Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity, edited by Joshua Baker, Erik Harms, and Johan Lindquist, brings together the fieldwork of over eighty scholars and covers the nine major countries of the region: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. An introduction outlines important social transformations in Southeast Asia and key theoretical and methodological innovations that result from ethnographic attention to the study of key figures. Each section begins with an introduction by a country editor followed by short essays offering vivid and intimate portraits set against the background of contemporary Southeast Asia. The result is a volume that combines scholarly rigor with a meaningful, up-to-date portrayal of a region of the world undergoing rapid change. A reference bibliography offers suggestions for further reading.
“The idea of capturing recent transformations of Southeast Asia through vignettes about familiar yet idiosyncratic individuals is brilliant. The everyday experiences and aspirations of people trying to make sense of their lives and dreams convey a complex and often surprising view of contemporary cross-currents, upheavals, anxieties, and struggles in a volatile region. This volume offers a great way for students to understand and empathize with ordinary people and nations in rapid motion.” —Aihwa Ong, co-editor of Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments in the Art of Being Global
January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3741-9 / $25.00 (PAPER)
In her innovative new book, Fertile Disorder: Spirit Possession and Its Provocation of the Modern,Kalpana Ram reflects on the way spirit possession unsettles some of the foundational assumptions of modernity. What is a human subject under the varied conditions commonly associated with possession? What kind of subjectivity must already be in place to allow such a transformation to occur? How does it alter our understanding of memory and emotion if these assail us in the form of ghosts rather than as attributes of subjective experience? What does it mean to worship deities who are afflictive and capricious, yet bear an intimate relationship to justice? What is a “human” body if it can be taken over by a whole array of entities? What is agency if people can be “claimed” in this manner? What is gender if, while possessed, a woman is a woman no longer?
Drawing on spirit possession among women and the rich traditions of subaltern religion in Tamil Nadu, South India, Ram concludes that the basis for constructing an alternative understanding of human agency need not rest on the usual requirements of a fully present consciousness or on the exercise of choice and planning. Instead of relegating possession, ghosts, and demons to the domain of the exotic, Ram uses spirit possession to illuminate ordinary experiences and relationships.
“Ram’s extraordinary capacity to combine meticulous ethnography of spirit possession and other expressions of ‘female disorder’ in Tamil Nadu with deep and provocative reflections on the history of modernity in the subcontinent is what gives this book its freshness and originality. Scholars in diverse fields, from South Asian feminist and subaltern studies to those constituted by anthropological and postcolonial critiques of contemporary forms of modernization, should find this book to be of absorbing interest.” —Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago
January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3630-6 / $57.00 (CLOTH)
The Collier Committee members were impressed with the authors’ contribution:
“and in particular with the presentation of unpublished archival materials, John Layard’s story, and historical photos supplemented with his contextual field notes integrated in such an engaging format with contemporary visual research and literature, essays, text, and the reintroduction of historical and contemporary photos into the culture today.”
The official presentation of the award was made last week during the 2012 American Anthropology Association annual meeting in San Francisco.
Jim Tranquada, coauthor of The ‘Ukulele: A History, had a minute of fame on the CBS Sunday Morning Showthat aired October 14 across the U.S. The entire six-minute segment by reporter Seth Doane and producer Kay Lim featured international uke star Jake Shimabukuro, the Kamaka ‘ukulelefactory, and teacher Roy Sakuma (impresario of the annual Ukulele Festival Hawaii). Tranquada shared that the instrument now widely identified as a Hawaiian icon actually was introduced by Portuguese immigrants from the island of Madeira, off the coast of Morocco.
As related news, The ‘Ukulele: A History has received thumbs-up reviews from Library Journal and ForeWord Magazine. The former recommends the book for “any comprehensive music collection (and, really, for any popular music collection),” while the latter calls it “a fascinating musical and social history that not only supports Tranquada and King’s argument for a rehabilitation of the instrument’s image, but also sets the stage for a full-scale ‘ukulele revival.” Read the full reviews: Library Journal | ForeWord
Roughly half a world away, on another island, the “Uke Ireland & Ukuhooley Blog” has posted a comparative review of Tranquada and King’s history with Ian Whitcomb’s recent Ukulele Heroes (Hal Leonard Books). Embedded within that blog post is a video review by Ukester Brown, a ‘ukulele player in Minnesota, who recommends both books, for different reasons. According to the information on the Uke Ireland site, every Saturday there’s a UkuHooley Meetup at the Dun Laoghaire Club in Dublin—perhaps another example of how the ‘ukulele has become an international cultural phenomenon!
Taberam Soni, Labh Singh, Amar Singh, and other artists live and work in the hill-villages of the lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, India. There they fashion face-images of deities (mohras) out of thin sheets of precious metal. Commissioned by upper-caste patrons, the objects are cultural embodiments of divine and earthly kinship. As the artists make the images, they also cross caste boundaries in a part of India where such differences still determine rules of contact and correspondence, proximity and association. Once a mohra has been completed and consecrated, its maker is not permitted to touch it or enter the temple in which it is housed; yet during its creation the artist is sovereign, treated deferentially as he shares living quarters with the high-caste patrons. Making Faces: Self and Image Creation in a Himalayan Valley, by Alka Hingorani, tells the story of these god-makers, the gods they make, and the communities that participate in the creative process and its accompanying rituals.
