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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,

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.


Vol. 3, No. 1, Siti Nuraishah Ahmad

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Malaysia as the Archetypal Garden in the British Creative Imagination

Siti Nuraishah Ahmad*

* Department of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Malaysia, Jalan Gombak Kuala Lumpur 53100, Malaysia

e-mail: snuraishah[at]

European travel writing (1512–1984) represented Malaysia as a tropical Garden of Eden, an image that has also percolated into literary texts concerning the region. This article examines spatial images in British fiction through the framework of archetypal literary criticism and theories of colonial representations of space to reveal the worlding (Spivak 1999) of Malaysia as a garden. In order to ascertain the ways in which the garden archetype has been deployed by the British creative imagination in the past and the present, novels from the colonial and postcolonial periods have been selected for analysis. Three dominant incarnations of the garden archetype can be discerned throughout novels by Joseph Conrad, W. Somerset Maugham, and Anthony Burgess: the lush, Romantic garden; the restrained, ­disciplined Victorian garden; and the barren, dried-up garden. The postcolonial British novel, for its part, deploys images of the barren garden revived (William Riviere’s Borneo Fire) as well as a return to the earlier Conradian image of the Romantic locus amoenus (Frederick Lees’ Fool’s Gold). This article concludes that the representation of Malaysia in various guises of the archetypal garden negates the indigenous worldview concerning space and produces instead “knowledge” about Malaysia rooted in the white man’s perspective.

Keywords: archetypes, British fiction, colonialism and space, Malaysia, representation


Since the arrival of Portuguese traders in Malacca in the sixteenth century, Malaysia1) has been represented in European travel writing and fiction as an archetypal garden. This is also the case in English literature, for example, the novels and short stories by Joseph Conrad, William Somerset Maugham, and Anthony Burgess; in addition, these works and their authors have been regarded as canonical where Malaysia is concerned. Therefore, this paper reads images of Malaysia in British fiction through the framework of archetypal literary criticism and theories of colonial representations of space to reveal the production of a specific body of knowledge about Malaysia revolving around the garden archetype. The focus of this article is on representations of British Malaya: the parts of the Malay Peninsula under British administration (1786–1957); Singapore (1819–1957); British Borneo, that is, the parts of Borneo ruled by the Brookes (1842–1946) and the British North Borneo Company (1882–1946); and Malaysia, that is, the federation of 13 states in the Malay Peninsula, Sabah, and Sarawak (1963–present). It highlights the importance of representations of space in shaping the British creative imagination on Malaysia, where previous research focused on representations of its peoples and cultures. It also extends the discussion of literary works on Malaysia beyond that of the British writers who are more familiar to readers—Conrad, Maugham, and Burgess—to others such as Frederick Lees and William Riviere.

The archetype of the garden, suggesting “paradise; innocence; unspoiled beauty; fertility” (Guerin et al. 2005, 189) is an important and recurrent image in travel writing about Malaysia. Sixteenth-century Portuguese travel accounts portrayed the countryside of Malacca as a veritable Garden of Eden, with abundant waters and excellent soil from which the local inhabitants could easily pick their food. Besides edible plants, there were others that could be commercially exploited. Godinho de Eredia, for example, reported seeing various trees and shrubs that could produce “gums and oils that one could fill a ship’s hold with . . .” (de Eredia [1613] 1997, 22).

In eighteenth-century travel narratives, Malaysia is still portrayed as a garden. A Portuguese text on Johor by Joao de Vellez Guerreiro celebrates Johor’s climate of “perpetual Spring” and “the large and diverse growth of many trees” (de Vellez Guerreiro [1732] 1935, 119). Western fascination with the country intensified in the nineteenth century as the rise of imperialism and developments in science and technology during the Victorian Age in England brought British men and women to Malaya and Borneo to rule it and to study it. There were explorers, naturalists, colonial administrators, political agents, missionaries, tourists, and travelers. A variety of texts were written, from many perspectives, to portray the Malay Peninsula and North and West Borneo, and the archetypal garden consistently appeared in such writings. Isabella Bird, the famous Victorian travel writer, spoke of the Malayan jungle as “a huge spread of foliage, bearing glorious yellow blossoms of delicious fragrance” (Bird [1883] 2006, 135), while in Borneo James Brooke described his first impressions of being in the rainforest, using distinctly Edenic imagery, as “nature fresh from the bosom of creation . . . stamped with the same impress she originally bore!” (Keppel 1846, 19). A variation on the garden archetype found in Hugh Clifford’s stories about Malaya (1897) is the “enchanted land,” where sensual delights and experiences await the European who dares to venture here.

A century later, V. S. Naipaul, a British writer of Trinidadian origin, arrived in Malaysia to record his impressions of the country. Employing the archetype of the garden in his account of the lush vegetation and what to him was the extreme fertility of Malaysian soil, he wrote:

The land was rich: rain and heat and rivers, fertile soil bursting with life, with bananas, rice fields, palm trees, rubber. Grass grew below the rubber trees; and cattle, which would have suffered in the sun, found pasture in the shade. The heat which in the town was hard to bear was in the countryside more pleasant. Water and sun encouraged vegetation that sheltered and cooled; and green quickly covered the red earth where it had been exposed by road works or building developments. (Naipaul 1982, 254)

The intertextuality between travel literature and works of fiction concerning Malaysia presents us with the possibility of the garden image spilling into fiction, perpetuating the image across genres and generations of writers who have traveled in Malaysia. Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), William Somerset Maugham (1874–1965), and Anthony Burgess (1917–93) are writers whose novels and short stories have made the country familiar to generations of English-literature readers.2) Their works roughly represent the early colonial period (Conrad), the high colonial period (Maugham), and the late colonial period (Burgess). As for the postcolonial period, William Riviere (1954–) and Frederick Lees (1924–) have added to the corpus of fiction about Malaysia, tackling themes and events from the Malayan Emergency (1948–60) to the deforestation of East Malaysia.3) This paper examines the role of the garden archetype in representing Malaysia in the following literary texts: Joseph Conrad’s An Outcast of the Island (1896); William Somerset Maugham’s stories in the collection titled The Casuarina Tree (1926); Anthony Burgess’ Time for a Tiger (1956); William Riviere’s Borneo Fire (1995); and Frederick Lees’ Fool’s Gold: The Malayan Life of Ferdach O’Haney (2004).

Archetypal literary criticism involves a close study of images and motifs, in other words, archetypes, defined by Carl Jung as “mental forms . . . which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind” (Jung 1978, 57). The garden is one such archetype, and it has appeared in various incarnations in the mythologies and ­literatures of the world. In this paper, the garden archetype in colonial and postcolonial British fiction are investigated in order to reveal the British project of “worlding” Malaysia (Spivak 1999)—representing and producing specific images of Malaysia through the imposition of Western notions of truth, knowledge, and the importance of writing.

The research questions that this paper will answer are as follows: What are the patterns in which the garden archetype is used to represent Malaysia in British fiction? In what ways do the patterns of images in which the garden archetype appears reveal specific archetypes about Malaysia? In what instances are the garden archetype used and repeated throughout the literary texts analyzed? What are the combinations of the garden archetype, colonial rhetoric, and/or strategies of worlding with which the British creative imagination represents Malaysia?

Previous literature on European colonialism and its representation of colonized peoples, cultures, and spaces in Malaysia and other regions are reviewed in the following section in order to establish the position of this paper in the field. It is followed by a discussion of the theoretical framework used to examine the garden archetype in the works of Conrad, Maugham, Burgess, Riviere, and Lees. Jungian archetypal criticism, theories of colonial rhetoric by David Spurr (1993) and Pramod Nayar (2008), as well as Gayatri Spivak’s (1999) concept of worlding provide this study with the theoretical tools to answer the research questions. Also included is a section reviewing the meanings and significance of the garden motif in the Malay world and in the West in order to provide a background to the analysis of the garden archetype in British fiction.

The analysis divides the literary texts into those from the colonial period and those from the postcolonial period so as to trace the patterns of the garden archetype used to represent Malaysia over a period of almost 110 years.4) The conclusion summarizes the patterns in which the garden archetype is used by British writers to represent Malaysia and the notions about Malaysia that is produced as a result.

The use of the term “Malaysia” to refer to the geographical and sociopolitical areas covered in the works of the abovementioned British authors might to some be ambiguous. Joseph Conrad wrote his fiction in a time when the British were consolidating their power in not just the area included in today’s Federation of Malaysia, but also in Java, Sumatra, and Northeast Borneo (Hampson 2000, 15). Similarly, the settings for William Somerset Maugham and Anthony Burgess’ fiction are Sarawak and Perak respectively, before the creation of the Federation of Malaysia. However, the term “Malaysia” is used in this paper as a collective term for the various geopolitical incarnations encompassing the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Borneo, and Sumatra from early British involvement at the end of the eighteenth century to the present, and is not restricted to the Federation of Malaysia that came into existence in 1963. This definition follows that of an early nineteenth-century coinage of the name “Malaysia” to refer to “a geographic-zoological-botanical region comprising the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Borneo, Sumatra, and Java” (ibid., 14).

Literature Review

This paper aims to shed more light on the ways in which Malaysia is imagined by the West, a subject that has been addressed by several literary scholars but which is still relatively unexplored. For example, the portrayal of Malaysian peoples and cultures in fiction by Joseph Conrad is the topic of numerous studies such as van Marle (1985), Lester (1988), Hampson (2000), and Masood (2007). The representation of Malaysians in William Somerset Maugham’s short stories is the subject of Holden’s 1996 study, but few have actually addressed his and Conrad’s representations of the Malaysian geophysical environment. Studies by GoGwilt (1995), Zawiah (2003), and Yeow (2009) are the few that focus on the representation of Malaysia instead of Malaysians and their culture. Fewer still examine fiction by postcolonial British writers; Subramaniam and Pillai’s 2009 article on Henri Fauconnier’s The Soul of Malaya (1931) and William ­Riviere’s Borneo Fire (1995) are the exceptions. Meanwhile, Said’s (1978) framework of Orientalism remains the main theoretical approach in analyses of representations of Malaysia, for instance, in Hawthorn’s 2006 chapter on Conrad’s African and Malaysian fiction. This study proposes instead that archetypal criticism and worlding be deployed in readings of images of Malaysia in order to facilitate a careful study of how an archetypal image like the garden participates in the production of knowledge about Malaysia according to the British, from colonial to postcolonial times.

There are signs of colonial ideology at work in the seemingly innocent descriptions of landscape in fiction, which Zawiah Yahya examines in Resisting Colonialist Discourse (2003). This book is a vigorous critique against the pitfalls of reading English literature without equipping oneself with an awareness of the colonial discourse at work within such “canonical” texts. One of the ways in which colonial discourse infiltrates English literature is through descriptions of space, otherwise known as setting. Zawiah critically engages with novels by Joseph Conrad and Anthony Burgess (those with a Malaysian setting) to show how “novels claim space and convert it into a system of meaning—just as colonies claim territories and turn them into systems of meaning” (ibid., 106). Descriptions of space function as strategies of control through the author’s “claim to knowledge” (ibid., 168) about the lay of the land.

The importance of Zawiah’s work to the present study lies in its exhortation to postcolonial scholars and readers to be aware of how colonial ideology “interpellates” them (Althusser 2000) through literature. It also introduced the need to examine critically the ways in which Malaysia has been represented by the British during the colonial period. It applied various literary theories to provide an “against-the-grain” reading of Conrad and Burgess, including Marxist literary criticism, formalist criticism, and post-structuralism. This paper aims to extend the project of re-reading English literature initiated by Zawiah, looking specifically at representations of the Malaysian geophysical environment, applying Jung’s theory of archetypes, contemporary postcolonial theories on colonial rhetoric, and representation through worlding.

The importance of spatial images to colonialism was discussed in detail by Mary Louise Pratt in her study Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (1992). It draws attention to the ways in which narrative and rhetorical strategies were employed by European travelers to portray South America and Africa as wild, sublime, or idealistic. Pratt indirectly invokes archetypes in her observation that the European naturalist-traveler often portrays himself in the narrative as “Adam alone in his garden . . . [i]n the writing, people seem to disappear from the garden as Adam approaches . . .” (ibid., 51–52). This suggests that the Garden of Eden is a significant image in the representation of colonized land by Europeans, while the motif of the lone white man writing about his surroundings evokes worlding, an act in which the European imposes himself onto the space he colonizes via the act of writing (Spivak 1999, 209).

This paper will also identify the narrative and rhetorical strategies that help establish the garden archetype in British fiction about Malaysia. One of them is the Romantic rhetoric on space, which Pratt highlights in her analysis of nineteenth-century European travel writing.

Other studies on spatial representations of land in colonial narratives have also taken a similar path as Pratt’s by highlighting the various types of colonial rhetoric on landscape images. David Spurr (1993), for instance, identified several modes, among which the following are relevant to landscape and space:

Surveillance, or the establishment of power relations between colonizer and colonized and colonized space through the gaze

Appropriation, or the seizure of land using the justification of “inheritance” and on moral grounds

Debasement, or the representation of colonial space as the site of disease and filth

Eroticization, or the depiction of colonizer and colonized land in gendered and sexual terms

Negation, or the rhetorical strategy “by which Western writing conceives of the Other [space] as absence, emptiness, nothingness, or death” (ibid., 92); and

Insubstantialization, or the rendering of the exotic, non-European space as lacking reality, stability, and coherence

Spurr’s categorization of rhetorical modes enables a systematic approach to reading behind the seemingly neutral images of landscape described by colonial writers. It is particularly useful to examine the rhetorical processes with which British fiction worlds Malaysia, as the garden archetype can be established through eroticization, debasement, and negation. There are at present no previous studies which have taken this approach towards the representation of Malaysia in British literature, and so this study aims to fill that gap.

However, more recent studies theorizing the representation of space via colonial and/or imperial discourse reflect a growing awareness of the significance of spatial imagery within the field of postcolonial studies. They highlight not just the role of literary texts, but also that of travel writing, in the creation of specific images of colonies in Africa, America, Asia, and Australia. They usually combine several theoretical perspectives in addition to postcolonial criticism, thus providing new and interesting readings of colonial spatial representations. One such work is Pramod K. Nayar’s English Writing and India, 1600–1920: Colonizing Aesthetics (2008). It explores the nature of colonial rhetoric on landscape in more detail, using colonial writing on India from the seventeenth century onwards as case studies. Nayar writes exclusively on British colonial representations of Indian space, which echoes this paper’s project of looking at British colonial representations of Malaysian space as distinct from other colonial powers such as the French and the Dutch. Like Spurr (1993), his interest is in how rhetorical strategies have been employed by the British to understand and represent an unfamiliar space:

. . . particular aesthetic modes trope[d] India in specific ways in order to demonstrate English control and power over it. The various tropings of India were transformative in nature, proposing particular roles for the English in India. In the early, mercantile age it helps English rhetorical or narrative control over Indian variety and vastness. The later aesthetics of the picturesque and the sublime map a colonial shift from a primitive, poor and desolate India to an altered and “improved,” “Englished” one. (Nayar 2008, 3)

Nayar’s work is useful to this research since it gives priority to spatial representations of the colony rather than to the colonized peoples and their culture. His study follows up on the work done on textual strategies of colonial discourse on space by Mary Louise Pratt (1992) and David Spurr (1993). This paper applies some of Nayar’s concepts in the analysis of the garden archetype (see “Methodology”). However, while Nayar describes the images of India in colonial writing from an aesthetic perspective, he does not treat them as instances of archetypes in a British collective unconscious5) on India. It is the archetypal perspective on space that this article foregrounds.

In light of the objectives of this paper, Sharae Deckard’s Paradise Discourse, Imperialism, and Globalization: Exploiting Eden (2010) adds support to the proposal that the British worlded Malaysia using the garden archetype. Applying cultural materialist, ecocritical, and postcolonial perspectives, Deckard compares the varieties of paradise discourse in which Europeans have represented colonies lying in tropical regions: ­Mexico, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and Sri Lanka. Her discussion of the discourse on paradise is particularly relevant because of Western literary and mass media representations of Malaysia as a tropical paradise or tropical Eden. This study focuses on the production of knowledge by the British through an image related to paradise discourse—the garden; however, it does not cover as broad a geographical area as Deckard’s work nor the economic ramifications of the garden archetype in contemporary times, both of which require a separate research.

As for studies on fictional portrayals of Malaysia, Norman Sherry’s Conrad’s Eastern World (1971) is an early attempt at mapping out Conrad’s Malay world. Sherry sets out to reveal the real-life inspiration of the fictional Patusan and Sambir that appeared in novels such as Almayer’s Folly and Lord Jim (identified as an amalgamation of Berau, on the northeast coast of Borneo, and Sumatra). On the whole, Sherry’s book would be of interest to those who would like to know the “autobiography” of Conrad’s characters and settings, so to speak. However, aside from providing definite compass points with which a reader of Conrad’s stories can navigate him/herself with, it is not a critical piece on spatial representations of Malaysia.

Recent studies have sought to address the gaps in Sherry’s work. For example, Jeremy Hawthorn (2006) provides a reading of the sexual politics between male colonizer and female colonized enacted in the tropical jungles of Borneo, the setting of Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands (1896). According to Hawthorn, the landscape—the fecund, “writhing” jungle—becomes a metaphor for the danger that the female colonized subject poses to the male European: “The desirable woman in Conrad’s fiction, often displaced into mud and creepers, tempts, undermines, corrupts, and finally kills and consumes the vulnerable man” (Hawthorn 2006, 232). This projection of the Oriental femme fatale onto the tropical landscape invokes the enchanted garden (Frye 1990, 149) that seduces and traps the gullible hero. In this way, Malaysia becomes part of the colonial “porno-tropics”—a “libidinously eroticized” zone on which Europe projects “its forbidden sexual desires and fears” (McClintock 1995, 22).

Hawthorn’s arguments revolve around the concept of binary opposites discussed by Edward Said in Orientalism (1978). The opposing pair of Oriental woman-as-predator and European man-as-prey in Conrad’s African and Malaysian fiction reveals the racism in Conrad’s works. Rather than seeing such images as binary opposites, this paper proposes instead that they be viewed as archetypes that help establish a certain image of Malaysia. The Oriental femme fatale that Hawthorn notes in An Outcast of the Islands, for instance, can be read as the negative anima6) (von Franz 1978, 187) that could serve as a means of Othering. In the context of colonial representations of space, archetypal figures also contribute to the representation of Malaysia as an archetypal garden, as will be discussed in the analysis.

