He argues that the current protected area management system should be redefined in order to cope with increased carbon credit investments in conservation. Land-use planning, regional planning, and agro-­ecological zoning should also be used for integrated natural resources conservation. Applying REDD+ in forest conservation could generate revenues that could be used for other forms of development and involve local communities in natural resources management: a key in con­servation strategies. However, what Killeen proposes is not new. They have been done before and the changes in these aspects do not necessary ensure that “green development” can be achieved. Indeed, the protected areas have been in conflicts with other development initiatives such as ELCs, mining concessions, and other plantations. About 9,313 ha of land in the Cardamom Mountains were granted as an ELC to the Phnom Penh sugar company, but this remains a very controversial issue (Open Development n.d.).

This book is good in that it provides substantial information to the reader. It perceptively looks into the conservation and development of the Greater Cardamom Region and provides us with a potential way forward toward a “green economy,” one that promotes development while maintaining a position on protecting the environment. The book highlights that the conservation of natural resources would benefit Cambodia in the long run through linking forest conservation to a carbon market; and agricultural intensification to other developments in the country. It is a book from which we can learn a lot.

However, the book is not without its weaknesses. First, Killeen brings a great deal of theory into the discussion, but the discussion lacks the inclusion of local details. Although the book focuses on the Cardamom Conundrum, a variety of information is taken from the national context to explain issues. In effect, this generalizes our perception of them. The book is written from the perspective of an outsider who spent time in Cambodia to write about the complex context of development and conservation in the Greater Cardamom Region. As such, the information presented in the book comes across as generalized, theoretical, and secondary in nature. Since the book is written from a conservationist perspective it centers on the conservation approach. Although this links to development in the Cardamom region, as stated in chapters three to five, conservation is only the starting point, particularly that of forests which can contribute to com­bating climate change, improving a carbon market for the country, and generating revenues for a green economy.

Through this approach, conservationists tend to view hydropower dams in the Cardamom Mountains as positive, as a foundation for a “green economy.” On the other hand, environmentalists view hydropower dams as a threat to the environment and livelihoods of local communities. The environmentalists in Cambodia call for no hydropower dams and they view hydropower dams as a threat to rivers, mountains, the environment, and ecosystems (Hori 2000). The construction of dams would inundate large tracks of forestlands, clear areas of forest, change the hydrological flows of rivers, adversely affect fisheries and water quality, and impact on the livelihood of people living along rivers. Thus, it would affect the goods and services provided by the ecosystem in the Cardamom Mountains (Baird 2009).

However, Killeen repeatedly emphasizes that climate change is not merely a threat, but also an opportunity that Cambodia can benefit from through carbon markets. The entire book views carbon markets as a linear process, assuming that they will appear smoothly and that Cambodia will certainly benefit from them. International carbon financing is politically complicated. The United States boycotted the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCC 1998), even as China continues to emit carbon at high rates estimated at 7,711 million tons a year in 2009 (McCormic and Scruton 2009). Developing countries blame developed countries for creating global warming and demand that developed countries pay developing countries to preserve forests. Not all developed countries are willing to do that, including the United States, and therefore, the carbon market is compromised and its process might not be as smooth as made out to be in Killeen’s argument. It is, in effect, difficult to apply in Cambodia given the weak policies and institutions in place.

Finally, this book fails to take into account the current phenomena of economic land concessions, the spread of plantations and mining in large parts of the Cardamom Mountains. The book also underestimates China’s influence on Cambodia’s development. China provides support to Cambodia via its state-owned corporations. The total investment of Chinese corporations in Cambodia has been estimated to stand at $1.7 billion. For comparison, South Korean direct foreign investment presently stands at $2.9 billion. Since 1993, ADB has contributed about $1.9 billion, followed by Japan with $662 million and the United States with $628 million (p. 104). These ODA Projects and investments represent the conflicts between the development and conservation agenda. Chinese investments, economic land concessions, plantations and mining could eventually “turn” the dream of a “green economy.”