“With its close-up and theoretically sophisticated treatment of Indian artisans at work, this stimulating book raises important issues concerning the making of art in a religious setting. The author includes wonderful vignettes, such as a description of how to make a Kullu royal umbrella, and an artist’s charming story of the Sun and the Divine Architect. With its excellent and compelling color photographs, this well documented book deserves to attract a broad audience of readers interested in South Asian studies and in art history.” —Richard Davis, Bard College
September 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3525-5 / $45.00 (CLOTH)
For those at the high end of the trafficking chain, the sex trade is an alluring and lucrative business: the supply of girls is constant, the costs of operations are low, and interference from law enforcement is weak to non-existent. Anti-trafficking organizations and governments commonly appropriate such market metaphors of supply and demand as they struggle with the moral-political dimensions of a business involving trade, labor, prostitution, migration, and national borders. But how apt are they? Is the sex trade really the perfect business? The Perfect Business? Anti-Trafficking and the Sex Trade along the Mekong, by Sverre Molland, is a provocative new book that examines the social worlds and interrelationships of traffickers, victims, and trafficking activists along the Thai-Lao border. It explores local efforts to reconcile international legal concepts, the bureaucratic prescriptions of aid organizations, and global development ideologies with on-the-ground realities of sexual commerce.
The most common description of the supernatural landscape in Vietnam makes a distinction between Buddhist and non-Buddhist “sides.” The “Buddha side” (ben phat) is the focus of this investigation into the intersection of gender, power, and religious praxis. Employing an anthropological approach to Buddhist practice that takes into account modes of action that are not only socially constructed and contextual, but also negotiated by the actors, The Buddha Side: Gender, Power, and Buddhist Practice in Vietnam, by Alexander Soucy, uniquely explores how gender and age affect understandings of what it means to be a Buddhist.
“The Buddha Side is an outstanding study. Embracing complexity and variation, Alexander Soucy deftly describes and analyzes the wide range of attitudes toward, engagements with, and meanings of Buddhism and Buddhist practice in contemporary northern Vietnam. It is a model anthropological study of religion, especially in its approach to gender, and will be of value to all scholars who seek a deeper understanding of religion as a lived human experience.” —Shaun Kingsley Malarney, International Christian University, Tokyo, Japan
Plaited Arts from the Borneo Rainforest, edited by Bernard Sellato, is the first comprehensive work of its kind and size. It promotes a “contextual” approach, combining not just botanical and technical, but also economic, social, and ritual elements. The twenty-one contributors are the world’s leading experts on the subject, scholars and artisans who live in Borneo or have spent many years there and have become deeply involved, on a personal and emotional level, with the people of the island and their cultures. They hail from ten different nations, including Malaysia and Indonesia, and from Borneo itself: Sarawak, Sabah, and Kalimantan. This beautifully illustrated, oversize volume includes more than 1,000 photographs, 930 in color.
May 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3619-1 / $70.00 (CLOTH)
Aborigial Art & Culture: An American Eye calls Minoru Hokari’sGurindji Journey: A Japanese Historian in the Outback, a “wonderful, iconoclastic study.” Reviewer Will Owen recalls Hokari’s discussion of a Gurindji historical event, John F. Kennedy’s visit to Wave Hill Station in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination: “[This] was better than picking up the latest Swedish crime thriller: I had to keep reading until I understood how Hokari was going to resolve this problem.” Owen concludes his review with:
“In writing this short review of Gurindji Journey, I have used the entertaining and perplexing instance of President Kennedy’s visit to Wave Hill to organize some aspects of Hokari’s story telling and analysis. In doing so, I have not done justice to the complexity and subtlety of his arguments, nor the richness of his immersion in Gurindji culture. But I hope that what I have written will entice you to pick up this unlikely entry in the literature of Indigenous studies written by a Japanese historian in the Outback.”
Winner of the Association for Asian American Studies’ Book Award in Social Sciences, Ethnoburb: The New Ethnic Community in Urban America, by Wei Li, provides a new model for the analysis of ethnic and racial settlement patterns in the United States and Canada. Ethnoburbs—suburban ethnic clusters of residential areas and business districts in large metropolitan areas—are multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual, and often multinational communities in which one ethnic minority group has a significant concentration but does not necessarily constitute a majority. Li documents the processes that have evolved with the spatial transformation of the Chinese American community of Los Angeles and that have converted the San Gabriel Valley into ethnoburbs in the latter half of the twentieth century, and she examines the opportunities and challenges that occurred as a result of these changes.
“A thought-provoking and well-executed book. The built environment is among the most reliable indicators of who people are and what they want, and Li has persuasively demonstrated key aspects of some dramatic transformations.” —The Geographical Review
February 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3671-9 / $25.00 (PAPER)
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