Christopher GoGwilt (1995) and Agnes Yeow (2009) have also given more attention to the significance of landscape in Conrad’s Malaysian fiction. Both argue that Conrad’s depiction of space and landscape is crucial to understand how notions of the “West” and the “East” in the age of imperialism were constructed. The landscape of the Malay Archipelago is subjected to an eroticizing treatment in Conrad’s fiction, says GoGwilt, in order to naturalize the irrevocable difference between the “East” and the “West” ­(GoGwilt 1995, 50). However, he adds, Conrad’s exotic landscape more often than not reveals the problems behind this “natural” division of “East” and “West.”

The representation of Malaysia in English literature also contributes to how the “East” is constructed as a region that defies definition and comprehension. Agnes Yeow (2009) identifies the imagery of the sea in Conrad’s Malaysian novels as one of the means by which this mysterious “East” is fashioned. The following extract from Yeow’s study ties in with Spurr’s argument that colonial space is subjected to the rhetoric of insubstantialization (Spurr 1993, 142), and suggests that spatial imagery helps support a notion of the disorienting Orient:

In Conrad’s East, the sea is a vast and potentially distorting mirror where refracted and fragmented images abound and where reflections rather than the thing itself are emphasized. The imagery Conrad employs again and again in describing his fictional land and seascape evokes a nebulous and hazy setting where things are not quite what they appear to be. (Yeow 2009, 162)

GoGwilt and Yeow’s studies show that images of the Malaysian landscape do inform how the “East” appears to Western minds and its transmission to Western readers through the novel and short stories. This paper also adds to the available literature an examination of images of Malaysia in works by colonial and postcolonial British writers besides Joseph Conrad, who has so far received the most attention from scholars.

To conclude, this paper emphasizes the significance of representations of space in the production of knowledge about Malaysia by the British in their literary texts. The archetypal framework of criticism has not been applied before to studies on images of Malaysia produced by British writers; this approach is relevant considering the recurrence of the garden archetype in travel writing. The works of lesser-known British writers will also be examined, since scholarly focus on Joseph Conrad tends to overshadow his contemporaries and those who wrote in the postcolonial period.


Images of Malaysia in the novels and short stories chosen for this study are analyzed through the frameworks of archetypal literary criticism and colonial rhetoric to reveal the worlding of Malaysia via the garden archetype. Gayatri Spivak defines worlding as the process of “Europe . . . consolidat[ing] itself as sovereign subject by defining its colonies as ‘Others’” (Spivak 1999, 199). Worlding and writing are related in that writings about colonized regions produce a fictional version of the space represented (ibid., 203). Using the example of India’s representation by British colonizers, Spivak examines the production of knowledge about India in archival material about the Rani of Sirmur. She proposes that worlding involves several strategies: the investment of authority in the white, male subject and author as the “custodian of truth” (ibid., 205), the rewriting of colonized space as “empty” in order to enable the colonizer’s truth and ideology to prevail (Spivak 1985; 1999), and the redefinition or at times, rejection, of pre-existing native information and sources (Spivak 1999, 228).

Worlding theorizes representation as a textual act, focusing on the role of writing and textual material—specifically, historical and archival texts—in producing knowledge of colonized peoples and regions. Archival material is dissected for its gaps, silences, and slippages in order to highlight the discourse of history as an agent of worlding. It is relevant to this study because it explains how representation works through the written word. The selected novels and short stories are the textual materials that produce a certain body of knowledge or fiction of Malaysia, while at the same time erasing the meanings already given to Malaysia by its indigenous inhabitants. This paper will emphasize the role of the garden archetype as an additional dimension in worlding Malaysia.

First, the portrayal of Malaysia in images invoking the garden archetype will be examined through the frameworks of colonial rhetoric on space outlined by Spurr (1993) and Nayar (2008). Spurr (1993) proposed the following rhetorical tropes that can be applied to readings of spatial representations: surveillance, appropriation, eroticization, debasement, negation, and insubstantialization. Nayar (2008) suggested these tropes: the social monstrous, the imperial sublime, the missionary picturesque, and the sporting luxuriant. For this study, a slight modification has been made to the last two of Nayar’s rhetorical tropes in order to widen their scope—the picturesque and the luxuriant.7)

Next, the role of the garden archetype in representing Malaysia is examined. Worlding, as explained earlier, is a process of representation (or misrepresentation) that purports to portray reality according to the colonizer’s own ideology and vision of truth (Spivak 1999). Similarly, the representation of Malaysia by the British through variations on the garden archetype establishes a certain view of Malaysia that is filtered through colonial ideology. Therefore, the images in the selected literary texts will be examined to determine if the following acts of worlding occur:

• The representation of Malaysia through archetypal imagery (that is, the garden) inflected with colonial rhetoric

• The representation of Malaysia as “empty” of all except the white man/woman

• The representation of the white man/woman, whether the author or his characters, as “the sovereign subject of information” (ibid., 217) vis-à-vis the native subject

Before moving on to the analysis of images, this paper briefly discusses what the garden symbolizes in the Malay world, in order to outline what preceded and then coexisted with images of Malaysia in Western narratives. The following is a brief summary of the garden according to the Malays as it appears in their language and literature, followed by an overview of Western notions of the garden archetype.

The Garden in the Malay World and in the West

The garden is a significant icon that has appeared in the religious and secular literatures of the Malays for centuries. A pre-Islamic notion of a paradise-garden for those who are righteous and obey God is evident in the inclusion of the Sanskrit word sorga meaning “heaven” or “paradise” in the Malay language (Malay: syurga). As for secular literature, some Malay hikayat8) feature garden-like magical kingdoms known by the generic term kayangan. Virginia Hooker cites an example of such a garden of pleasure, called taman ghairat in Hikayat Indraputra, “encircled with a trellised fence of copper with golden gates, trees fashioned from precious gems, bathing places, golden peacocks, verse-­singing birds, performing fish, pavilions carpeted with sumptuous rugs, golden thrones and nymphs providing food and drinks” (Hooker 2009, 341).

Images of the garden in the Qur’an are also integral to an understanding of the Malay worldview of this space prior to the coming of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Being the first source of reference for Muslim Malays and influential in their literature, the Qur’an contains many descriptions of a garden-like paradise with “rivers flowing beneath.” Below are some examples of Qur’anic verses about paradise:

Would any of you like to have a garden of palm trees and vines, with rivers flowing underneath it, with all kinds of fruit for him therein. (Al-Qur’an 2: 266)

Whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow, where such will dwell forever. (Al-Qur’an 4: 13)

And We have placed therein gardens of the date-palm and grapes, and We have caused springs of water to gush forth therein. (Al-Qur’an 36: 34)9)

The Islamic paradise is a garden for the righteous who obeyed Allah and His prophet, where pleasure is a reward for faith and good conduct.10) This is subsequently incor­porated into Malay literary texts to reinforce the value of piety and education. In her article, Virginia Hooker (2009) traces the uses of the Islamic garden image in the ­Indonesian parts of the Malay world as a literary metaphor denoting good conduct, the ­exemplary behavior of kings, and as a model for religious education. Nuruddin al-Raniri’s Bustan al-Salatin [The Garden of Sultans], commissioned in 1638, is an Islamic manual of good conduct and administration for the Sultans of Aceh (ibid., 344) that uses the title bustan (Arabic: garden; Persian: garden, orchard) as a literary metaphor; it also includes a description of the Aceh royal garden, “a garden of delight which reminds Muslims of the wondrous nature of God the Creator and includes a mosque where ­religious duties may be performed” (ibid., 345). Raja Ali Haji’s Bustan al-Katibin (c. 1840s), a text prescribing good and pious conduct among Malay rulers and administrators employs the same ­metaphor while in present-day Indonesia, the word taman (Malay: garden) has been incorporated in an Islamic education program for primary schoolchildren (ibid., 351).

In short, the garden carries a positive resonance in the Malay world, associated with eternal bliss, reward for piety, and superior moral conduct. This percolates into the Malays’ living spaces as well. In the sixteenth century, Duarte Barbosa observed that the Malays of Malacca lived in “large houses outside the city with many orchards, gardens and tanks, where they lead a pleasant life” (Barbosa [1518] 1967, 176). Similarly, Frank Swettenham (1993) describes well-planned Malay kampong with fruit trees and decorative shrubs laid out like miniature gardens.

The Jungian archetypal framework lists a variety of garden images, showing the many different meanings and situations in which the archetype appears to the European collective unconscious. Northrop Frye outlines its various incarnations in Western litera­ture: (1) as the garden of paradise, it is the manifestation of human desires, expressed by shaping the vegetable world into gardens, parks, and farms; (2) in demonic imagery, the corresponding garden images are the “sinister enchanted garden like that of Circe . . . the tree of death, the tree of forbidden knowledge in Genesis, the barren fig-tree of the Gospels, and the cross” (Frye 1990, 149) as well as “the labyrinth or maze” (ibid., 150). These images portray a world “before the human imagination begins to work on it and before any image of human desire, such as the city or the garden, has been solidly established” (ibid., 147). The garden of the world of romance, or the “analogy of innocence” (ibid., 151), includes the Garden of Eden—Frye cites images from the Bible, Milton, and Dante—and the locus amoenus as examples. However, the garden is not as prominent in “high mimetic imagery” or the “analogy of nature and reason” (ibid., 153); it appears, for instance, as “formal gardens in close association with buildings” (ibid.) such as palaces, houses, and cities. Finally, in “low mimetic imagery” or the “analogy of experience” (ibid., 154), the garden is associated with human toil and labor—indicative of the common experiences of mankind—and is represented in literature by farms.

The German Jungian critic Erich Neumann (1963) has written about the link between the garden, fertility rituals, and female deities in many cultures in the world, indicating the feminine aspect that this archetype can take. In her dissertation on the symbolism of the garden in ancient texts, the Bible, and apocalyptic literature, Susan Lau outlines its importance as a symbol of fertility, life, and as a means of “reveal[ing] the transcendent or the sacred in and to the profane world” (Lau 1981, 326). Elsewhere, Christopher McIntosh (2005), taking a leaf out of the Jungian approach, elaborates on the multifarious meanings of the garden archetype in Europe: as a symbol of paradise and as human interpretations of the seasonal cycle and spiritual journeys.

The garden archetype also appears in British fiction about Malaysia throughout the colonial and postcolonial periods. Joseph Conrad’s fiction, here represented by his 1896 novel An Outcast of the Islands, inaugurates the tradition of portraying Borneo bearing the influence of the Romantic literary tradition, with its emphasis on the sublime. He is followed by William Somerset Maugham (1926), in whose short stories the garden archetype takes on the Victorian virtues of order and discipline in an attempt to control the destructive instincts of white men and women marooned in the tropics. Anthony Burgess’ Malaya in Time for a Tiger (1956) then is represented as the barren, dried-up garden, devoid of fertility and beauty, as if the death of Great Britain’s empire in the region also sounds the death knell for civilization as the West knows it.

The postcolonial period sees a waning interest in Malaysia in the British literary world. Few British writers have emerged to rival Conrad, Maugham, and Burgess, and the task of writing about Malaysia seems to have fallen onto the shoulders of young Malaysians based in Europe such as Preeta Samarasan and Tash Aw. The chosen texts represent some of the British fiction on Malaysia available today: Borneo Fire (1995) by William Riviere is an “ecothriller” (Kerridge 2000, 245) about the devastation of ­Sarawak’s rainforests by logging and forest fires; while Fool’s Gold (2004) is written by Frederick Lees, a former officer in the colonial British administration of Malaya whose long experience during the Emergency (1948–60) is reflected in the novel. In Borneo Fire, the garden archetype is invoked in visions of a lost Eden that needs to be recovered, while in Fool’s Gold, we see a return to the Romantic vision of nature first employed by Conrad.

The Garden Archetype in Colonial British Fiction

Lust/Lost in the Garden of Eden: The Romantic Garden of Joseph Conrad’s “An Outcast of the Islands”

Joseph Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands ([1896] 2002, henceforth AO) has as its subject a lonely exile meeting and falling for a beautiful but dangerous woman in his wanderings. Peter Willems, a Dutch trader in Maluku, is condemned to wander, Odysseus-like, in Sambir, a remote trading outpost located on the northeastern coast of Borneo.11) Like Odysseus, he encounters in Sambir an enchantress figure, Aïssa, the daughter of the old Arab “pirate” chief Omar al Badavi. They begin a passionate but ultimately destructive affair, and used by the Malays as pawns in a political game pitting the European traders (consisting of Captain Tom Lingard and his protégés Almayer and Willems) against the Arab merchant Abdulla. Willems and Aïssa lose their trust for each other, exemplifying Kipling’s adage that East and West shall never meet.

In Borneo’s vastness and lush forests, Conrad found a geophysical setting that lent itself well to that aesthetic value definitive of the Romantic literary movement—the sublime. The sublime is defined by its original proponent, Edmund Burke, as “[w]hatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror” (2001). It is in addition an aesthetics that values emotive descriptions of nature, vastness, obscurity, darkness, and gloom. The rhetoric of the sublime had already appeared in English travel writing on India from around 1750 to 1820 (Nayar 2008). “The aesthetics of the sublime, circulating in England around the mid-eighteenth century,” according to Nayar, “suggested an aesthetic framework for the [English] travelers. An aesthetics of terror and vastness, darkness and obscurity, danger and challenge . . .” (ibid., 64–65). On the other side of the world, in South America, the German explorer, ­Alexander von Humboldt, similarly wrote of nature’s magnificence and sublimity in language reminiscent of the Romantic writers (Pratt 1992). This Romantic attitude also emphasized “drama, struggle and a certain sensuality” (ibid., 121) in any description of geospatial features.

While Willems and Aïssa’s first encounter in Sambir is depicted in the iconography of Adam and Eve’s first meeting in the Garden of Eden, this is done in the Romantic mold. Willems, lonely and bored in his new surroundings, decides to take a short trip up the river to explore the land for “some solitary spot where he could hide his discouragement and his weariness” (AO, 52). He sees no other human being on his early excursions. Sambir is all his own, making Willems the solitary Romantic hero, whom John F. Danby aptly describes as “a monolithic figure in an empty landscape . . . the metaphysical ‘I’ . . . which insulates us and yet is the very means whereby we have communion with things and with other I’s” (Danby 2000, 49). This also affirms the worlding of Borneo by the white colonizer, who inserts himself as an authority on the region by his claims to know Borneo in a landscape strangely empty of other human beings.

The scene of Willems’ first glimpse of Aïssa takes place in a garden-like space similar to the locus amoenus, a “space for sensual enjoyment” (McIntosh 2005, 51) familiar to medieval and Renaissance literature, thus briefly departing from the usual gloom of the Romantic atmosphere. Willems happens to discover a path beside the river one day that seems to be well-worn, and which he believes would lead him somewhere interesting. The path runs beside a brook; following it, he arrives in a clearing where “the confused tracery of sunlight fell through the branches and the foliage overhead, and lay on the stream that shone in an easy curve like a bright swordblade dropped amongst the long and feathery grass” (AO, 53). The brook is an important element in garden imagery for its evocation of fertility, while its sword-like “curve” foreshadows the sinuous form of the female figure; this and fertility are significant motifs in the locus amoenus. The sunlight and trees enhance the reader’s sense of touch (warmth on skin) and sight (the green leaves, the play of light and shadow), heightening the anticipation of the moment when man and woman would first lay eyes on each other.

Conrad projects onto Aïssa’s body the archetype of the garden, so that landscape and woman are fused together:

 She had taken up her burden already, with the intention of pursuing her path. His sudden movement arrested her at the first step, and again she stood straight, slim, expectant, with a readiness to dart away suggested in the light immobility of her pose. High above, the branches of the trees met in a transparent shimmer of waving green mist, through which the rain of yellow rays descended upon her head, streamed in glints down her black tresses, shone with the changing glow of liquid metal on her face, and lost itself in vanishing sparks in the somber depth of her eyes that, wide open now, with enlarged pupils, looked steadily at the man in her path. (AO, 54)

In projecting the elements of the landscape onto the physical body of the Other woman, Conrad is deploying the familiar colonial rhetoric of “eroticization,” which David Spurr defines as “a set of rhetorical instances—metaphors, seductive fantasies, expressions of sexual anxiety—in which the traditions of colonialist and phallocentric discourses coincide” (Spurr 1993, 170). However, it is equally important to acknowledge that imagery also plays a significant role in the eroticization of Borneo, and that this instance from Conrad’s novel illustrates how the garden archetype is used to mark the sexual attraction of both protagonists. The garden is an appropriately representative site and symbol for this to take place because of the sexual connotations of fertile earth, the sowing of seeds, springs and other water features, growth and maturity into flower and fruit. No less important is the “hortusconclusus,” the woman’s body as enclosed garden, “derived from the Song of Songs” (Frye 1990, 152) suggested by Conrad’s description of Aïssa.

Between the first meeting of Willems and Aïssa and the moment they became pawns in Babalatchi’s game pitting the Europeans against the Arabs, the image of the locus amoenus is predominant. This initial encounter, however, gradually descends from the heights of passion to destructive extremes of love and hate as Conrad draws out an important lesson from Willems and Aïssa’s doomed relationship: that the two worlds, the East and the West, cannot coexist in the same sphere. To be specific, the relationship is impossible because the female Other is a negative force whose influence is literally deadly to the white male colonizer, for “[T]he colonized territory represents not only sexual promise, but sexual danger as well” (Spurr 1993, 177). In this context, the garden takes on a more sinister image than seemed. The benign aspect is actually deceptive, illusory. In reality, Sambir is the magic garden of the enchantress (Frye 1990, 149), the domain of the beautiful but deadly female memorably described by the Romantics such as John Keats in his poem “La belle dame sans merci.” It is then that the aesthetics of the sublime asserts itself in Conrad’s images of Sambir.