Irrespective of these weaknesses, Killeen acknowledges the fact that this book has been written from a philosophical orientation that attempts to fill the void between the “trade-off” between development and conservation to promote the mutual conservation of natural ecosystems and their development as a way toward national economic development. The Cardamom Conundrum, then, is also useful for many Cambodians and non-Cambodians to understand how conservation and development in the context of climate change provide Cambodia with an opportunity to achieve a “green economy.” It is a comprehensive resource book that could provide readers with new knowledge on this subject.

Mak Sithirith
Department of Environmental Science, Royal University of Phnom Penh


Baird, Ian G. 2009. Best Practices in Compensation and Resettlement for Large Dams: The Case of the Planned Lower Sesan 2 Hydropower Project in Northeastern Cambodia. Phnom Penh: Rivers Coalition in Cambodia.

Cambodia Development Resources Institute (CDRI). 2012. Understanding Poverty Dynamics: Evidence from Nine Villages in Cambodia. Working paper series No. 69, March 2012. Phnom Penh: CDRI.

Hori, Hiroshi. 2000. The Mekong: Environment and Development. Tokyo: United Nations University Press.

McCormic, Mark; and Scruton, Paul. 2009. Carbon Emission World Map. The Guardian, 2011. Accessed September 15, 2013,

Open Development. Archives: Koh Kong Sugar Plantation—The Canes of Wrath. Accessed September 6, 2012, http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/tag/koh-kong-sugar-plantation/Tag.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). 1998. Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


Vol. 3, No. 1, BOOK REVIEWS, Kai CHEN

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1



Energy and Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia
Mely Caballero-Anthony, Youngho Chang, and Nur Azha Putra, eds.
Heidelberg: Springer, 2012, ix+121p.

Human Security: Securing East Asia’s Future
Benny Teh Cheng Guan, ed.
Dordrecht and New York: Springer, 2012, xiii+255p.

At present, non-traditional security issues have increasingly come to the forefront of international attention, due to the ongoing insecurity of populations and communities in Asian states. As a theme of global relevance, energy security in ASEAN nations has moved beyond issues of sovereignty and national security and gradually involved the well-being of their populations. From non-­traditional security perspectives, Energy and Non-Traditional Security (NTS) in Asia, is a timely collection of essays by well-chosen scholars who provide insightful explanations of the salient aspects of energy security in ASEAN, and advance a series of policy recommendations at international, national, and individual levels, many of which should be practical in the future.

As Mely Caballero-Anthony and Nur Azha Putra conclude, “security,” “stability,” and “sustainability” are three fundamental features of non-traditional security to energy security (Anthony et al., pp. 4–5). Discussing the negative impacts of energy security in ASEAN states, Maria Nimfa F. Mendoza examines the current situation of the energy markets, and explores the socio-economic impacts on them at both the microeconomic and macroeconomic levels. For instance, ASEAN states are burdened by considerable transportation costs, which lead to higher product costs than product prices. In the words of Fitrian Ardiansyah, Neil Gunningham, and Peter Drahos, transaction costs are another negative impact which requires “searching for, negotiating and enforcing contracts” (Anthony et al., p. 109). In this respect, Indonesia sets a good example: for the Indonesian government, there is a need to increase networked governance capacity on energy decision-­making, and “create a stable core of bureaucratic decision-makers” (Anthony et al., p. 111). As Ardiansyah, Gunningham, and Drahos suggest in accordance with the case of Indonesia, it is more practical to establish multilateral forums to coordinate central government, local government, investors, and developers.

However, should ASEAN states provide subsidies for energy security? Mendoza stresses that fuel subsidies will probably distort product prices and even lead to biases in resource allocation that move away from “labor-intensive industries” (Anthony et al., p. 69). For example, govern­mental subsidies for bio-fuel could reduce relevant efficiency in helping poor consumers, since a substantial portion of governmental subsidies do go to richer consumers. Furthermore, subsidies for fossil fuel would distort the corresponding pricing.