The sensuality of Willems and Aïssa’s relationship, as mentioned earlier, owes itself to the repeated imagery of the locus amoenus. As their love deteriorates into obsession and the locus amoenus fades from view, it is replaced by the overtly sexual image of parasitic creepers clinging to trees (Hawthorn 2006, 232), invoking a sense of the sublime:

Slowly she raised her arms, put them over his shoulders, and clasping her hands at the back of his neck, swung off the full length of her arms. Her head fell back, the eyelids dropped slightly, and her thick hair hung straight down: a mass of ebony touched by the red gleams of the fire. He stood unyielding under the strain, as solid and motionless as one of the big trees of the surrounding forests; and his eyes looked at the modeling of her chin, at the outline of her neck, at the swelling lines of her bosom, with the famished and concentrated expression of a starving man looking at food. She drew herself up to him and rubbed her head against his cheek slowly and gently. He sighed. (AO, 109, italics my own)

The lush, forested landscape of Sambir now manifests the overwhelming desire that Willems and Aïssa have for each other. The image of Aïssa’s mass of hair and Willems standing still and strong like one of the trees in the forest recall a garden of sensual delights darker than the one implied by the locus amoenus. Here is the Romantic garden “powered by life forces many of which are invisible to the human eye; a nature that dwarfs humans, commands their being, arouses their passions, defies their powers of perception” (Pratt 1992, 120). It is a fitting geophysical setting for a love that has progressed into extremes of anger, jealousy, and revenge in the style of Wuthering Heights (1847).

The deployment of the garden archetype through allusions to the locus amoenus, the rhetoric of eroticization that accompanies it, and the rhetoric of the sublime in which the landscape is depicted, turns Borneo into a setting for the sexual adventures of the colonizer. The worlding in Conrad’s novel also relies on the colonizer representing himself as an authority in defining the landscape (Spivak 1999, 213), as seen in the depiction of Willems exploring the jungles of Sambir on his own.

None of the vestiges of this Romantic vision of the garden, however, remains in later British fiction with a Malaysian setting. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, it has given way to an orderly, disciplined garden after the Victorian worldview. The lushness, extreme emotions, passions, and invisible forces at work in Conrad’s portraits of Borneo are by then reined in by the carefully tended garden of the Victorian Age. Nonetheless, the darker forces of human instinct continue to threaten the boundaries of this garden, as Somerset Maugham’s stories amply illustrate.

Vice and Virtue in the Garden of Eden: British Borneo as the Disciplined Garden

British Malaya and Borneo at the time of Maugham’s sojourn there between 1921 and 1922 and a second trip in 1925–26 (Holden 1996, 95) was not far from the archetypal garden that European travel writers turned to time and again throughout five centuries when describing the region. Malaya in the 1920s enjoyed the economic prosperity that came with being the world’s top producer of rubber and tin. The landscape was dotted with orderly rubber plantations resembling English estates (ibid., 98) and presided over by verdant rainforests. Meanwhile, the British carved out retreats in the cool highlands where flowers and fruits familiar to them at home thrived in the lower temperatures (Aiken 1994, 3). The peace and stability of life for the British in Malaya and Borneo before the Great Depression in 1929 that caused tin and rubber prices to plunge added to the sense of living in an enclosed and orderly space—much like being in a beautiful garden protected from the elements by high walls.

One sees in Maugham’s images of orderly rows of rubber trees in well-tended plantations, along with picturesque riverside outposts, echoes of the garden archetype that dominates European discourse on colonized spaces in Latin America (Pratt 1992) and South Africa (Low 1996). The garden with its concomitant meanings—a space for peace and tranquility, and a mirror image of paradise (McIntosh 2005, 36)—is the perfect archetype for a region known to the British then for its excellent economic prospects and its natural beauty. And unlike Conrad’s sensual and overwhelming garden, Maugham’s is restrained and disciplined; it appears as the neat lawns and gardens of British homes and residencies, and as rubber plantations. These well-kept spaces are geophysical manifestations of the still-prevailing Victorian virtues of self-control and an irreproachable moral conduct.

However, in Maugham’s stories, this semblance of a disciplined garden is more often than not broken by shocking acts of sexual and social transgressions by the British themselves (Holden 1996, 114). Murder, adultery, and interracial liaisons between white men and native women undermine British efforts to create an Eden in the tropics. Such representations are instances of Maugham’s worlding of British Borneo by reinscribing it (Spivak 1999, 211) as a space for the re-enactment of the fall of mankind from a state of bliss into a sinful existence. This simultaneously requires the erasure of pre-existing notions of the garden among the native population of British Borneo. My reading of Maugham’s short fiction also proposes that the rhetoric of debasement (Spurr 1993, 76) operating in Maugham’s narratives contributes to the worlding of the land. This is apparent in images of Borneo’s geophysical features as contaminating white men and women with the deadly sins of wrath, lust, and envy, among others.

It is worth noting that Maugham’s preoccupation with exposing the hidden sins and vices of his countrymen in Borneo reflects the conflicted Victorian attitude towards morality—one revolving around simultaneous attraction/repulsion—as well as pre­vailing pseudoscientific attitudes towards race and physical environment (ibid., 80). In his ­stories about British Borneo, Maugham erases the positive meanings of the garden archetype already existing among the peoples of Borneo from the landscape. Instead, Borneo’s garden-like façade is represented as a cover for the undercurrents of evil and degeneration running below the surface. These dark urges seduce the white man or woman into committing acts that go against solid Victorian values of family and decency, so that adultery, murder, and treachery seem like everyday occurrences in Maugham’s Borneo.12)

Three stories in The Casuarina Tree ([1926] 2005) feature the fictional state of Sembulu—a thinly-disguised Sarawak—whose delightful rural landscape remind each protagonist of the Garden of Eden. Two of these stories will be discussed together because of the similarities in plot and characters. In “Before the Party” and “The Force of Circumstance,” two British women travel to Sembulu for the first time as brides of colonial officers stationed there. After a short period of domestic bliss, both women discover their husbands’ dark secrets: one is an alcoholic while the other has had a liaison with a Malay woman prior to marriage.

Maugham’s representation of Borneo’s geospatial features in these two stories first foregrounds the positive garden archetype as paradise on earth as well as the bower suggestive of domestic harmony. The women are enchanted by their first sight of Sembulu. There are shades of Eden in the following excerpt from “Before the Party” (henceforth “BP”):

She [Millicent] thought of those first months of her married life. The Government launch took them to the mouth of the river and they spent the night at the bungalow which Harold said jokingly was their seaside residence. Next day they went up-stream in a prahu. From the novels she had read she expected the rivers of Borneo to be dark and strangely sinister, but the sky was blue, dappled with little white clouds, and the green of the mangroves and the nipas, washed by the flowing water, glistened in the sun. On each side stretched the pathless jungle, and in the distance, silhouetted against the sky, was the rugged outline of a mountain. The air in the early morning was fresh and buoyant. She seemed to enter upon a friendly, fertile land, and she had a sense of spacious freedom. They watched the banks for monkeys sitting on the branches of the tangled trees and once Harold pointed out something that looked like a log and said it was a crocodile. (“BP,” 31)

Millicent’s panoramic view (Pratt 1992) of Sembulu presents the reader with images invoking the garden—a lush landscape fed by a river, exotic wildlife, and clear blue skies. Interestingly, she feels “a sense of spacious freedom” in Sembulu. This hints at the restrictions that she faced as a woman in Britain, but also establishes her as a figure of authority who assumes the right of defining Borneo for others through her surveillance of its space. Through the power of the written word, Maugham consolidates his voice (via the figure of the white woman) as the authority on colonized space (Spivak 1999, 234).

Similarly, Doris, the protagonist in “The Force of Circumstance” (henceforth “FC”) is ecstatic at the delightful sights that greet her upon her arrival in Sembulu. Once again, the land appeared “friendly rather than awe-inspiring” (“FC,” 159). Doris’ imagination is free to roam the open vistas like Adam and Eve in their garden: “[s]he had no sense of confinement nor of gloom, but rather of openness and wide spaces where the exultant fancy could wander with delight” (“FC,” 159). The abundant greenery and wildlife, coupled with obedient natives waiting to ferry her to her new home, are all reminiscent of the Edenic idyll where the concepts of work and labor do not exist.

While the garden that is Sembulu offers the women freedom from the restrictions of the motherland, other “freedoms” that would contaminate solid Victorian values of family and decency are lurking underneath the surface. At this point in both stories, Sembulu’s potential for corruption is still carefully concealed from view. Only the cunning crocodile that, Serpent-like,13) appeared to Millicent’s untrained eyes as a log, hints at the illusory quality of the images that she is enjoying and her husband’s moral downfall.

According to David Spurr (1993, 80–81), one of the manifestations of the rhetoric of debasement in colonial discourse is the transposing of individual instances of abjection among the colonized onto the population as well as onto geophysical space. Debasement lies behind the pseudoscientific belief in the nineteenth century that the climate of Africa or Asia can cause the European to lose his/her self-control and judgment. The rhetoric of debasement “invokes an ancient repertoire of images denoting evil and foreboding apocalyptic destruction” such as “[d]ark, enclosed spaces, infestation, contamination, sexual and moral degradation” (ibid., 90). That geophysical space can also be contaminated by individual sin, filth, and degradation of character is evident in the two women’s husbands, whose inability to rein in their baser instincts occurs in an environment that “encourages” sinful behavior. One of Borneo’s seemingly corrupting influences that captured Maugham’s imagination was the practice among colonial officers in Sarawak of taking local women as mistresses. In view of the very few white women in Sarawak at that time, this was deemed a necessary measure until the officers eventually found suitable British or white women to marry. The practice raised the specter of miscegenation and was particularly abhorred by British women (Brooke 1970, 81).14) It is a perfect example of how the European’s fear of contamination operates on several levels, “social and psychological as well as biological” (Spurr 1993, 87). The women’s discovery of their husbands’ transgressions raises the fear of social, psychological, and biological pollution. However, neither are white women spared the degeneration of character that comes with living in Borneo: in “Before the Party,” Millicent too falls victim to Sembulu’s environment by exemplifying the sin of wrath—she murders her husband in a fit of rage after discovering that he was still drinking despite her efforts to reform him.

In their domestic routine, both women attempt to re-create the state of bliss suggested by their first impressions of Sembulu: breakfast at dawn, work, lunch, afternoon siesta, evening drinks, reading the mail, golf or tennis, and meeting other expatriate British men and women at the club. After all, the garden is a pleasant space only if it is regularly tended to; the order and discipline the memsahibs imposed on their husbands’ lives as well as theirs are the means with which they attempted to maintain that ideal. The manicured lawns of British homes also reaffirm Victorian ideals of morality, which must be upheld at all costs. Despite this vigilance, the region’s propensity for bringing out the white man’s darkest instincts cannot be kept at bay. There is the oppressive heat and also the surrounding jungles that represent “the forces of dissolution that wait outside” (Holden 1996, 98), or perhaps more accurately, within the garden that Sarawak appears as to Maugham’s protagonists as well as to his readers. This archetype Maugham puts to full use in “The Outstation” (henceforth “TO”), where he addresses the rivalry between two colonial officers and its tragic consequences.

Mr. Warburton, the Resident of Sembulu, gets a new assistant, Allen Cooper. They are a mismatched pair: Warburton is a middle-class Eton man and Cooper, a “colonial” born in the Barbados and a foot soldier in the Boer War. They soon discover a mutual hatred for each other. Cooper’s blatant racism and superior attitude towards his Malay servants also gets on Warburton’s nerves, himself ever courteous and respectful (if also condescending) towards them. After a quarrel over Cooper’s abusive behavior towards Abas, Cooper’s house-boy, Warburton finds himself wishing for Cooper’s convenient death. He resolves to do nothing, waiting for the time when the opportunity would present itself. Warburton’s wish is finally granted when Abas kills Cooper after having been wrongfully dismissed from his job.

“The Outstation” is a classic parable of the sins of wrath, envy, and fratricide. Despite the seeming innocence and tranquility of Sembulu’s geophysical setting, a palpable sense of menace can be felt in the air. It is only too easy for Warburton to be seduced into ceding to his baser instincts in such an environment, Maugham says, for “[n]one knew better than Mr. Warburton how irritable the incessant heat could make a man and how difficult it was to keep one’s self-control after a sleepless night” (“TO,” 133). Initially, however, Maugham cultivates the positive meanings of the garden archetype—in the story it appears as an arbor for Warburton to rejuvenate his spirits in the contemplation of nature’s beauty—before swiftly unmasking the setting to reveal the evil that it conceals:

 He [Warburton] strolled down his garden. The Fort was built on the top of a little hill and the garden ran down to the river’s edge; on the bank was an arbour, and hither it was his habit to come after dinner to smoke a cheroot. And often from the river that flowed below him a voice was heard, the voice of some Malay too timorous to venture into the light of day, and a complaint or an accusation was softly wafted to his ears, a piece of information was whispered to him or a useful hint, which otherwise would never have come into his official ken. (“TO,” 111)

The riverside arbor first signals tranquility and acts as Warburton’s own secret space where his worldly cares can be temporarily forgotten. Yet here too, treacherous voices whisper into his ears, delivering secret information likely gained through underhanded means. The similarity between this image and that in the Old Testament of Eve’s temptation by the Devil disguised as a serpent, sibilating the secrets of the Tree of Knowledge into her ears, is part of the “ancient repertoire of images denoting evil” in colonial discourse (Spurr 1993, 90). It is as if, despite the control that the British attempted to impose on the tropical landscape through their visions of disciplined gardens, the “natural” propensity of the environment for encouraging vice and corruption in human beings keeps battering down the walls erected to keep them out.

Maugham’s representation of Borneo relies on pseudoscientific beliefs in the ability of foreign environments to pollute the inherent characteristics of white people, part of the colonial rhetoric of debasement (ibid.). The disciplined garden therefore reveals the extent of the colonizer’s fear of contamination by Malaysia’s geophysical environment. The archetype can also be read as the colonial writer’s imposition of his own ideology about the region, which readers are expected to accept as the truth (Spivak 1985, 254).

Maugham’s portraits of a tamed garden threatened by moral and social degeneration pave the way for the next incarnation of the garden archetype in colonial British fiction: the garden made barren by the demise of Western civilization from Malaya and Borneo after the Second World War. This was Burgess’ vision of the garden at the time of his service in Malaya in the late 1950s. If the Victorian garden of Maugham’s stories is blighted with hidden sins and corruption, for Burgess the disease is full-blown, showing itself in Malaya as instances of decay and filth everywhere evident in the landscape.

The Barren Garden of Muslim Malaya in Anthony Burgess’ “Time for a Tiger”

Conrad and Maugham’s archetypal representations of Malaya as the garden that leads to the downfall of positive European values set in motion a tradition for portraying the region as a fallen Eden in later British writers. One work that encapsulates this tradition at a later period of British colonial rule in Malaya is Anthony Burgess’ 1956 novel Time for a Tiger (henceforth TFT). Published on the cusp of Malaya’s independence from British rule (it would formally become independent in 1957), Burgess’ novel is a late colonial-era representative of British fiction concerning Malaya.

Conrad and Maugham’s use of the garden archetype represents Malaysia as an ­idyllic but corrupting space, achieved by invoking the imagery of Romanticism and ­Victorian notions of order. Burgess, on the other hand, invokes the barren garden to illustrate a cynicism towards Islam and its manifestations in Malay culture and attitudes. His worlding of Malaya involves the inversion of the garden’s symbolism in Islam and reinscribing over it a landscape marked by deformities and aberrations as well as by instances of filth and contamination. This echoes Conrad and Maugham’s treatments to a certain degree; it also reminds one of representations in European travel writing (for instance, de Vellez Guerreiro 1732; Bird 1883) that portray Malaysia in the context of a region whose landscape is literally tainted by the sins and false worship of the Muslims.15)

The significance of the garden archetype in Islam and to the Malays has been explained earlier. In Islam, the garden is significant as the form of Paradise in the Hereafter; see, for instance, the Qur’an (2: 266 and 4: 13). Burgess is familiar with Malays and Islam, having spent six years in Malaya (1954–60) as an officer in the colonial education service (Burgess 2000, vii). He studied Malay and the Jawi script (Habibah 1969, cited in Zawiah 2003, 163–164), and was attracted to Islam (Zawiah 2003, 175). Despite his obvious interest in Malay culture and Islam, his portraits of Malaya in Time for a Tiger are not very flattering. His images of Muslim Malaya are inscribed within a combination of various rhetorical tropes of colonial discourse on landscape—what Pramod Nayar (2008, 42) articulates as the rhetoric of the monstrous, and Spurr’s (1993, 76) theory of debasement. This effectively erases the connection between Malaya and the archetypal garden of Paradise, thus disavowing the positive impacts Islam has had on the region. Taken together, these images suggest a continuity in British writers’ negativity towards the Islamic heritage from the early days of their arrival to the formal end of their rule as implied in narratives on Malaysia’s physical landscape.

Kuala Hantu,16) the setting for Burgess’ narrative of British men and women in a rapidly decolonizing world, is central to the inversion of the garden archetype. In naming the town Kuala Hantu—meaning “the estuary of ghosts” in English—he already indicates the irreverence with which Malaya would be treated. The reader’s introduction to the town proceeds on the same note of derision:

. . . Soon the bilal [muezzin] could be heard, calling over the dark. The bilal, old and crotchety, had climbed the worm-gnawed minaret, had paused a while at the top, panting, and then intoned his first summons to prayer, the first waktu [prayer time] of the long indifferent day.
“La ilahailla’llah. La ilahailla’llah.”
 There is no God but God, but what did anybody care? Below and about him was dark. And the dark shrouded the bungalow of the District Officer, the two gaudy cinemas, the drinking-shops where the towkays snored on their pallets, the Istana [palace]—empty now, for the Sultan was in Bangkok with his latest Chinese dance-hostess, the Raja Perempuan [the Queen Consort] at Singapore for the race-meetings—and the dirty, drying river.
“La ilahailla’lah.” . . .
 God knoweth best. Allahualam. The nether fires awaited such, a hot house in naraka [hell]. Not for them the Garden with the river flowing beneath. He looked down on the blackness, trying to pierce it with his thin voice, seeking to irradiate with the Word the opacity of Kuala Hantu. (TFT, 11–12)

Burgess’ choice of the Islamic “Garden with the river flowing beneath,” in other words, Paradise, to contrast with this decadent town and its dissipated inhabitants, could only have been deliberate. Instead of a garden, we encounter Kuala Hantu at dawn enveloped by darkness. The dark is indicative of its mainly Muslim inhabitants’ spiritual corruption—drinking, womanizing, and gambling seem to be their favorite pastimes, from the Sultan down to the ordinary haji. The lifeless river that flows “beneath” Kuala Hantu is another geophysical marker of the town’s degeneration. Like Maugham’s Sembulu, Kuala Hantu’s Edenic façade is polluted with sin, although Burgess represents it in his novel as a physical manifestation of the Malays’ corrupted nature rather than of Malaya’s natural propensity to wear down European strength of character. Burgess’ Malaya is a garden in which the forces of life and beauty are gone and only a wasteland or abandoned garden can be discerned.

Other targets of Burgess’ derision for Muslim Malaya include the mosque, whose domes are “as bulbous as a clutch of onions” (TFT, 26), and “the great Hollywood vision of Baghdad, the vast vulgar floodlit Istana” (TFT, 97). These edifices, together with the town’s cinemas and drinking shops, emphasize the rhetoric of the monstrous (Nayar 2008, 42) at work in the garden archetype. The rhetoric of the monstrous operates by a displacement of individual instances of deformity onto the population and its social structures:

Troping the Indian body or the Indian religious procession as strange and/or deformed, the English traveler often folds or shades the monstrous into the grotesque. The latter [the grotesque] . . . located deformity as a social phenomenon. It orders Indian people, monarchy, bodies and events into the category of the unnatural to create . . . the “social monstrous.” The “monstrosities” perceived in Indian bodies . . . were portents of the imminent decay of Indian culture and civilization. (ibid.)

This is the same way in which the rhetoric of debasement (Spurr 1993, 90) operates in colonial discourse. These tropes are evident in Burgess’ description of the mosque’s deformed “bulbous” domes and the “vulgar” Arabian Nights fantasy that is the palace—a case of architecture signifying the land’s degeneration into the single-minded pursuit of sensual gratification. In this reading, geophysical markers act, like the human bodies of the land’s inhabitants, as indicators of its moral and civilizational decay. The mon­strosity of the mosque and palace thus contributes to the representation of Malaya as a perverse version of the Garden of Paradise.

Burgess had better knowledge of Islam and of the Malays than most of his fellow officers. In this he can be considered as part of the corps of “experts” on Malaya, including Thomas Stamford Raffles, Frank Swettenham, Hugh Clifford, and Richard Winstedt, who made the country and its people objects of their study. However, Burgess resorts to images already employed by his predecessors who themselves came to acquire that “knowledge” through the platform of colonialism, which necessitates a superior attitude towards native sources of information. Gayatri Spivak (1999, 228) noted this in her essay on worlding: one of its strategies is to deny authoritative status to pre-existing indigenous records of a country so that the right to speak and write about it lies solely in the hands of the colonizer. Burgess displays this in Time for a Tiger by appropriating the symbols familiar to Islam and the Malays only to negate them; this is made possible because the colonial writer has appropriated the right to write (and rewrite) Malaysia.

The garden archetype also figures significantly in Time for a Tiger’s cautionary message to white men and women of the very real danger of “going native” in Malaya. Both Victor Crabbe, the British schoolmaster posted in Kuala Hantu, and his wife Fenella are vulnerable to this danger; both are fascinated by Malaya, although to different degrees.17) Malaya’s threat is portrayed in several images overturning the positive meanings of the garden archetype in Malay culture. Its fertility is obscene rather than benign, and images of its excessive filth and monstrosity are everywhere apparent. The following description of the market is one such representation:

 The market was covered, dark and sweltering. Ibrahim had to mince delicately along foul aisles between rows of ramshackle stalls. Old women crouched over bags of Siamese rice, skeps of red and green peppers, purple eggplants, bristly rambutans, pineapples, durians. Flies buzzed over fish and among the meat bones, ravaged, that lay for the cats to gnaw. Here and there an old man slept on his stall with, for bedfellows, skinny dressed chickens or dried fish-strips. One ­vendor had pillowed his head on a washbowl full of bruised apples. Thin, pot-bellied Chinese blew ­cigarette-ash onto sheep carcases [sic] or tight white cabbages. The air was all smell—curry-stuff, durian, fish and flesh—and the noise was of hoicking and chaffering. Ibrahim loved the market. (TFT, 102)

At a glance, the portrayal of the market parallels the catalogues of edible plants, fruits, and animals produced by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Portuguese colonizers of Malacca in their travelogues. But where those early narratives articulated European fascination at Malacca’s fertility, Burgess’ only registers disgust. Images of rotting meat and fruit in the market, and the bones and animal carcasses hint at the unsavory aspect of life in Malaya should the white man or woman consider becoming part of the country. The durians, whose overpowering smell and taste remind one of “eating a sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory,” represent the “stink” of Malaya (TFT, 70), and the hoicking (sounds made when clearing one’s throat of phlegm) of the Chinese towkay is made out to be Malaya’s signature sound. This market scene presents a landscape marked by dirt, filth, and a perverse form of fertility—abundant but rotting fruits and vegetables—leading to the archetype of the barren garden.

The barren garden represents a British creative imagination grown weary and skeptical towards the Malayan landscape, starkly different from the sensual fear/desire that Conrad displayed towards the verdant space of Borneo. Maugham’s troubled Victorian garden image had foreshadowed this later disillusionment with its hints of the corruption that lay underneath the immaculate surface. It is as if the only fitting image to capture the spirit of those times—the end of the Empire, decolonization, the rise of independent nations in the Third World—is a shriveled, infertile garden reflecting the diminished potency of British influence in the world and a barely concealed distrust of the local sociopolitical entities that would replace the British in their former colonies.

The Garden in Postcolonial British Fiction

Recovering Eden: Representations of Sarawak in William Riviere’s “Borneo Fire”

William Riviere’s Borneo Fire (1995, henceforth BF) perhaps owes some inspiration to the nineteenth-century writings of James Brooke, since it also features geospatial depictions of Sarawak. Brooke was awed by the majesty of the rainforest but at the same time wished to see them tamed in order to make way for development (Keppel 1846, 18–19). Riviere’s characters, on the other hand, have inherited the consequences of Brooke’s vision of progress: indiscriminate logging and the resulting floods, forest fires, and the loss of wildlife and way of life of the indigenous tribes. Therefore the characters’ desire to save Sarawak’s forests becomes more urgent, and the image of a paradise on earth that had once been becomes the defining archetype in Riviere’s narrative. Two white men, Philip Blakeney and his son Hugh, stand at the center of this crusade to recover paradise from imminent destruction. The worlding of Malaysia occurs in this novel through the representation of Sarawak as paradise lost and the white, male protagonists as saviors and experts who possess the authority to produce knowledge about Sarawak (Subramaniam and Pillai 2009, 9).

Philip represents the older generation of Sarawak-born British, a former colonial officer who knew the country’s unspoiled beauty before the coming of the timber companies in the 1980s. Through his recollections, the reader gets glimpses of Arcadian spaces such as the one below:

. . . Long Kai where the stream flowed so cleanly you could see every fish flicker. Where the carved totem poles to commemorate the dead, called kapatongs, were still standing and had their magnificence. Where I heard an Argus pheasant call from the forest and they took me to search for it and we found the dancing ground they clear but we never saw the bird—who, for that matter, ever has? (BF, 93)

The tone is nostalgic, and towards the end, speaks of such scenes as mythical. Life is symbolized by the fish in the clear streams of the past, and beauty by the reclusive Argus pheasant whom no one has ever really seen. The wooden poles commemorating the dead signal the lives and traditions of a people closely entwined with that of their physical environment. But what his son, Hugh, and his adopted daughter, Cassandra have inherited instead is

. . . a wilderness of mud slides and broken trees and dust, a desert where the forest would not grow again, where the creatures and plants were gone forever, where the longhouses and their cultures were gone and no man would come back to plant rice and hunt deer . . . (BF, 83)

This is the background for the urgency of Hugh’s mission to save Sarawak’s rainforests from the fire devouring them. An environmental and political activist who has been to Burma and Timor, Hugh’s heroic stature at times reflect the hero of that other novel by Conrad, Lord Jim (1900). He is also an idealistic young man with a task to complete in the interior of Borneo, perpetually dressed in white,18) and with a half-white, half-Iban beauty,19) Cassandra, waiting for him to marry her once he has put out the fire.

In the island’s interior, Hugh finds Philip’s “garden of earthly delights” (BF, 93). This is the parts of the forest still untouched by fire, reminiscent of what Philip had once seen and known. Hugh writes to his father of the garden:

Rough travelling all day, one lot of rapids after another. But then we’d drift forward into a quiet green reach and it would look like heaven. Trees reflected in the clean river, creepers festooned, suspended orchids flowering, fish that jumped. Deep blue sky, small white cumulus clouds. Curve after curve of the sultry river opening before us and closing behind. We heard a hornbill’s laughter—not a common sound any more. A lot of kingfishers, they sit looking very brilliant on branches over the water, fly up as we go by. A superb country, a peaceful country—I could travel on and on, lose any wish to arrive anywhere. (BF, 189)

The scene is heavenly in a sensual way (“curve after curve of the sultry river,” “suspended orchids flowering”), marking the trope of eroticizing geospatial description often practiced by colonial writers (Spurr 1993, 170). Hugh’s desire to remain in the forest and not travel to a specific destination echoes the anaesthetizing effect of the Malaysian landscape on the traveler once described by Hugh Clifford (1897, 4).20) These residues of colonial discourse imply the strength of the garden archetype in the British creative imagination on Malaysia, surviving into the present.

Hugh’s goal and Philip’s wish are that this paradise be recovered and preserved from the evil forces threatening to destroy it, which were not “nebulous powers of darkness . . . battening on the great island” (BF, 215) but “organizations with names, men with names. The Sarawak Timber Association. The Japan Lumber Importers’ Association. What he [Hugh] called the Asian Progress Mafia Bank. The Sarawak Land Development Board . . .” (BF, 215). Their nostalgic renderings of an Edenic landscape now gone or in danger of extinction, while reflecting an awareness of Sarawak’s plight, also reflects a retrospective desire for the paradise of the past that colonial writers such as James Brooke, Isabella Bird, and Hugh Clifford had written so eloquently about. And when presented as a battle between good and evil over that paradise—Hugh, Philip, and their friends on one side; and the fire, the timber companies and corrupt politicians on the other—the archetypal symbols of heroes, villains, and quests come into play, so that Sarawak is reinscribed as a space for the white hero’s fulfillment of his destiny.

While Riviere reveals good knowledge of and sensitivity towards Sarawak’s environmental degradation, Philip and Hugh’s quest to preserve paradise in Sarawak at times come across as patronizing. As defenders of the forest, they speak about it in a patriarchal way. The prominence given to Philip and Hugh by the writer implies that leadership of the quest to restore Borneo’s rainforests naturally falls on the white men because they know more about the land than others do. Philip is an old Sarawak hand (to adopt a colonial term for such experts) while Hugh is a contemporary reincarnation of that colonial figure. Emphasis is given to his Oxford education and his encyclopaedic knowledge of Sarawak’s deforestation, strengthening the hero-crusader image (Subramaniam and Pillai 2009, 9). Hugh’s detailed knowledge of Sarawak also marks him as “the master [who is] the subject of science or knowledge” (Spivak 1999, 216) who invests himself with the authority to represent Malaysia to Malaysians as well as to others. As a result, the Garden of Eden that is to be recovered is subject to the two men’s vision.

Riviere’s postcolonial project of recovering Eden extends to other contemporary British writers, evident in another novel, Fool’s Gold (2004) by Frederick Lees. Visions of the garden from Malaysia’s colonial past also inform Lees’ narrative. What Lees revives is the wild, lush Romantic garden of Conrad, with an emphasis on the erotic connotations of the archetypal garden. In a different guise, the white man takes on narrative authority to represent the geospatial features of Malaysia.

Reviving the Romantic Garden: Frederick Lees’ Malaya in “Fool’s Gold” (2004)

As a novel written by a former colonial officer but published in the twenty-first century, Frederick Lees’ Fool’s Gold (2004, henceforth FG) sits astride the colonial and postcolonial time divide, enabling the question of whether colonial representations of Malaysia as the archetypal garden have survived or perhaps transmuted into something quite different. This novel’s approach to Malaysia’s geospatial features parallels Conrad’s worlding Malaysia as a site for the white male colonizer’s sexual awakening through contact with a desirable Other. Lees’ focus is, however, on homosexual love, portrayed in the attraction between the white protagonist, a British resettlement officer, and his Malay subordinate. The garden archetype, specifically a sensual Garden of Eden, albeit one without Eve, is useful to Lees as a suitable background for the white protagonist to take his sexual experimentations to a new realm—that with the male Other.

Ferdach O’Haney, Lees informs readers, has always had unconventional attitudes towards sexuality even back home in England. He is openly bisexual; his links with the bohemian London crowd contributed to this unconventional view on sexuality. His arrival in Malaya in 1950 as a fresh recruit of the British Colonial Service puts him in the position of discovering the country via various sexual encounters with men and women, white and non-white. These encounters represent Ferdach’s cultural and sexual initiation in a new environment both culturally and sexually. While one of his longest affairs is with a white woman, Ferdach is strongly attracted to Chinese and Malay men. The latter represent his first experience of the male Other, and he discovers that they are no less attractive for not being white; perhaps even more so. In this way, Ferdach is similar to the male protagonists of the French writer Henri Fauconnier’s novel Malaisie or The Soul of Malaya (1931), whose subtly portrayed attraction to each other represents Malaya as “a homo-erotic geography of adventure” (Ravi 2003, 429) in which only relationships between men matter. In addition, Ferdach is the white male subject as the “sovereign subject of information” (Spivak 1999, 213); as a resettlement officer he penetrates the Malayan jungles equipped with his [Western] knowledge, mapping territory, and reorgan­izing the population in service to British efforts to control the spread of communist ideology.

The image of the locus amoenus or the sensual garden is again a central and symbolic image against which Ferdach’s attraction to Mat Noor, his subordinate, is played out. Much of the action of Lees’ novel takes place in the forests of Malaya, concerning as it does the exploits of the British during the Emergency. There is a discernible pattern of images that links the geophysical environment with the protagonist’s burgeoning sexuality. In an early encounter not long after his arrival in Malaya, Ferdach notices Laura Sweinsoep, the wife of a teacher, and their mutual attraction is described by Lees in imagery reminiscent of the garden:

Mrs. Sweinsoep kept on glancing at him. She had beautiful olive skin, an oval face and regular features, set off by lustrous black hair that fell in a long sweep over her right cheek down to her elegant neck. . . . Ferdach went to work on a luscious mango. On a large wooden platter, a dulang, shaped like a cooking wok but actually a receptacle used for gold panning, other fruits, papayas, jambus, bananas, rambutans, mangosteens and a pineapple awaited his attention. So colourful, so sensual; he would never be short of vitamin C. He glanced across at Mrs. Sweinsoep and wished he knew her Christian name. She was still looking at him. He allowed a rambutan to wink at her from between his lips, white framed by red, before swallowing it. Their eyes met and they both smiled, she very broadly. (FG, 17)

The sexual connotations of fruit cannot be missed in the description, aside from the oblique reference to the “forbidden fruit”—Mrs. Sweinsoep herself, a married woman. Lees’ depiction of the seduction using garden imagery once used by Portuguese and British travelers in the past places not just economic value on Malaysia but also eroticizes it. Such accounts listed the various fruits and plants to be found in Malacca—durians, rambutans, mangosteens, bananas, and other strange fruits—attesting to their wonder at, and later, conviction of Malacca’s prodigious fecundity (Pires 1512; Barbosa 1518; de Eredia 1613; Dampier 1931). Lees reworks those lists, reinscribing Malaya’s fertile soil as aiding the white man’s sexual adventures.

The pattern of a sensual garden in Fool’s Gold continues as Lees fleshes out ­Ferdach’s sexuality. The following description acts as a prelude to Ferdach’s pursuit of a homosexual relationship with Mat Noor:

. . . Early in the morning, the three of them had an almost wordless breakfast. . . . Ferdach would then follow in his newly acquired green Morris Minor to meet up with his team and get on with his census work. The house was left in the efficient care of Cookie, a large self-confident Hakka Chinese, whose real name he never learned, and the garden in that of Yusuf’s wraithlike young brother Subian who was to be seen each morning clad only in a sarong gracefully tending the ­haphazard plots of hibiscus, frangipani and canna lilies, or cutting the grass around them in an abstracted sort of way as though he was a celestial gardener tending the lawns of Paradise. (FG, 65–66; italics my own)

The narrative’s preoccupation with the male body, represented by Subian’s “wraithlike,” sarong-clad physique occurs simultaneously with the garden archetype, which appears literally as the garden surrounding Ferdach’s quarters. Together with the suggestive phrase—that Subian resembled “a celestial gardener tending the lawns of Paradise”—this passage can be considered, in light of Spivak’s theory of worlding, as the white male colonizer’s reinscription of Malaysia’s geophysical environment as an expression of his own sexual fantasies.

Later, the locus amoenus appears again when Ferdach and Mat Noor begin to explore the possibility of a relationship. This takes place in a secluded spot in the forest, Mat Noor’s “secret garden,” where Ferdach, Mat Noor, and their friend Gordon Choo go for a swim. The spot is “a serenity shut off from the rest of human creation” (FG, 249), which, Gordon points out, is similar to “the Garden of Eden . . . the beginning of the world,” albeit one without Eve (FG, 249). As Mat Noor puts it, “[W]e are all Adams. No Eves to make trouble. So we can stay in paradise for ever” (FG, 249). Ferdach’s fantasy of male nudity—“that the three of them could be naked for it seemed that nakedness was an aesthetic requirement in such a sylvan scene” (FG, 249)—once again brings up the sexual connotations of the garden, projects his homoerotic fantasies onto the landscape, and marks his initiation into forbidden territory (forbidden fruit again), that is, a relationship with the male Other. As Srilata Ravi puts it, “[i]n the Other space, the slightest breath and faintest flicker are received by all senses at once and nakedness brings kinship with the elements” (Ravi 2003, 430).

The representation of Malaya as a sensual Eden produces an image of Malaysia inflected with eroticization; to know and represent the country to others is to experience it sexually. In Fool’s Gold, the white man reproduces the geophysical landscape of Malaya through multiple processes of sexual awakening, culminating with an initiation into the most exotic sexual experience of all, that with the male Other. This represents Malaya as an eroticized space ripe for experimentation for the sexually adventurous white male.


This study has revealed the patterns in which the garden archetype is used by British writers to represent Malaysia and the resulting notions about Malaysia that have been produced. Three dominant incarnations of the garden archetype can be discerned throughout the works representative of the colonial period: the lush, Romantic garden; the restrained, disciplined Victorian garden; and the barren, dried-up garden.