The contributors advance a series of recommendations for enhancing energy security. In the view of Youngho Chang and Swee Lean Collin Koh, market governance adds an essential dimension to policy recommendations for energy security. There are four approaches to governance: market, bilateral, trilateral, and unified governance. In the context of ASEAN states, market governance is the most applicable approach, which is defined as “an adequate and reliable supply of energy resources at reasonable prices” (Anthony et al., p. 28). Because this approach does not merely balance “the virtues of free market principles and government regulatory mechanisms” (Anthony et al., p. 25) and encourage investment in energy sources, but also meets the rising regional demand for energy. In the case of the Fukushima accident in Japan, Chang and Koh address adequate governance, environmental influences, and human costs in guaranteeing energy security. Moreover, based on the evaluations of energy diversity in ASEAN states, Youngho Chang and Lixia Yao explain that energy diversity can constitute another approach to ensuring energy security in ASEAN states, offering not only a variety of energy infrastructures, but also a variety of energy sources. In addition, Chang and Yao explain the essential regional initiatives relating to energy security, such as the ASEAN Power Grid, Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline, and other forms of energy co-ordination in ASEAN. At a regional level, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is estimated to play a more important role in regional energy cooperation.

In addition to the collection above another timely volume has been produced, Human Security: Securing East Asia’s Future, edited by Benny Teh Cheng Guan, and provides further insights into the complexities and challenges of human security in East Asian states. This volume is divided into two parts and composed of 12 chapters. In Part One, the contributors explore human security in the context of state-society relations, especially the historical and political contexts of East Asian states, which tend to prioritize the human security of vulnerable populations (e.g. migrants) over state-centered security. The status of vulnerable populations in society is disempowered and unequal, due to the patriarchal policies and norms of East Asian states. Therefore, the contributors not merely focus on how to protect vulnerable populations from fear and abuse, but also analyze whether they can be free to make their own choices.

Based on the analysis of a case study in Vietnam, Kathleen A. Tobin highlights the fact that Vietnamese women’s reproductive choices have been affected by government family planning policy. Due to a surge in population and urban expansion, Vietnam’s government regards children as an economic detriment rather than as a benefit. As such, Tobin argues that the government is forcing a decline in population growth by “persuading Vietnamese couples to follow a one to two children policy” (Guan, p. 66). As Tobin suggests, if people cannot protect their freedom from wants (e.g. clothing, housing, medical care, food, and social services) and fears (discrimination, violence, and displacement), they will have to organize to force the government to respond to their needs.

Parallels abound in China. In the opinion of Anna Marie Hayes, Chinese men have been ­facing serious vulnerabilities to HIV transmission. The situation will not improve unless more NGOs and INGOs are allowed to participate with programs that prevent HIV transmission and address, gender-specific issues that are policy relevant and can be implemented in the near future.

Some contributors pay more attention to the tensions between human security and policy practice. Asuncion Fresnoza-Flot analyzes the case of “motherless families due to migration” in the Philippines. Fresnoza-Flot suggests that emigrating is still preferred by migrants’ families, yet due to both the Philippine government and the NGOs holding different opinions on how to protect these families, no concrete policy has been implemented to guarantee the interests of stakeholders (e.g. migrants and their families). In the case of North Korea refugees, Jaime Koh demonstrates that human security will face a serious dilemma in a state dominated by concerns of traditional security, that is, traditional security and non-transnational security concerns mutually exclude each other. As a result, very few of the human security issues will be addressed, nor will any political resolution be implemented. Jennryn Wetzler’s case analysis of human trafficking in Thailand underlines the tensions that exist between human security and policy practice. As ­Wetzler argues, Thai law enforcement indirectly encourages the sexual abuse of prostitutes (e.g. child sex tourism). Wetzler suggests that “indirect empowerment and community development initiatives coupled with traditional anti-trafficking efforts” will be more effective as specific countermeasures (Guan, p. 91).