The garden archetype has been used to represent Malaysia as marked by corruption, deception, and sin. This motif is familiar to Western writers from portrayals of Eden in their religious and secular literature, but prior to the coming of Europeans to the Malay Archipelago, not to the indigenous inhabitants of the region themselves. In this way, native inscriptions of meaning regarding the garden are replaced with Western notions of the garden. This is how the worlding of Malaysia works, where Europeans establish themselves as the “sovereign [as] subject with a capital S” (Spivak 1999, 213) and represent regions outside the European sphere as its Others. The role of the white male subject as author of Malaysian images is evident in the selected novels as they ascribe to themselves the authority to represent geophysical features inflected with colonial rhetoric. Worlding also extends to the white male subject as characters in the novels, as they turn Malaysia into a sensual garden of earthly delights (Conrad and Lees) or, in a replication of their creators, appropriate the right to represent Malaysia by virtue of their superior knowledge (Riviere).

In Conrad’s images of Malaysia, one sees elements of the discourse of Romanticism on nature, which paints the geophysical landscape as alive with unseen forces and with which the observer establishes an emotional connection (Pratt 1992). The archetypal anima, or the “eternal feminine,” in An Outcast of the Islands symbolizes the combination of fear and desire of the white hero in Malaysia’s forests—sensations that are part of the rhetoric of the sublime central to Romantic and colonial discourses (ibid.; Nayar 2008). As the early period of British colonialism in Malaya moved on to the high colonial period, however, the sensual, Romantic garden is replaced by the calm order of its Victorian counterpart. Maugham saw a need to tame the passions that had run wild in Conrad’s fiction as well as in the men and women he encountered during his brief visit to Borneo in the 1920s. This manifests itself in images of neat British residencies and rubber plantations in his fiction.

By the time Burgess published his novel on the eve of Malaya’s independence from British rule, the archetype of the garden in which the land has been represented has attained a barren aspect. The garden, and by association Malaya, is depicted as having degenerated into a wasteland of filth matched by the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of its people.

The revival of interest in Malaysia as a lost paradise, evident in the contemporary novels by Frederick Lees and William Riviere, raises some interesting questions regarding the use of the garden archetype in the present such as: What prompted the nostalgia for a lost paradise? And what does this nostalgia signify? Perhaps there is dismay among contemporary writers at the rapid changes that have transformed the country such that it is no longer recognizable from the idyllic pictures of colonial times. The archetypal garden therefore is the ideal image on which they can project their atavistic desire, a return to a familiar space in unfamiliar times.

Finally, the literary texts explored in this article feature the experiences of British colonizers and expatriates in the Malay Peninsula (for instance, Time for a Tiger, Fool’s Gold) and Borneo (for example, An Outcast of the Islands, Borneo Fire). The patterns of the garden archetype discussed in this article may lead to further studies that would take into account the different socio-political structures in the Malay Peninsula and Borneo and how those differences would have affected representations of both regions in British fiction. Additionally, the colonization of parts of the Malay Peninsula and Borneo by the British consisted of distinctive policies and practices; it would certainly be worth looking into how these too would have left a mark on how British writers viewed the Malay States and British Borneo in the past and in the present.

Accepted: January 10, 2013


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1) “Malaysia” is used in my reading of Conrad as a loose term that encompasses Sumatra and North East Borneo because of their proximity to what would eventually become Malaysia (Hampson 2000, 14).

2) Joseph Conrad is a British writer of Polish origins who traveled to India, the Malay Archipelago, and Australia as a merchant sailor between 1874 and 1893 (Stape 2002). William Somerset Maugham is a British novelist and playwright who visited Malaya and Borneo between 1921 and 1922 and again between 1925 and 1926 (Holden 1996). Anthony Burgess taught in Malaya and Brunei between 1954 and 1960 (Burgess 2000).

3) Frederick Lees served in the Malayan Civil Service after the Second World War up to the 1950s (Lees 2004). William Riviere is based in Italy and has traveled in Southeast Asia and East Asia (Hodder & Stoughton website,

4) The earliest novel chosen for analysis is Joseph Conrad’s An Outcast of the Islands (1896) and the most recent is Frederick Lees’ Fool’s Gold (2004); a gap of 108 years exists between these two works.

5) Jung introduced the concept of the “collective unconscious” in addition to the individual unconscious theorized by Sigmund Freud. The collective unconscious exists in all human beings and is universal in nature, containing archetypes that are also shared by mankind.

6) The anima or the archetypal feminine refers to the feminine aspect present in the collective unconscious. “What is not-I, not masculine, is most probably feminine, and because the not-I is felt as not belonging to me and therefore as outside me, the anima-image is usually projected upon women” states Jung (1991, 27).

7) Nayar defines the missionary picturesque as the “visual vocabulary and aesthetic ideas . . . in order to trope Indian primitivism and colonial improvement” (2008, 94) present in travel writing by English missionaries in India, while the sporting luxuriant refers to the colonial rhetoric that specifically applies to descriptions of the jungle and wildlife in hunting memoirs. Thus each trope is specific to the genre of travel writing it is found in.

8) Classical Malay epic poems featuring heroes’ exploits and semi-mythical histories of the Malay world.

9) The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an, 2001, Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall.

10) John Brookes notes that the expression “gardens underneath which rivers flow” is found more than 30 times in the Qur’an (cited in McIntosh 2005, 36–37).

11) The settings for Conrad’s Malaysian fiction are a hybrid of the places in the Malay Archipelago that he visited as a merchant sailor, for example, Sumatra, Singapore, and Northeast Borneo (Sherry 1971; Hampson 2000). Robert Hampson prefers the term “Malaysia” as that was the term used in the 1830s (Hampson 2000, 14; see the Introduction of this paper).

12) It should be noted that the expatriate British community in Malaya and Borneo protested at Maugham’s misrepresentation of them in his stories.

13) The form that the Devil took when he tempted Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden.

14) Sylvia Brooke, former Rani of Sarawak, explains: “The barrier between the sexes was in those days unbreakable. The Rajah reckoned that if any man in his service got married, he lost ninety-nine percent of his efficiency. If he wanted a woman, there were plenty of Sarawakians, and girls of twelve or thirteen were exploited for this purpose by their parents. It was a vicious doctrine; it drove white men into the welcoming brown arms of the local girls, involved them in tropical entangle­ments, and produced a harvest that remained long after they had gone” (Brooke 1970, 81).

15) De Vellez Guerreiro describes the consecration of a plot of land granted to the Portuguese by the Sultan of Johor on which to build a church as “sanctifying that land already rendered unclean by the spurious rites of Mohamed and abominable sacrifices to idols” ([1732] 1935, 145). Isabella Bird pronounces the Malay Peninsula as “a vast and malarious equatorial jungle sparsely peopled by a race of semi-civilised and treacherous Mohammedans” ([1883] 2006, 1).

16) A thinly-disguised Kuala Kangsar, the seat of the Sultans of Perak and also where the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), Malaya’s experiment with the British public school system, is located. It appears in the novel as Mansor College. Burgess taught at MCKK in the first years of his service in Malaya.

17) Victor is portrayed as the serious, passionate scholar of Malaya while Fenella only pretends to the title.

18) In the novel, Hugh is described wearing cricket whites as an unofficial uniform.

19) The parallel figure in Lord Jim is Jewel, a girl of white and Malay parentage.

20) “As you sprawl on the bamboo decking under the shadow of the immense palm leaf sail . . . you look out through half-closed eyelids at a very beautiful coast. . . . The wash of the waves against the boat’s side and the ripple of the bow make music in your drowsy ears, and, as you glide through cluster after cluster of thickly-wooded islands, you lie in that delightful comatose state in which you have all the pleasure of existence with none of the labour of living” (Clifford 1897, 4).


Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 2014, pp. 49-84
©Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

Vol. 3, No. 1, Takagi Yusuke

Contents>> Vol. 3, No. 1

Beyond the Colonial State: Central Bank Making as State Building in the 1930s*

Takagi Yusuke**

** The writer revised this paper as a part of the writer’s Ph.D. dissertation, “Nationalism in Philip­pine State Building: The Politics of the Central Bank, 1933–1964,” which was submitted to the Graduate School of Law and Political Science, Keio University in ­October 2013.

** 高木佑輔, GRIPS, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, 7-22-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-8677, Japan

e-mail: y-takagi[at]

The purpose, origin, and strength of the Central Bank of the Philippines remain a puzzle for students of the Philippine political economy. Trade policy and fiscal policy have been well studied within the theoretical framework of a weak state, but the politics of monetary policy have curiously been overlooked. As it happens, the bank enjoyed an excellent reputation as “an island of state strength.” This paper sheds new light on the politics of economic policies by arguing that monetary policy introduced a new type of politics in the 1930s. This was a period during which a network of Filipino policy makers emerged and became an incubator for other leading policy makers in the early years of the Republic of the Philippines. Established politicians such as Manuel L. Quezon and American colonial officers paid scant attention to monetary policy reform, while these policy makers shouldered the responsibility of policy proposals. Their proposal to establish a central bank went beyond the monetary policy mandate, because they aimed to depart from the conventional market-governed colonial economic structure to a managed currency system backed by economic planning. By focusing on their attempts, this paper reveals that while the emergent crop of Filipino policy makers were beneficiaries of the colonial state, they were not satisfied with colonial economic policies and worked toward building an independent state equipped with qualified institutions.

Keywords: colonial state, Central Bank of the Philippines, state building, nationalism, politics of economic policy


The process of the setting up of the Central Bank of the Philippines remains a puzzle for students of the Philippine political economy. Existing studies, including those done by the bank’s first governor, Miguel P. Cuaderno, reveal that Cuaderno, who was responsible for designing the bank when he was the secretary of finance, enjoyed a cooperative working relationship with influential politicians (Cuaderno 1949; 1964; Valdepeñas 2003). The bank, after its establishment in 1949, was regarded as “an island of state strength in an ocean of weakness [of the state apparatus]” (Abinales and Amoroso 2005, 184). Not a few scholars, however, have argued that politicians representing an oligarchic society prevented the government from achieving efficient rule through bureaucracy—in other words, the state in the Philippines was weak (see, for example, Hutchcroft 1998). How could bureaucrats establish constructive relations with politicians to form solid institutions, such as the Central Bank, in the midst of a weak state?

Few studies have been undertaken on the politics of the formation of the Central Bank. Citing Cuaderno (1964) in a column, Abinales and Amoroso indicate that he played a pivotal role in the management of the bank (2005, 184). Cuaderno himself wrote two significant books (1949; 1964) but did not provide enough information on the political process of the formation of the bank. A historical study by a prominent economist, Vicente Valdepeñas (2003), on the development of central banking is helpful but does not pay much attention to the political context within which policy makers had to ­operate.1)

One exceptional study is Nick Cullather’s diplomatic history on the Central Bank and its policies from the 1940s to the 1950s, in which he asserts that the US government supported the establishment of the Central Bank of the Philippines, while the Philippines did not necessarily share the policy goal to create the bank (Cullather 1992). Cullather asserts that Filipino policy makers viewed the bank as a symbol of sovereignty, and yet he does not touch upon the domestic politics of the time. Instead, his study highlights the discrimination against Chinese and US businesses, the failure of the bank’s developmental policy, as well as graft and corruption in the 1950s (ibid.), as if these were the main targets that Filipinos aimed to achieve. The hypothetical argument we can draw from his description is that the US government was the only serious actor reluctantly sustaining the Central Bank in order to protect and promote its own interests in the US military bases in the Philippines.

The US influence on Philippine economic policy-making should not be overemphasized or misunderstood. Cuaderno gives an impressive account of the Joint Philippine-American Finance Commission, which officially recommended the establishment of a central bank to the Philippine government in its report published in 1947 (JPAFC 1947, 46–53; Cuaderno 1964, 9–11). However, what actually happened is that in a series of commission meetings the Filipino members had to refute the claims of the American members, who opposed the idea of setting up a central bank. The Filipino members eventually prevailed on the American members, gaining support from President Manuel A. Roxas, who was not a member of the commission (Cuaderno 1964, 9–11; Valdepeñas 2003, 85). In addition, several studies have emphasized US expansionist or imperialist attempts and actual interventions into Philippine affairs (e.g., Constantino and ­Constantino 1978; Jenkins 1985; MacIsaac 1993, Ch. 7, 9; Golay 1997).

A brief review of the literature demonstrates that the stage of Philippine-US relations was peopled by complicated actors. First, American residents who still maintained their influence on the colonial authority in Manila and on Filipino politicians opposed independence (MacIsaac 1993; Golay 1997). Second, Americans who supported the independence of the Philippine Islands were divided into two groups: the “isolationists” and the “internationalists” (MacIsaac 1993). While the isolationists in Congress endorsed cutting off relations with the colony as soon as possible, the internationalists in the US government did not hesitate to intervene in the domestic politics of the Philippine Islands so that the Philippines would establish an independent government (ibid.). Third, the internationalists paid a great deal of attention to the fiscal discipline of the Philippine Insular government (Golay 1997: 330–332),2) although some of them gradually accepted the protectionism of the Philippine government (Doeppers 1984, 29). Filipino policy makers, therefore, though they might have learned from the US experience, could not depend for support on the United States. Moreover, they had to deal with pressure from Manila Americans who were not in favor of the independence of the Philippine Islands. Their roles should be seriously analyzed.

Early attempts to establish a central bank gave an impetus to the politics of economic policy. Three major changes—in terms of actors, ideas, and political contexts—need to be examined. First, social change under colonial rule introduced a colonial middle class. By the beginning of the 1930s many professionals, such as colonial bureaucrats, lawyers, and professors, formed part of the colonial middle class (Doeppers 1984). The expansion of educational opportunities at all levels, and the Filipinization of bureaucracy, especially under the Francis B. Harrison administration (1913–21), created a colonial middle class in Manila who established their careers in white-collar jobs (ibid.). In fact, several delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1934 belonged to the new generation of professionals, and therefore the convention could be assumed to be a “national congress” whose representatives had different antecedents from the traditional elites (Uchiyama 1999, 201).

Second, the members of this emerging colonial middle class expounded new ideas in their discussions at the Constitutional Convention (De Dios 2002). The inflow of inter­national policy ideas such as economic nationalism (Aruego 1937, 658–669) and a strong presidency (De Dios 2002) greatly influenced the delegates. It is to be noted that, however sensational and well accepted at the convention, the idea of an international inflow of ideas was still taboo in the existing interest structure that had shaped the patronage politics that Manuel L. Quezon, the tycoon of colonial politics, made the best use of (McCoy 1988).3)

Third, we cannot overlook the fact that the formation of the Constitutional Convention was a part of the Filipino effort toward state building. US colonial rule had brought into the Philippine Islands both political machines and politics by reformers (Abinales 2005).4) While the former were characterized by patronage politics, the spoils system, and a cautious attitude toward the expansion of the influence of the federal government, the latter were led by those who aimed at overcoming political machines by strengthening the administrative capacity of the federal government in the United States (ibid.). While Quezon established his career making the best use of patronage politics (McCoy 1988), the aforementioned middle class apparently emerged from the latter aspect of the US influence, or the effort toward state building. A series of US policy changes, including the passage of the independence act in the 1930s, prompted Filipino policy makers to recognize the necessity to work for state building themselves, because the policy changes in the United States took place without consideration for the situation in the Philippines, as we will see below.

In a nutshell, this paper demonstrates that the emerging professionals, international inflow of policy ideas, and resurgence of nationalism motivated a handful of powerful Filipino policy makers to strive to establish a central bank. Although their proposals failed to materialize before independence, the policy makers elaborated on the idea and succeeded in establishing the bank in 1949. Through a study of the early attempts, this paper explores the ideas among policy makers in the 1930s that would result in the creation of the Central Bank in the 1950s. The first section examines the origin of the idea through a study of the first initiatives from 1933 to 1935, when US policy changes prompted Filipino policy makers to recognize the necessity of autonomy. The second section, covering the period from 1935 to 1944, analyzes subsequent political contexts where the key advocates continued to work for their goals despite indifference and opposition from government authorities.

I Independence Act, Monetary Policy Change in the United States, and a Central Bank, 1933–35

I-1 First Independence Act and Creation of the Philippine Economic Association in 1933

The passage of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting (HHC) Act in the US Congress in 1933 led to a political power struggle among leaders of the dominant Nacionalista Party, with Senate President Quezon on one side and Senator Sergio Osmeña and Speaker Manuel A. Roxas of the House of Representatives on the other.5) The power struggle was an opportunity to consider the economic consequences of independence. Opposing the HHC Act in a speech, Quezon described it as a tariff act rather than an independence act (Golay 1997, 320). He said: “All I can say for the present is that the National City Bank [of New York] took an active interest in the passage of the Hawes-Cutting bill, . . .” (Tribune, January 1, 1933, 1, 19).6) He argued that the National City Bank worked for the passing of the HHC Act in order to protect Cuban sugar at the expense of Philippine sugar (ibid., 1; Golay 1997, 320). Quezon’s attack was so harsh that a split in the party was inevitable in early January 1933 (Tribune, January 3, 1933, 1).

Quezon expressed his opposition to the HHC Act on various occasions. When he was invited by a group of economists on March 17, 1933, he argued that the economic features of the act were so unfavorable to the Philippine Islands that social unrest could result in the rebirth of the military government rather than a commonwealth government (Tribune, March 18, 1933, 1). He explained that when the United States imposed the full tariff rate on Philippine sugar three years after the passing of the act, the US market would be virtually closed to Philippine sugar; this would precipitate the collapse of the export industry and be followed by massive unemployment, social unrest, and ultimately another military suppression by the United States (ibid.).

The group of economists who invited Quezon seemed to have been the founders of the Philippine Economic Association (PEA). The following three points support this assertion: first, Cuaderno points out that the PEA was organized after the passage of the HHC Act (Cuaderno 1949, 1). Second, the presiding officer of the day was Elpidio Quirino, who would have been the president of the PEA (Tribune, March 18, 1933, 2; PEA 1934).7) Third, the PEA’s first two publications indicate its gradual development as an organization from March 1933 (PEA 1933; 1934). Who, then, were the members of the PEA?

Table 1 is a compilation of biographic data about the founding members whose names were recorded in the first publication of the PEA (1933, I). From Table 1 we can glean three characteristics of the members. First, the only politician was Quirino, although some members had seats in the legislature. Second, the majority were bureaucrats with no visible representatives from any particular industry. Third, most of the members either studied economics or worked for administrations covering economic issues, and almost half of them went to the United States to study. All these points reflect the political as well as social developments under US colonial rule. These points are elaborated on below.

First, Quirino’s political career reflected the shifting phases in the politics of independence. Quirino, born in 1890 in Ilocos Norte, graduated from the University of the Philippines and became a public school teacher, a law clerk of the Philippine Commission, a legislator, and finally a senator. He was younger than Quezon by 12 years and established his political career under Quezon’s tutelage after he met the latter at the Philippine Columbian Club (Gwekoh 1949, 23). When Quirino was a clerk of the commission he also worked as a secretary of the club to get acquainted with the leading figures of the day (ibid.). Once he was elected to the Senate in 1925, he was appointed by Quezon as chairman of the Committee of Accounts and subsequently as chairman of the Special Committee on Taxation, because “a majority of lawyers of the old school [in the Senate] depended not only on the vigor of their young colleagues but on the steady flame of their mid-night lamps [to study the new problems of economics]” (ibid., 31–32).8) Quirino became so familiar with economic policy that he was referred to as the “high priest of protectionism” in a personal sketch published in the 1930s (Cabildo 1953, 13). Quirino, as well as Roxas—whom we shall study in the next section—belonged to the generation for whom the economic consequences of independence became an agenda, while Quezon and Osmeña belonged to the generation for whom independence itself was the prime concern.

Second, 15 of the 24 PEA members were former or incumbent bureaucrats working in various departments in charge of economic policy. For instance, Miguel Unson, born in Iloilo in 1877 and a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, was a prominent bureaucrat who had been a provincial treasurer as well as an undersecretary and secretary of finance (Cornejo 1939, 2193). In addition to him, incumbent Undersecretary of Finance Guillermo Gomez was an original member. There were many members who must have had firsthand information of fiscal conditions as officers of the Bureau of ­Internal Revenue or Customs, both of which were supervised by the Department of Finance. Meanwhile, Tomas Confesor and Cornelio Balmaceda were director and assistant director of the Bureau of Commerce, which was supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The PEA functioned as a network of bureaucrats from various economic agencies of the government.

While bureaucrats occupied the majority of seats, the business sector was represented by a few individuals as well. Salvador Araneta, born in Manila in 1902, studied at Harvard University and became a partner in a law firm in the Philippines. The businesses he engaged in included the National Railroad Company, a sugar firm, and several mining companies (ibid., 1602). He was not a representative of any particular industry but was a very active member of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce. He eventually joined in the founding of the National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA) in 1934.9) Unson became another prominent representative of the business sector when he shifted to the insurance industry, but, as mentioned above, he established his early career as a bureaucrat.

Third, all PEA members shared a knowledge of economics. They learned eco­nomics either through education in school or from the school of hard knocks. A member of the PEA, Professor Abdon Llorente of Far Eastern University wrote a column in which he described the dawn of economics in the Philippines (Llorente 1935). The column suggested that the PEA included most of the pioneering economists of the time, although it did not mention the association directly. Llorente, for instance, praised Dean Conrado Benitez of the College of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines, together with Confesor, Vicente Fabella, Fermin Francisco, and others as “men who crossed the sea in the early days of American regime to delve into the intricacies of economics” (ibid., 16). Andres V. Castillo, who was born in 1903 and earned his ­bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines and his doctorate from Columbia University, followed the path of these men and joined the PEA. He was the dean of the College of Business Administration in the University of Manila in 1934 (Tribune, August 19, 1934, 17; BSP 1998, 37). Meanwhile, Llorente praised Unson, who led a group of practitioners, including Gomez, because they “began the study of economics from the so-called university of hard knocks” (Llorente 1935, 16). He also commended Quirino as the one “who can easily lead to [sic] the oldsters as well as the youngsters” and “who has in him the making of a Hamilton” (ibid.).

With regard to their education, at least half the PEA members studied in the United States—either through private funding or on a scholarship from the government. Recipi­ents of the latter were called pensionados. Llorente described it thus: “The pensionado system, which was discontinued about 1910, was resumed in 1919. From 1919 to 1930, 379 students were sent by the government to the United States.10) Of this number, 58 took up the study of different branches of economics. . . . These returned pensionados are now employed as follows: 21 as government employees, 7 as teachers, 1 as a prac­ticing attorney, 3 as actuaries, 3 as life underwriters, 2 as newspapermen, 7 in business and 2 as farmers” (ibid.). The pensionados were selected beneficiaries of the colonial policy and organized their own social club, known as the Philippine Columbian Club, in 1905.11)

As the following section shows, however, their experience in the United States did not turn them into pro-US economists. Carlos Quirino, a leading postwar journalist, asserts that pensionados became even more nationalistic because of their stay abroad and that “this [Philippine Columbian] club became the focal point in the nationalistic campaign for independence for the next three decades” (Quirino 1987, 39). Quezon, in fact, delivered the aforementioned critical speech on the HHC Act at a luncheon meeting of this club. In this context, it is intriguing that Llorente encouraged Filipinos to go to the United States, referring to Americans who had studied economics in Germany or Austria-Hungary in the last century. He praised Quirino as a man who understood ­Alexander Hamilton, who was US Secretary of the Treasury during the George ­Washington administration (Llorente 1935, 13). The German school of economics in the nineteenth century, which was influenced by the ideas of Hamilton, was famous for its nationalist orientation wherein scholars were skeptical of the effectiveness of free trade for newly independent nations (Lichauco 1988, 32–49).

Those who established the PEA adopted the idea of positive role of regulation in economic activities by the government, which the American Economic Association (AEA) advocated since the end of the nineteenth century (Skowronek 1982, 132), although neither Llorente nor Lichauco mentioned the name of the AEA. AEA was in fact established by the American economists who were skeptical to American Social Science ­Association which tended to advocate the idea of laissez-faire (ibid.). In fact, names such as (Johann G.) Fichte or Friedrich List, who were German nationalists, especially the latter, and pioneers of the German school of economics (Lichauco 1988, 44–49), were mentioned in a speech by the well-known Filipino businessman Benito Razon. Razon was the founding president of the NEPA, for which Llorente later worked as a manager (Tribune, February 10, 1935, 17; May 29, 1935, 16).

The PEA members were, however, not yet radical in their first publication, The Economics of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act: An Analysis (hereafter, An Analysis), where they criticized the independence act instead of proposing their own economic policy (PEA 1933). In I, “The National Bonded Indebtedness,” they studied the Philippine government’s fiscal stability as well as its ability to redeem bonds and concluded, “The present sinking fund arrangement is sufficient to guarantee the ultimate redemption of the Philippine government bonds, and any additional guarantee for their redemption, like the export tax, is not superfluous but is also harmful to national interests” (ibid., 5). They focused on the adversarial effect of export tax, which the HHC Act required the Philippine government to impose. In the subsequent two sections, which devoted 28 of the total 40 pages to the topic (II, “The Export Tax,” and III, “Effects of Limitations Imposed on Foreign Trade”), they reiterated that the Philippine government could pay its obligation and that it would be faced with difficulty once it was compelled to impose export tax.

The authors criticized the HHC Act as if they were aiming to maintain the status quo, although (or perhaps because) they recognized the fragility of the existing economic structure. While they admitted that free trade between the Philippine Islands and the United States had contributed to the rapid expansion of export industries such as the sugar industry, they argued that “development [of the export industries] has stood on a weak and unstable foundation. Its ultimate effect has been to place the Islands in a state of almost complete dependence upon the United States market” (ibid., 8). They did not yet argue that the Philippines should change its economic structure.

Reflecting the conservative tone of other sections, the authors did not advocate any radical proposal in IV, “Currency.” Here they concluded, “As long as the present free trade . . . remains the same there is hardly any need for autonomy in currency legislation because goods like anything else follow the line of least resistance” (ibid., 38). They hypothetically mentioned that the Philippines would need to depreciate its currency to seek new export markets in Asia, especially if it could no longer export its products to the US market (ibid.). The authors recognized that “it is necessary to have our currency at our absolute and free control to provide us with one of the instrumentalities for establishing markets in other countries. We cannot ‘remain on a gold island in the midst of a sea of depreciated currency’” (ibid.). They knew what they needed to do once the current arrangement was abandoned, but they did not present their own comprehensive policy proposal yet.12)

The critical but conservative tone of An Analysis apparently reflected the political position of Quirino, who was close to Quezon. On the same day that Quezon delivered his speech, Quirino “declared that the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Act is a challenge to the Filipinos” (Tribune, March 18, 1933, 2). It is, however, more important to remember the origin of An Analysis. The PEA responded to a US policy change and limited its activity to the issue involved. Another US policy change would prompt the PEA to work on another issue. But before we study the PEA’s next activity, we examine an official response from within the government to the US policy change.

I-2 The Gold Embargo in the United States and the First Proposal to Establish a Central Bank in the Philippines, 1933–34

The year 1933 is pivotal not only because of the HHC Act but also because of a drastic change in US monetary policy. Faced with a series of banking crises after the Depression, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt “had grown convinced that ending the Depression required raising prices to their 1929 level” (Eichengreen 1992, 331). Roosevelt, pressured by Congress to adopt a more radical proposal for inflation, placed an embargo on gold exports and endorsed the Thomas Amendment authorizing the president to take various inflationary measures on April 19, 1933 (ibid., 331–332). This piece of news was sensationally reported in the Philippines (Tribune, April 21, 1933, 1).

The Filipino populace attempted to understand the implications of the US measures by turning to the knowledge of professionals. Castillo’s remark was, for instance, published as an explanation by a “Filipino political economist” (Tribune, April 23, 1933, 5). The latter wrote in a relatively pedagogic manner that inflation would stimulate the domestic economy although there was a risk that it could result in hyperinflation, such as that experienced in Germany in 1923 (ibid., 5, 25). In the context of our study, it is more interesting that he briefly mentioned, “It cannot be overemphasized that a managed Philippine currency would serve the country best at this time. . . . Unfortunately there is no central bank in the Philippines upon which the task of managing the currency could be very well entrusted” (ibid.). Although it took some time before the currency issue was connected to the issue of central banking, there was a gradual development of the policy proposal within the government.

Acting Secretary of Finance Vicente Singson-Encarnacion (hereafter, Singson) took the lead in handling the situation. Singson was also mentioned as a pioneer of economics by Llorente (1935, 16) and would be a significant advocate for the formation of a central bank. He was born in 1875 in Ilocos Sur, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, passed the bar examination, and became a fiscal (public prosecutor) of provincial governments, a representative of the Philippine Assembly, as well as a senator (Cornejo 1939, 2143). His career path was seemingly similar to that of his contemporaries, such as Quezon and Osmeña, but it differed from them in two ways. First, he was in the minority in the legislature as a member of the Federal Party (Quirino 1987, 44), although he maintained close relations with American colonial officers and was a member of the Philippine Commission from 1913 to 1916. The second point that distinguished Singson’s career from Quezon’s and Osmeña’s was his experience in private business. He was an entrepreneur in the insurance and finance industry. He worked for the Insular Life Assurance Company (Insular Life) first as a director and later as the president (Tribune, August 15, 1934, 16). He also worked for the Philippine National Bank (PNB) as a director (Willis 1917, 418; Nagano 2003, 226). These two institutions are significant in the historical development of the finance industry in the Philippines. While Insular Life, founded in 1910, was the first Filipino-owned life insurance company (Batalla 1999, 22), the PNB, founded in 1916, was the first multipurpose government bank. It functioned as an agricultural financial institution, a commercial bank, and a bank of issue (Nagano 2003, 197–198). Singson achieved a great deal in business and was appointed as secretary of agriculture and commerce on January 1, 1933.

Agriculture and Commerce Secretary Singson promoted local production and domestic commercial activities through the Bureau of Commerce, which his department oversaw. Under his leadership, the government established the Manila Trading Center and organized the first “Made in the Philippines Products Week” in August 1933 in order to promote local production and domestic trade (Stine 1966, 85). Balmaceda, a member of the PEA and assistant director of the Bureau of Commerce, said that Secretary ­Singson took the initiative to organize the Products Week and to establish the center (Tribune, December 30, 1933, 6).

Singson was concurrently appointed as acting secretary of finance on April 21, 1934, after Rafael Alunan, a representative of the sugar industry, resigned from the post ­(Tribune, August 15, 1934, 16). In the Finance Department, Singson took the initiative to reduce Philippine dependence on the US economy. Informed of a possible change in the Philippine monetary system from the gold exchange standard to the dollar exchange standard in June 1934, he expressed his serious concerns about its “harmful” effect on the Philippines (Singson to Governor-General, 1933, JWJ, 2).13) In a memorandum dated July 6, 1933, he commented on the following two points: first, he argued that it was undesirable to link the Philippine currency system to the US one “much more intimately” (ibid.). He was worried about a situation where the Philippine currency would become more vulnerable to US currency policy, since the latter was managed regardless of Philippine conditions. Second, he believed that US inflationary measures would adversely affect the Philippine economy. He asserted, “In many cases, the likelihood is that this country would be the loser in the sense that its currency would depreciate in value . . .” (ibid.). Based on these considerations, he proposed inviting a monetary expert to consider whether the Philippine Islands should establish an independent monetary system or not (ibid.).

Singson aimed to gain autonomy for economic policy-making through the inde­pendent currency system. In another memorandum to the governor-general on August 5, 1933, he suggested that the Philippine government establish a monetary system sustained by the gold bullion standard rather than the dollar exchange standard. He also proposed that the government devalue the peso by half the current ratio (Quirino to Governor-General, 1935, JWJ, 2–5). The Philippine government had a gold exchange standard that functioned through gold deposits in New York prior to April 1933. Meanwhile, Singson proposed the establishment of a gold bullion standard, which required the government to establish a totally new monetary standard.14) The other proposal, devaluation, was heading in the same direction of reducing Philippine dependence on the United States because it would encourage Philippine exports to other countries.

While Singson continued to appeal for the services of a monetary expert, he made another policy proposal: founding a central bank in the Philippines (MacIsaac 2002, 159). After he came back from the United States, where he joined Quezon’s last independence mission, he publicly “advocated the separation of the control over the monetary system from the government, and the establishment of a central bank to assume such control under the government supervision” in a speech at a banquet for Singson and Unson on May 17, 1934, hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Philippine Islands then headed by Eugenio Rodriguez (Tribune, May 18, 1934, 1, 7). The proposed central bank, according to him, should be a bank of the government, a bank of banks, and a bank whose responsibility was to manage the integrity and stability of the national currency.

The benefits Singson emphasized were the bank’s contributions to fiscal discipline and the expansion of commercial credit (ibid., 7). He argued that because the democratic government tended to carry out inflation-oriented policies to gain support from the ­people, the commonwealth government would not be able to resist the temptation to fall into inflationary finance unless it directly managed its currency policy (ibid., 1, 7). With regard to the credit market, he recognized the existence of doubts over the usefulness of a central bank at a time when the credit market had not yet fully matured. He argued, though, that “there is no better instrument to develop credit in a nation than the establishment of a central bank” (ibid., 7). Under the circumstances, what was the basis for his conviction?

In the speech mentioned above, Singson brought up the emerging international policy idea of establishing a central bank. He said, “The body of financial experts and economists of the League of Nations, about five years ago, had recommended the establishment of central banks where such banks do not exist” (ibid.). The Financial Committee of the League of Nations founded a Gold Delegation to conduct research on problems of the gold standard in 1929 and published the results of the research in several reports from 1930 (Eichengreen 1992, 250; Sudo 2008, 2–3). After World War II, European countries and the United States attempted for more than a decade to establish a systematic cooperation to respond to international monetary problems (Eichengreen 1992, Ch. 6–7). They failed to resolve the problems but held several conferences and published reports with recommendations. Regardless of the results of the efforts of the League of Nations, Singson used the recommendations for his proposal. Drawing examples from other countries, Singson also emphasized the necessity of establishing an independent central bank, citing responsibilities that the existing PNB could not fill. He argued that a central bank should be independent of the government and that the PNB should concentrate on long-term finance for the development of agriculture as in the case of Greece (Tribune, May 18, 1934, 7). He elaborated his proposal through a study of the recommendations of international organizations or cases from other countries.15) It is obvious that he was determined that the Philippines prepare the institutions necessary for an independent state.

In addition to these proposals, Singson expressed his interest in economic planning so as to change the economic structure of the Islands. On another occasion, he pointed out that “excessive attention was given to the development of the sugar industry while practically abandoning the other industries, so that when the crisis came in sugar, the country faced a great economic difficulty. . . . What is lacking, he said, is a plan” (Tribune, June 13, 1934, 1, 11). He clearly recognized and publicly announced the necessity to change the economic structure, which depended too much on the sugar industry. Economic planning in this context was not only an economic preparation for independence, but also a political challenge to those who were supported by the sugar industry.

Singson’s multiple proposals to change the Philippines’ economic structure failed to receive support either from Quezon or from the influential Americans. We can hardly find a written document directly explaining Quezon’s motive but can still use the data that mention two influential groups that were close to Quezon opposed Singson’s pro­posals. The sugar industry, which had enjoyed easy loans from the PNB and established close relations with Quezon (Larkin 2001), opposed the idea of establishing a central bank (Cullather 1992, 81). Most American residents, or so-called Manila Americans, were beneficiaries of the existing free trade and opposed the independence of the Philippines (Golay 1997, 332–333). In the Philippine Insular government, Governor-General Leonard Wood reconstructed the currency system based on the idea of “self-regulating markets” with the least intervention from the government (Giesecke 1987, 117–124). J. Weldon Jones, who was the Insular Auditor and “a valuable adviser to [Governor-General Frank] Murphy” (Golay 1997, 331), was concurrently appointed the adviser on currency to the Governor-General almost at the same time when Singson advocated making a central bank (Tribune, June 2, 1934, 3). Jones was one of those who undoubtedly opposed ­Singson’s proposal, as we will see below. Singson left the government without implementing any of his proposals when Governor-General Murphy appointed Quirino as the secretary of finance and Rodriguez as the secretary of agriculture and commerce on July 14, 1934 (Tribune, July 15, 1934, 1, 7).