In Part Two, contributors focus on human security issues and corresponding policy implications from a broader regional perspective. Some contributors debate the feasibility of politicization and de-politicization in resolving human security issues. Duncan McDuie-Ra analyzes the current situation and negative impacts of environmental insecurity in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam and addresses the opportunities and constraints of NGOs’ politicization of the causes of environmental insecurity. Ra concludes that although NGOs’ politicization and political patronage can be effective at district or regional government level, political patronage does not exclude the possibility of systematic corruption and the participation of women and young people. Will a depoliticized solution be more effective? In the case of ASEAN cooperation on climate change, Alfred Gerstl and Belinda Helmke recommend the depoliticized principle, which emphasizes “social and human development” (Gerstl 2010). In other words, it could be interpreted as “people-oriented notion of security” (Guan, p. 152). By contrast, ASEAN’s understanding is “still primarily based on the traditional neorealist state-centric view” (Guan, p. 152). Therefore, Gerstl and Helmke consider that a depoliticized principle would be the most obvious barrier to sufficient cooperation in ASEAN, even in those areas most affected by climate change: regional cooperation is limited to only the most affected countries. To explore an applicable approach to dealing with nontraditional security issues, Delphine Alles advances an insurance-like mechanism in a sovereignty-based context, “which requires that the risk should be random, the loss should be definite and the insurer should be able to cover the loss” (Guan, p. 158). However as Alles concedes, this approach might be most applicable within the context of natural disasters, effective in avoiding negotiations and compromises, and implementing concrete actions within a short-term period.

In addition to the debates on politicization and de-politicization, some contributors pay close attention to other aspects of strengthening human security. As Benny Teh Cheng Guan concludes, “human security is after all about the empowering of the people to take charge of matters that concern them” (Guan, p. 212). Either negotiations or proliferations of trade agreements (e.g. FTAs) should be “people-sensitive,” but not “state-induced.” Sangmin Bae explores scenarios where international human rights norms do not accord with the domestic values and practices of human rights. In the case of the death penalty in East Asian states, Bae points out that democratic stability and legitimacy will determine the extent a state would internalize an international norm of human security, which is different from domestic ones. In addition, as illustrated by the case of the rise in sea-levels of Pacific island states, Chih-Chieh Chou stresses the importance of scientific and political consensus in achieving a broader understanding of human security issues.

In the context of ASEAN states, the two volumes, proceeding from different perspectives, succeed in promoting debates on non-traditional security issues, and bridging the gap between theoretical research and policy practice on human security and energy security. However, if the two volumes take the nexuses between human security and energy security into account, they would be more inclusive as these cannot and should not be separated into distinct concerns.

In my view, the two volumes leave three essential intersections undiscussed. The first is low-intensity conflicts. Energy security in some ASEAN states has been threatened by low-intensity conflicts for quite some time. For example, in Northern Myanmar, the armed conflicts between ethnic-based militias and governmental armed forces have affected the energy infrastructures in Myanmar and the neighboring states (especially China). Secondly, piracy in the Malacca Straits, which is a critical non-traditional security threat to East Asian states. The approaches developed in both volumes (e.g. subsidies and market governance) have not comprehensively addressed the negative impacts of piracy as it plays out in the straits. Finally, there are still many tensions and conflicts over resources and territories in South China Seas. East Asian states’ efforts in maintaining their non-traditional security (e.g. energy security) have heightened tensions in South China Seas, which not only involve energy security of neighboring countries, but also affect fishermen’s personal security. It is worth noting that tensions are not limited to those between some ASEAN states and China, but also occur among ASEAN states: these are disputes over the international jurisdiction of the South China Seas which involve discussions over ownership among ASEAN states.

In short, both volumes do promote discussions on Asian non-traditional security. They are notable contributions to both energy security studies and human security research, and deserve a wide readership among academics, scholars, and students who are interested in international relations, human rights, and Asia studies.

Kai Chen 陈锴
College of Public Administration, Zhejiang University


Gerstl, Alfred. 2010. The Depolicitization and ‘ASEANization’ of Counter-Terrorism Policies in South-East Asia: A Weak Trigger for a Fragmented Version of Human Security. Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies (ASEAS) 3 (1): 48–75.