I-3 PEA, Economic Planning, and a Central Bank, 1934–35

Before being appointed as secretary of finance, Quirino had already reactivated the PEA. He populated the association with several additional members in November 1933 when he prepared to join Quezon’s independence mission, which Singson also joined (Tribune, November 3, 1933, 10). After the last independence mission won another independence act, the Tydings-McDuffie Act, on March 24, 1934, PEA members began to prepare for a national economic program (Tribune, April 17, 1934, 2). The members who led the discussion reflected on the fact that the association was still composed of prominent bureaucrats—Undersecretary of Finance Gomez was the presiding officer of the day, and Assistant Director of Commerce Balmaceda was the secretary of the association (ibid.).16) PEA members paid attention to Singson’s proposal and invited him for a meeting while he was still the finance secretary (Tribune, June 24, 1934, 3rd ed., 4).

Cuaderno, the then PNB assistant Manager, became active in the PEA, especially in the field of finance and banking (Tribune, November 3, 1933, 10). Cuaderno, born in Bataan in 1890, graduated from the National University, became a lawyer in 1919, and was hired at the Bureau of Supply. He transferred to the PNB in 1926 (Cornejo 1939, 1657–1658). He energetically dealt with the bank’s legal cases, specifically in its reconstruction from damage caused by the financial crisis of the early 1920s (Galang 1932, 107). Although he established his career as a lawyer rather than as an economist, he received on-the-job training in banking during his time as a working student in Hong Kong (Ty 1948). When the PEA expanded its membership, he became the vice chairman of the Committee on Currency of the PEA, headed by Chairman Unson (PEA 1934, xii).

Quirino worked for economic planning and expected PEA members to be the “new dealers for the new Philippine Republic” (Tribune, May 2, 1934, 2). The PEA, with an additional 27 members, published the results of its study and policy recommendations in the form of a 270-page book titled Economic Problems of the Philippines (hereafter, Problems) in 1934 (PEA 1934). In the preface, Quirino asserted, “Our national economic structure, with the severance of our relations with the United States, must claim our attention. A comprehensive program of economic planning for the nation is imperative. . . . it is my hope that the work of the Philippine Economic Association in this regard will be helpful in crystallizing the mind of the people on the necessity of economic planning” (ibid., iv).

Quirino provided a time frame for his proposal and pointed out the actions to be taken during each period. Table 2 reveals the three steps Quirino had in mind before the establishment of the commonwealth, during the commonwealth period, and after independence. Before the establishment of the commonwealth, he suggested that the government focus on land issues and vocational education. During the commonwealth period, he proposed a more radical change in the economic structure, including the ­establishment of a central bank. After independence, he planned for the government to enhance foreign trade, to deal with immigration issues, and so on. The timetable and agenda bear testimony to Quirino’s intention to change the comprehensive economic structure of the Philippines.

In the chapter of Problems on banks and other financial institutions, the committee headed by Campos, president of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Rafael Corpus, president of the PNB, and Cuaderno asserted that the majority of the local banks had agreed upon the idea of organizing a central bank (ibid., 219). As for the functions of a central bank, “the power of a central bank to control the currency and the credit of the country and to stabilize foreign exchange is a fact recognized by monetary and banking experts” (ibid.). Campos, Corpus, and Cuaderno argued that they should form a central bank to increase credit facilities, to stabilize foreign exchange, and to meet periodic demands for circulation through note issues, all of which would help the government achieve credit elasticity (ibid.).

In the chapter of Problems on currency, the PEA reiterated the necessity of a central bank. The committee headed by Unson and Cuaderno argued that the existing system had failed to provide enough money in 1920 and 1921 and that the Philippine Islands should have a financial organization such as a central bank. While they admitted that “The Philippines is not in a position to adopt an independent currency at this time,” they argued that “the main objective, therefore, of an independent system is an adequate management of currency” (ibid., 242). In other words, the PEA distinguished the issue of the enhancement of the banking system from that of the establishment of a new currency system.

However, it was not true that Quirino gave up on the idea of establishing an autonomous currency system through the central bank. He kept his movement confidential, because “A wide open agitation coming from above in the discussion of such a delicate matter might invite alarm and misapprehensions to so serious a degree as to shake the confidence of capital in the stability of the financial structure of the country and thus disastrously affect investments and business in general” (Quirino to Governor-General, 1935, JWJ, 13). Quirino might have abandoned Singson’s strategy but not his idea.

In a memorandum to the governor-general on January 13, 1935, Quirino argued that the Philippines should establish an autonomous currency system and quoted Singson’s proposal (ibid., 15). Quirino, following Singson’s proposal, took it for granted that the Philippines should establish an autonomous currency system based on the gold standard because, first, the Philippines was a gold-producing country, and second, because it had a simpler economic structure than the United States and other European countries (ibid., 17). He also agreed with Singson on the necessity to devalue the peso. Taking into consideration an almost 40 percent devaluation of the US dollar in January 1934, Quirino suggested a one-eighth reduction of the peso against the US dollar, which would be almost equivalent to the ratio suggested by Singson in 1933.

Quirino also proposed the formation of a central bank to conform to the international policy idea, as well as to emphasize the merits of a national economy. Like Singson, he said, “The Financial Committee of the League of Nations would entrust a new important role to central banks. It has made these specific recommendations: ‘The aim of the Central Bank should be to maintain the stability of international prices both over long periods and over short periods, i.e., they should both keep the average steady over a period of years and avoid fluctuations round this average from year to year’” (ibid., 21). He emphasized that central banks were “necessary ingredients for the promotion of economy and finance of a country” because they would lower interest rates as well as expand credit supply through rediscounting operations (ibid., 22).

Quirino, however, failed, just like Singson. The Philippine Insular government introduced Act No. 4199 on March 16, 1935, stipulating that two pesos should be equal to one US dollar regardless of the content of gold. This was the first official introduction of the dollar exchange standard that had come to be the de facto standard of the Islands in the 1920s (Castillo 1949b, 429; Nagano 2010, 45). The currency system of the Philippine Islands “could be considered as representative of the evolving export economy of the Philippines under American rule” (Nagano 2010, 47). Quirino’s proposal was influenced by vested interests during the 1930s.

In addition to the US authority, Quezon publicly declined the idea of establishing an autonomous currency system when he accepted the nomination for presidency at the election for the commonwealth government. On July 20, 1935, he declared, “I shall keep our present currency system in all its integrity and will allow no changes that will affect its value. . . . For the present I can see no reasons for any radical modifications in our monetary system” (Tribune, July 21, 1935, 3rd ed., 1, 14). However, although Quezon did not share the idea of seeking currency autonomy with Singson or Quirino, he did not persuade policy makers to abandon it altogether, as we will see below.

II Stalwart Advocacy for Autonomy in Economic Policy-making, 1935–44

II-1 Early Work of the National Economic Council, 1935–37

The PEA succeeded in persuading the then newly elected President Quezon to organize a central agency for economic planning, although it had failed to convince him to create an autonomous currency system. President Quezon sent a message to the National Assembly on December 18, 1935, to endorse a bill to create the National Economic Council (NEC), which would be responsible for giving occasional advice to the president on economic affairs as well as for proposing comprehensive economic planning. In the message, Quezon mentioned a certain limitation to the idea of laissez-faire and emphasized the significance of the active role of the government in economic affairs (Soberano 1961, 185). The government created Commonwealth Act No. 2 stipulating the establishment of the NEC, presided over by the secretary of finance (NEC 1937; Soberano 1961, 182, 192). The establishment of the NEC and economic planning were the proposals of Singson, Quirino, and the PEA (PEA 1934, 213).

By the time the NEC began its operations on February 14, 1936, Antonio de las Alas had replaced Quirino as the secretary of finance and chair of the NEC. Quirino was appointed as secretary of the interior. Quezon initially preferred Roxas as finance secretary, but he finally chose de las Alas after Roxas declined the offer (Romero 2008, 119). De las Alas, born in Batangas in 1889, graduated from the University of Indiana and Yale University as a pensionado, worked for the Executive Bureau, became a lawyer, and was elected as a representative from Batangas (Cornejo 1939, 1586). Before he was appointed as secretary of finance, he was the secretary of public works and communication (ibid.). De las Alas was close to Quezon but was not as ambitious as Quirino or Roxas. He seemed to be more an able administrator than an aggressive politician.

In the first report of its activity in 1936, the NEC explained the reasons for the inactivity of the council in an apologetic tone, rather than proclaiming its achievements (NEC 1937). After mentioning the lack of data, funding, personnel, and so on, the NEC concluded, “The main reason [sic], however, why no complete economic program could be formulated at present are the uncertainty of our economic relations with the United States and the limitations placed upon the powers of the commonwealth government by the Tydings-McDuffie Law” (ibid., 31). The uncertainty came from the ongoing trade conference, while the limitations pointed to the fact that the commonwealth government could not enjoy any autonomy on tariff issues or currency (ibid.). Former Governor-General Francis B. Harrison, who was appointed as an adviser to Quezon, reported to the United States that the NEC “was ‘paralyzed’ because all of the energies of the govern­ment ‘are now bent towards getting a relaxation of the trade sanctions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act’” and that another government attempt to promote diversification of the economic structure was opposed by the “influence of the sugar interests and their lobby in Washington” (Golay 1997, 358).

The NEC report is intriguing, because it reveals that Filipino policy makers made continuous efforts to establish an autonomous currency system and a central bank even under considerable constraints. The first report on the activities in 1936 said, “the peso, under the present system, must follow the dollar for good or for ill, and the Philippines is helpless to influence the American currency policy” (NEC 1937, 33). The NEC advocated that “The Commonwealth should work for an independent currency system, and if granted, the gold bullion standard should be set up to take the place of the present system. . . . With the establishment of a Central Bank as the necessary accompaniment of an independent currency system, the management of the currency to suit the needs of the Commonwealth and an independent Philippines could be easily accomplished” (ibid.). It is easy to spot the influence of Singson’s 1934 proposal on this recommendation. Singson was, in fact, a member of the NEC (Tribune, July 2, 1937, 1).

Gradually the idea of an autonomous currency system found sympathizers in the legislature. Assemblymen Benito Soliven and Juan L. Luna, for instance, submitted Bill No. 2444 “to establish an independent currency system in the Philippines” (Luna and Soliven 1937). Luna, born in Mindoro in 1894, graduated from the University of Santo Tomas and was a teacher and a lawyer before he became a member of the legislature in the 1920s (Cornejo 1939, 1903). Soliven, born in Ilocos Sur in 1898, graduated from the University of the Philippines and became a lawyer and a member of the legislature in the 1920s (ibid., 2151). These two representatives, however, did not seem to have close relations with Singson or Quirino, although Soliven was from Ilocos Sur, where Singson and Quirino had also been born. In fact, Soliven would contest and defeat Quirino in the election to the National Assembly in 1938 (Espinosa-Robles 1990, 46).

In the explanatory note of Bill No. 2444, the authors argued that the currency issue was “a grave problem” untouched during the trade conference (Luna and Soliven 1937, 1). They asserted that the devaluation of the US dollar in 1934 was harmful to the Philippine economy, because the Philippine government would now pay more for its debt to other countries. They also asserted that the Philippine Islands needed to establish an independent currency system based on the gold bullion standard (ibid.). Generally speaking, however, the NEC’s direct input is barely visible in this bill. In fact, in the explanatory note the authors just briefly mention the name of Professor Jacinto Kamantigue, who was a founding member of the PEA when he was still affiliated with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The fact that there seemed to be no clear cooperation between these lawmakers and the NEC reflected President Quezon’s conviction about the currency system. In a memorandum by Jones, Quezon was recorded as having told Secretary de las Alas in April 1937, “Please inform the National Economic Council of my fixed purpose not to recommend or approve during my administration measures establishing a new currency system. The present system will be maintained in its integrity because, after consulting expert advice, I am convinced that it is best for the country” (Excerpt from the Quarterly Report of the High Commissioner, 1937, JWJ, 1).

Quezon reiterated his position to maintain the status quo of the currency system. What follows is a record from a press conference dated October 6, 1937:

Press: How about the currency, Mr. President?
President: The currency? That is tabooed. [sic] That is definitely settled; there is no more talk about that. (Press Conference, 1937, MLQ, 20)

Quezon’s brief reply elicits two interpretations: first, the currency issue had already been settled before the press conference. Second, the currency issue was literally tabooed by someone, although that was struck out with a line. It is highly possible that the US authorities restricted Quezon from taking a radical position on this matter.

Jones, now the financial adviser to the American high commissioner, criticized Bill No. 2444 in his memorandum to Washington (Jones to Coy, 1937, JWJ). Jones first stated that the authors of the bill did not understand the existing situation that prompted the Philippine government to adopt the dollar exchange standard (ibid., 1). He reported that there had been no serious problems after the devaluation of the US dollar in 1934 and that it was confusing that the authors condemned the US devaluation but asserted the necessity of peso devaluation (ibid., 1–2). The following concluding sentences of the memorandum clearly express Jones’ strong conviction about the existing monetary system and his unsympathetic attitude toward Filipinos who were seeking autonomy:

First, because if any currencies survive in this world of uncertainty we can feel that the dollar and the pound sterling will be included; and second, the economy of the exchange standard and the fact that Philippine foreign trade is so heavily over-balanced by trade with the United States that we can feel that now and for a number of years to come the Commonwealth and the independent Philippines can do more things with a dollar and do them more economically than they can with an actual gold peso. (ibid., 4)

The outcome was that Bill No. 2444 failed to receive enough support from Filipinos and Americans.

Facing strong opposition from the authorities, the NEC shifted the focus of its advocacy from making the currency system autonomous to creating a central bank. The NEC’s second report, a summary of its activities in 1937 during which the council had only two meetings (NEC 1938, 6), can be read as a record of its desperate efforts to win support for its ideas. In the report it reiterated that it was an internationally accepted idea to have a central bank (ibid., 7, 9–10). The report stated:

Since the war, under the leadership of the League of Nations, countries that have availed of expert financial advice of the League have established a central bank as one of the principal agencies in effecting the reconstruction of their disorganized economic life. Today, most countries find the central bank an indispensable part of their economic system, and even countries that are not yet independent, like the Dominions, India, and Java, have already established a central bank. (ibid., 7)

Another point that makes the second report important is the cue taken from it in order to figure out key advocates. The NEC mentioned, “Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, a member of the Council, has already framed with the aid of our technical staff the proposed charter for a central bank in the Philippines” (ibid., 11). Since we already know that Singson had been active in the advocacy, it is more interesting to find out whom the NEC meant by “our technical staff.” We can easily assume who the technical staff was, because the NEC report reiterates that the NEC had very few technical staff (NEC 1937; 1938). The first report said that Jose L. Celeste was the executive secretary, Castillo the technical adviser, and Juan S. Agcaoili the technical assistant (NEC 1937, 14). The second report said that after Celeste’s resignation in December 1936, Castillo was appointed as acting executive secretary of the council (NEC 1938, 1). Two of the three technical staff, Celeste and Castillo, were original PEA members.

II-2 Joint Preparatory Committee and Manuel A. Roxas, 1936–39

While Singson and others fought in the NEC, Roxas, who would be a significant advocate for the formation of the Central Bank in the late 1930s, fought for the expansion of economic autonomy in the trade conference. On April 14, 1937, the Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs (JPCPA) was finally formed “to study trade relations between the United States and the Philippines and to recommend a program for the adjustment of the Philippine national economy” (JPCPA 1938, 3). Roxas joined the committee, which was headed by Jose Yulo, Quezon’s close aide and an important representative of the sugar industry (Larkin 2001, 169). The activity of the JPCPA revealed the clear difference between the positions of those who wished to maintain the status quo and those who sought a structural economic change.

Roxas was as keen about economic issues as Quirino and organized a movement named Ang Bagong Katipunan (the New Katipunan) to advocate economic adjustment for independence in 1930, although he soon abandoned the movement—partly because of Quezon’s indifference (Golay 1997, 292–293). Castillo praised Ang Bagong Katipunan as “The first serious attempt to apply economic principle [sic] on a national scale” when he explained the development of economics in the Philippines (Castillo 1934, 15). Roxas, born in Capiz in 1892, graduated from the University of the Philippines and became a lawyer and a representative in the Lower House. He belonged to the same generation as Quirino but had soared to the third-highest rank in colonial politics next to Quezon and Osmeña in 1922 when he was elected speaker of the Lower House. Quezon appointed him as a member of the JPCPA because of his knowledge and experience. Another member of the JPCPA, the then Majority Floor Leader of the National Assembly Jose Romero, tagged Roxas as “our leading economist” (Romero 2008, 134).

Roxas made his thoughts open to the public in a newspaper contribution before he joined the JPCPA, which was published under the title Philippine Independence May Succeed without Free Trade in the same year (Roxas 1936; Tribune, April 1, 1936, Sec. 4, 1, 2, 4). What he wrote about was close to the ideas of Singson and Quirino, although he did not mention reform in the currency or banking system. He argued, “Knowing that we cannot be certain of the continuance of free trade after independence, the logical course for us to take is to reduce as much as possible the relative importance in the national economy of the industries depending for their existence on free trade with America” (Roxas 1936, 14).

Roxas’ voice, however, failed to gain the support of the majority in the JPCPA. After surveying the process of the JPCPA, a historian succinctly summed it up thus: “It is clear that American economic policy toward the Philippines during the transition to inde­pendence was designated to increase American exports and curb Philippine imports. It was a classic example of economic imperialism” (MacIsaac 1993, 345). Echoing the US neglect of the Filipino plea, the JPCPA final report said:

Commercial banking facilities appear to be adequate in Manila and in the larger cities. . . . In view of the present structure of the Philippine banking and currency systems, there appears to be no necessity at the present time for the establishment of a bank in the Philippines whose functions would be primarily those of a central bank. (JPCPA 1938, 122–123)

This conclusion, however, did not reflect the position of Roxas, who would soon be appointed as the new chairman of the NEC as well as the secretary of finance.

II-3 Continuing Attempts to Establish a Central Bank, 1939–44

Roxas did not abandon his idea of changing the economic structure of the Philippine Islands after he was appointed as chairman of the NEC in August 1938, and subsequently secretary of finance on December 1, 1938. On January 4, 1939, he held a meeting with local bankers together with the NEC staff to discuss banking sector reform (Tribune, January 5, 1938, 1, 15). He did not invite anybody from foreign banks, because he expected that economic readjustments should be carried out in cooperation with local rather than foreign banks (ibid., 15). The local bankers Roxas invited included PNB President Vicente Carmona, Bank Commissioner Pedro de Jesus, BPI President Campos, and Philippine Bank of Commerce (PBC) President Cuaderno (ibid.). The PNB and BPI were the two biggest local banks, while the PBC was newly established in 1938.

Roxas’ plan, revealed on January 6, 1938, proposed overhauling the role of the PNB (Tribune, January 7, 1939, 1, 15). Roxas suggested that the government establish a commercial bank, convert the PNB into an investment bank, and “set up a reserve and discount department in the Philippine National Bank which will perform the same functions as those of the federal reserve system” (ibid.). It is impressive that Roxas did not refer to a specific name such as “central bank,” and that he did not advocate the establishment of an independent bank but proposed the setting up of a new department within the existing PNB.

His phraseology, however, did not reflect a retreat of the advocacy to establish a central bank. As a member of the JPCPA, he must have been familiar with the strong opposition from the United States, with whom Filipino policy makers had to negotiate to pass any act regarding currency issues under the Tydings-McDuffie Act. Roxas seemed to have chosen the least controversial way to propose a central bank under the circumstances. What he expected from the department was, however, an enhancement of the banking system and a reduction of interest rates, which were some of the roles Filipino policy makers had expected the central bank to play.

Later on, the bill to establish the Reserve Bank of the Philippines was completed. This time the bill was passed by the Philippine Assembly, signed by President Quezon, and became Commonwealth Act No. 458, “an act to provide for the establishment of a Reserve Bank in the Philippines,” on June 9, 1939 (Bureau of Banking 1940, 21). The Reserve Bank, whose design was taken from those of the newly established Bank of Canada and New Zealand (Cuaderno 1949, 4), would function as a central bank in the Philippines. The commonwealth government could not, however, implement the act immediately because it had to be approved by the American president. Again, Jones opposed the Filipinos’ attempts to establish a central bank (Jones to High Commissioner 1939, JWJ). He argued in a memorandum that Commonwealth Act No. 458 was against the general policy of the Office of the High Commissioner, which had been supported by President Quezon and recommended by the JPCPA as well (ibid., 1).

In the rest of his memorandum, Jones recorded the development of this move and mentioned Cuaderno’s name. Jones wrote that he had been told by A. D. Calhoun, manager of the Manila branch of the National City Bank of New York, that Secretary Roxas had pushed the Assembly to pass the bill despite Speaker Yulo’s skepticism. Jones also reported that “Mr. Mike Cuaderno of the Bank of the Commonwealth was the moving spirit behind the agitation. Mike is the more or less discredited former Vice-President of the Philippine Bank of Commerce [sic]” (ibid., 6). Jones’ hostility toward Cuaderno was obvious. After briefly mentioning the initiative without any comments on Roxas’ personality, he emphasized the role of Cuaderno, who was from one of “the small banks of the street owned by Filipinos,” and the uselessness—or even adverse effect—of Common­wealth Act No. 458 on the financial system (ibid.).

Cuaderno was, however, an established figure as a lawyer-banker in the 1930s. In addition to his job as the deputy manager of the PNB and his participation in the PEA, he was an elected delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1934 and became a member of the Committee of Seven, which drafted the constitution (Cuaderno 1937). At the convention, he again advocated the establishment of a central bank in the committee report, as the chair of the Committee on Currency and Banking (House of Representatives 1965, 52), although he could not convince other delegates to put the clause into the constitution. After resigning from the PNB in 1936, he became the head of the Finance Mining and Brokerage Company, which was designed as an investment business in the mining industry but was foreseen to become a bank providing financial support to other industries (Tribune, September 6, 1936, 13). Influenced by his work experience in Hong Kong, he nurtured a vision to promote manufacturing, rather than commerce, in his country.17)

In 1938 he established the PBC, the first private bank with Philippine capital (Reyes-McMurray 1998). The PBC was small in terms of quantum of business, but it played a significant role because it provided Filipino practitioners the opportunity to manage a bank, unlike most of the big banks, which were controlled by foreigners and did not provide Filipino workers with enough opportunities for banking experience. President Cuaderno of the PBC would become the first governor of the Central Bank. The first vice president of the PBC, Alfonso Calalang, became the third governor of the bank (ibid., 93).18) Sixto L. Orosa, one of the founding members of the PBC and a prominent banker in the postwar period, later recalled that the PBC was “the Alma Mater of Bankers” (Orosa 1988, 35–36). Jones’ aforementioned quote, however, failed to cite any of ­Cuaderno’s achievements and rather worked to discredit him.

In addition to Roxas and Cuaderno, Celeste, a founding member of the PEA as well as the first executive secretary of the NEC, took action to support the bill. There was a report on the history of the creation of the Central Bank written by a Japanese officer of the Southern Development Bank (Nampo Kaihatsu Kinko) in 1943 (Awano 1943). The book was, according to the postscript, based on A Reserve Bank of the Philippines written by a Dr. Celeste in 1940 (ibid., 44). It would not be misleading to assume that the author, Dr. Celeste, was Jose Celeste, considering his involvement in the proposal to establish a central bank. According to the author, Celeste mentioned the following four points as reasons to establish a central bank: the currency system’s dependence on the United States, the imperfection of the financial structure, the lack of a credit market, and the lack of investment credit (ibid., 1). The points Celeste mentioned reflected the argument of the previous proposals. The fact that Celeste wrote this document reflected his continuous commitment to the restructuring of the economy.

The act, however, did not receive support from President Quezon and the Assembly. Jones reported the following personal remark by President Quezon on Act No. 458 at a dinner held by the high commissioner. Asked about Act No. 458, Quezon told Jones:

To tell you the truth, Mr. Jones, I did not want to sign the bill. Joe [Speaker Jose Yulo] was not in favor of it particularly. I signed it because I did not wish to indicate any opposition to Roxas. I do not think the Bank will help us any. It is useless unless we have an independent currency. (Jones to High Commissioner, 1939, JWJ, 8)

What this conversation tells us is that Quezon signed the bill only because he did not want to show his opposition to Roxas. Quezon seemingly avoided any unnecessary confrontation with Roxas, who was still a man of influence—especially among politicians, having supported the Os-Rox mission in 1933—and might take over from Quezon in the years to come. Considering the lack of active support from the president, the National Assembly finally adopted a resolution to withdraw Act No. 458 from US government consideration on April 19, 1940 (Bureau of Banking 1941, 29).

Even after the failure of the Roxas plan, policy makers continued to advocate the establishment of a central bank whenever they had a chance. In 1941 Castillo published the first comprehensive textbook of economics in the Philippines, which he dedicated to Filipino students (Castillo 1949a).19) In the chapter on central banking, he summarized the historical development of central banking worldwide and reiterated its necessity in the Philippines (ibid., Ch. 19). In this context, he gave the following brief explanation: “The Reserve Bank of the Philippines would perform the traditional functions of a central bank and make possible the establishment of a banking system which could adequately and efficiently provide the credit needs of business” (ibid., 438). Here we can discern Castillo’s deepest convictions.

During World War II, he continuously advocated the establishment of the bank (Castillo 1943, 84–87). He said that the central bank would be “a responsible guardian of our monetary and credit system” (ibid., 84). He pointed out:

Already prices are rapidly increasing, bringing hardships to consumers and the country has not gotten the right weapons to combat a run-away inflation. . . . With the successive and unregulated issue of notes together with those already in circulation, bringing the total to around 300 million pesos as against about 241.5 million pesos before the war, coupled with economic scarcity, there is little hope that prices could be brought under effective control at present. (ibid., 86)

The Philippine Assembly, in fact, passed a bill to establish the central bank on February 29, 1944 (National Assembly 1943, 132–138; Cuaderno 1949, 4),20) but the bill was not implemented because of the objections of the Japanese, who feared losing the prerogative to issue military notes (Cuaderno 1949, 4). The diary of the Japanese ambassador to the Philippine Republic, Shozo Murata, recorded the last efforts of de las Alas and Castillo, who joined an official mission to Japan in April 1944 and appealed for the implementation of the bill (Fukushima 1969, 45–48). Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Cuaderno as the president of the PBC wrote to de las Alas to open the proposed central bank to curtail inflation in the Philippines (Cuaderno to de las Alas, 1944, MAR). Before the results of their appeals could be declared, the war was over. The agenda to establish a central bank was taken over by the Republic of the Philippines, in which Roxas and Quirino were elected president and vice president respectively while Cuaderno was appointed as the secretary of finance and Castillo became the secretary-economist.


Two policy changes of the US government prompted Filipino policy makers to perceive the existing constraints of policy-making and recognize the necessity to change the system of policy-making in 1933. First, the HHC Act drove Quirino and others to organize the PEA, a network of bureaucrats and professionals who shared common interests in economics, to study the economic consequences of political independence themselves. Second, the US government drastically changed its monetary policy to get out of its serious banking recession, and its policy change had certain impacts on the currency value of the Philippine peso. Although American colonial officers assumed the impact on the peso was negligible, Filipino policy makers regarded it as a crucial sign of the absence of autonomy.

Ideas that were irrelevant to the existing interest structure but emerged internationally encouraged Secretaries of Finance Singson and Quirino to propose the establishment of an autonomous currency system along with a central bank. The ideas were supported not only by Singson, who had been out of the center of political power, but also by Quirino, who had been a close aide of Quezon. They aimed to achieve autonomy in policy-making and to establish a suitable institution necessary for an independent state.

The commonwealth period witnessed continuous endeavors by Filipino policy makers to establish a central bank as well as consistent opposition by American colonial officers. The persistence of the proposal, despite objections and failures, testifies to the fact that the proposal was the creation not of a single individual but of a group of policy makers who were determined to work toward its realization. Roxas took over the proposal from former Secretaries Singson, Quirino, and de las Alas. The proposal grew as an agenda that no finance secretary could afford to avoid and which was worth addressing to attain renown as a new political leader. Professionals such as Castillo and Cuaderno, who scrutinized the issues and channeled the ideas into specific policy proposals, found like-minded partners in the Finance Department.

When we consider the development of the political process, we cannot overestimate the role the US government played in establishing the Central Bank of the Philippines after independence. It was true that Cuaderno collaborated with some American specialists when they pondered on a suitable design for a central bank in the Philippines. It was also true that Cuaderno and Roxas had to prevail over opposition from other Americans. History from the 1930s suggests that Filipino policy makers established the bank in spite of, but with help from, some Americans. Looking at the broader picture, the policy ­makers appeared to be beneficiaries of colonial state building but were never satisfied with the colonial status of the Philippines.

These findings lead to a reconsideration of our understanding of Philippine politics. First, the policy makers emerged from a changing political context rather than from the existing interest structure. Second, they took advantage of internationally accepted policy ideas to which American colonial officers paid little attention. Third, they were products of the US colonial state and yet at the same time promoters of Filipino nationalism to change the colonial structure. This study has thus revealed that the development of the colonial state spawned a group of policy makers who went beyond the realm of colonial administration. In sum, the setting up of the Central Bank was indispensable to the process of state building by Filipino policy makers.

Accepted: October 10, 2012


The writer appreciates comments on earlier drafts at the seminar on “Population Problems and Development Policy in the Philippines” organized by Associate Professor Suzuki Nobutaka (Tsukuba University), supported by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (Kyoto University), at Kyoto University on March 27, 2012; and at the round table discussion at the Third World Studies Center (University of the Philippines) on May 24, 2012. He is also grateful for comments on an earlier draft by Professor Yamamoto Nobuto (Keio University) and anonymous reviewers. The opinions and errors herein are, of course, his own.


Official Documents
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). 2003. Money & Banking in the Philippines. Manila: BSP.

―. 1998. 50 years of Central Banking in the Philippines. Manila: BSP.

Bureau of Banking. Various years. Annual Report of the Bank Commissioner of the Philippine Islands. Manila: Bureau of Printing.

House of Representatives. 1965. Constitutional Convention Record, Vol. 11: Committee Reports. Manila: Bureau of Printing.

Joint Philippine American Finance Commission (JPAFC). 1947. Report and Recommendations of the Joint Philippine-American Finance Commission. Washington: US Government Printing Office.

Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs (JPCPA). 1938. Report of May 20, 1938, Vol. 1. Washington: US Government Printing Office.

Luna, Juan L.; and Soliven, Benito. 1937. Bill No. 2444: Explanatory Note. In Jones to Coy. 1937. “Memorandum for Mr. Coy, Subject, National Assembly Bill. No. 2444, Nov. 4, 1937,” Folder “Currency, 1933–1937,” Box No. 5, J. Weldon Jones Papers, Harry S. Truman Library, United States.

National Assembly. 1943. Act No. 60: An Act Creating the Central Bank of the Philippines. In National Assembly Year Book, edited by anonymous, pp. 132–138. Manila: No publisher.

National Economic Council (NEC). Various years. Annual Report. Box No. 29 “National Economic Council, 1936–1948,” Series No. 4 “General Miscellany.” Manual A. Roxas Papers, Main Library, University of the Philippines.

Private Papers
J. Weldon Jones Papers (JWJ), Harry S. Truman Library, United States.
“Excerpt from Quarterly Report of H. C. For Quarter Ended September 30, 1937,” Folder “Currency, 1933–1937,” Box No. 5.
Jones to Coy. 1937. “Memorandum for Mr. Coy, Subject, National Assembly Bill. No. 2444, Nov. 4, 1937,” Folder “Currency, 1933–1937,” Box No. 5.
Jones to High Commissioner. 1939. “Memorandum for the High Commissioner, Subject Common­wealth Act No. 458, Nov. 27, 1939,” Folder “Currency Reserve,” Box No. 5.
Quirino to Governor-General. 1935. “Memorandum for His Excellency, the Governor-General: Subject: Independent Philippine Currency System. January 13, 1935,” Folder “Currency, 1933–1937,” Box No. 5.
Singson-Encarnacion to Governor-General. 1933. “Memorandum for His Excellency, the Governor-­General, Subject: Amendment to the Provisions of Section 1611 of the Administrative Code, July 6, 1933,” Folder “Currency, 1933–1937,” Box No. 5.

Manual A. Roxas Papers (MAR), Main Library, University of the Philippines.
Cuaderno to de las Alas. 1944, “Memorandum for Minister Alas, June 23, 1944,” Folder “Central Bank of the Philippines, 1944–1948,” Box No. 7 “Cabinet—Central, 1938–1948,” Series No. 4 “General Miscellany.”

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1) Historians mention the existence of attempts to establish a central bank in the 1930s (Golay 1997, 397; Nagano 2010, 46) but have not studied them in detail. Allan Lumba has studied relations between the emergence of an image of national economy and the establishment of the Central Bank of the Philippines (2008) but has not studied the actual involvement of policy makers in the 1930s.

2) “Insular government” was the name of the colonial government, while the Philippine government was called the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Although the Philippines became independent only in 1946, Filipino policy makers often assumed their government to be the government of the Filipino people. This writer uses “Insular government” to emphasize the viewpoint of American colonial officers and “Philippine government” to highlight the initiative by Filipino policy makers.

3) The appeal for economic nationalism was irrelevant to the agenda of the sugar industry. The sugar industry has been assumed to have had the strongest vested interest, pressuring politicians, including Quezon, to seek ways to maintain the status quo (Friend 1963; Golay 1997).

4) Abinales, however, concludes that the US colonial endeavor resulted in the creation of the foundation of the “cacique democracy” (Abinales 2005, 173), which is a type of “democracy” dominated by the cacique, or local landlord (e.g., Anderson 1988). This writer appreciates the kind suggestion of Professor Patricio N. Abinales (University of Hawai‘i) to refer to the insightful Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877–1920 (Skowronek 1982).

5) Osmeña and Roxas led the Philippine independence mission (Os-Rox mission) when the US Congress passed the HHC Act, while Quezon stayed behind in the Philippine Islands. Osmeña and Roxas could take the credit for winning the independence act and, therefore, prevail over Quezon (Agoncillo and Alfonso 1961; Friend 1965; Golay 1997).

6) The Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act was composed of the Hare Bill in the US House of Representatives and the Hawes-Cutting Bill in the US Senate and was sometimes referred to as the Hare Bill or Hawes-Cutting Bill.

7) The journalist and biographer Sol H. Gwekoh, in a biography of Quirino, wrote that Quirino organ­ized the PEA to study economic issues (Gwekoh 1949), while the authors of the PEA do not specify any single president or founder in the first pamphlet of the PEA (PEA 1933).

8) Gwekoh also mentioned that Quirino and Jose P. Laurel (later the president under Japanese military rule) were “the first two graduates of the University of the Philippines to be elected to the Senate and as the first English-speaking senators” (Gwekoh 1949, 30–31).

9) Araneta did not display an interest in any particular industry, although he would become close to the sugar industry in the 1950s (Takagi 2008). Gerardo Sicat recorded that Araneta disputed with representatives of the sugar industry in the 1960s (Sicat 2002, 2).

10) In August 1903 the pensionado system was introduced, under which “About 200 Filipinos were sent to the United States between 1903 and 1912” (Agoncillo and Alfonso 1961, 356).

11) Homepage of the Philippine Columbian Association

12) Regarding their comprehensive policy proposal, see the next section.

13) The Harry S. Truman Library keeps the J. Weldon Jones papers, which are a record of an influential American colonial officer, J. Weldon Jones. Professor Nagano Yoshiko (Kanagawa University) kindly shared her copies of the papers with this writer. This writer appreciates her generous support. Hereafter, materials from the collection are cited as follows in the text: (sender’s name to recipient’s name, written year, JWJ, page number/s). Details are provided in the reference list.

14) Castillo clearly distinguishes the gold bullion standard from the gold exchange standard (Castillo 1949a, 352–354).

15) The Philippine Insular government from the beginning paid attention to the example of other countries in its attempts at reshaping the banking industry. Nagano mentions that the government asked the American financial expert Edwin Kemmerer to study and make a report on the Agricultural Bank of Egypt when it designed the Agricultural Bank of the Philippine Government, which was established in 1908 and absorbed into the PNB in 1916 (Nagano 2003, 165–167).

16) Articles refer to the association as a society, but this writer prefers “association” based on the name of the PEA.

17) Interview with Martin C. Galan (Cuaderno’s grandson) in Makati, Metro Manila, on December 6, 2010.

18) Calalang was the third governor (BSP 1998), although Marisse Reyes-McMurray wrote that he was the second (Reyes-McMurray 1998, 93).

19) This writer uses the edition reprinted in 1949.

20) This writer is grateful to Professor Ricardo T. Jose (University of the Philippines) for kindly providing him with a copy of the National Assembly Bill.


Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, April 2014, pp. 85-117
©Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University