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Frontier Livelihoods Cover

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Frontier Livelihoods

Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands

by Sarah Turner, Christine Bonnin, and Jean Michaud

Do ethnic minorities have the power to alter the course of their fortune when living within a socialist state? In Frontier Livelihoods, the authors focus their study on the Hmong - known in China as the Miao - in the Sino-Vietnamese borderlands, contending that individuals and households create livelihoods about which governments often know little. The product of wide-ranging research over many years, Frontier Livelihoods bridges the traditional divide between studies of China and peninsular Southeast Asia by examining the agency, dynamics, and resilience of livelihoods adopted by Hmong communities in Vietnam and in China’s Yunnan Province. It covers the reactions to state modernization projects among this ethnic group in two separate national jurisdictions and contributes to a growing body of literature on cross-border relationships between ethnic minorities in the borderlands of China and its neighbors and in Southeast Asia more broadly.

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Generation Later

Household Strategies and Economic Change in the Rural Philippines

James F. Eder

A Generation Later moves beyond analytical models of rural change that focus on the peasant/agricultural aspect of rural communities and makes a convincing case for an approach that integrates farm and nonfarm occupations and does justice to the conditions of occupational multiplicity that characterize, to an increasing extent, many of the rural communities in Asia. In this context, it challenges conventional (and simplistic) "peasant to proletarian" views of change. Rather than finding a dreary and dispirited landscape of sameness and hardship, it offers some empirical support for amore optimistic view of the region's future, one of growing household prosperity and widespread individual opportunity.

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A Gentleman's Word

The Legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose in Southeast Asia

Nilanjana Sengupta

The great Indian nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Singapore in 1943 to revitalize the Indian National Army (INA). Taking the opportunity of the Japanese occupation of parts of Southeast Asia, he launched armed struggle against British colonial rule in India. Two years later, that attempt failed at the eastern gates of India. Yet, it was a temporary failure because the INA helped set in motion a series of developments within India. These would culminate in its freedom in a further two years. Bose is household name in India. He is remembered in Southeast Asia as well, particularly among Indians. However, while his contributions to India’s independence movement have been recorded exhaustively, less is known about the legacy that he left behind in Southeast Asia. This book seeks to fill that gap in the international understanding of a great Indian nationalist and pan-Asianist. It records how participation in the nationalist struggle invested Southeast Asian Indians with a rare sense of dignity and helped foster a mushrooming of militant trade unions, making it difficult for the returning British planters to perpetuate their control over what had been a docile workforce. The INA’s Rani of Jhansi movement proved to be a pioneering effort at drawing Southeast Asian Indian women out of their traditional roles and expectations. It inspired some of them to take up mainstream roles for the cause of equality and emancipation. A Gentleman’s Word retraces this journey of self-discovery of those who were inspired by Subhas Chandra Bose. The great Indian nationalist leader Subhas Chandra Bose arrived in Singapore in 1943 to revitalize the Indian National Army (INA). Taking the opportunity of the Japanese occupation of parts of Southeast Asia, he launched armed struggle against British colonial rule in India. Two years later, that attempt failed at the eastern gates of India. Yet, it was a temporary failure because the INA helped set in motion a series of developments within India. These would culminate in its freedom in a further two years. Bose is household name in India. He is remembered in Southeast Asia as well, particularly among Indians. However, while his contributions to India’s independence movement have been recorded exhaustively, less is known about the legacy that he left behind in Southeast Asia. This book seeks to fill that gap in the international understanding of a great Indian nationalist and pan-Asianist. It records how participation in the nationalist struggle invested Southeast Asian Indians with a rare sense of dignity and helped foster a mushrooming of militant trade unions, making it difficult for the returning British planters to perpetuate their control over what had been a docile workforce. The INA’s Rani of Jhansi movement proved to be a pioneering effort at drawing Southeast Asian Indian women out of their traditional roles and expectations. It inspired some of them to take up mainstream roles for the cause of equality and emancipation. A Gentleman’s Word retraces this journey of self-discovery of those who were inspired by Subhas Chandra Bose.

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Ghosts of the New City

Spirits, Urbanity, and the Ruins of Progress in Chiang Mai

Andrew Alan Johnson

Chiang Mai (literally, “new city”) suffered badly in the 1997 Asian financial crisis as the Northern Thai real estate bubble collapsed along with the Thai baht, crushing dreams of a renaissance of Northern prosperity. Years later, the ruins of the excesses of the 1990s still stain the skyline. Hopes for rebirth and fears of decline have their roots in Thai conceptions of progress, which draw from Buddhist and animist ideas of power and sacrality. Cities, Johnson argues, were centers where the charismatic power of kings and animist spirits were grounded; these entities assured progress by imbuing the space with sacred power that would avert disaster. Andrew Alan Johnson traces such magico-religious conceptions of potency and space from historical records through present-day popular religious practice and draws parallels between these and secular attempts at urban revitalization. For many Chiang Mai residents, new developments harbor the seeds of the crash, which manifest themselves in anxious stories of ghosts and criminals who conceal themselves behind the city’s progressive veneer. In Ghosts of the New City, Johnson shows how the trauma of the crash, brought back vividly by the political crisis of 2006, haunts efforts to remake the city.

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The Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand

Essays on the History and Historiography of Patani

Patrick Jory

At the heart of the on-going armed conflict in southern Thailand is a fundamental disagreement about the history of relations between the Patani Malays and the Thai kingdom.While the Thai royalist-nationalist version of history regards Patani as part of that kingdom "since time immemorial," Patani Malay nationalists look back to a golden age when the Sultanate of Patani was an independent, prosperous trading state and a renowned center for Islamic education and scholarship in Southeast Asia -- a time before it was defeated, broken up, and fell under the oppressive control of the Thai state. While still influential, in recent years these diametrically opposed views of the past have begun to make way for more nuanced and varied interpretations. Patani scholars, intellectuals and students now explore their history more freely and confidently than in the past, while the once-rigid Thai nationalist narrative is open to more pluralistic interpretations. There is growing interaction and dialogue between historians writing in Thai, Malay and English, and engagement with sources and scholarship in other languages, including Chinese and Arabic. In The Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand, thirteen historians who have worked on this sensitive region evaluate the current state of current historical writing about the Patani Malays of southern Thailand. The essays in this book demonstrate that an understanding of the conflict must take into account the historical dimensions of relations between Patani and the Thai kingdom, and the ongoing influence of these perceptions on Thai state officials, militants, and the local population.

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Global Movements, Local Concerns

Medicine and Health in Southeast Asia

edited by Laurence Monnais and Harold J. Cook

The development of medicine in Southeast Asia over the past two centuries has not been a simple imposition of European scientific medicine, but a complex and negotiated process that drew on Southeast Asian health experts, local medical traditions, and changing national and popular expectations. The contributors to this volume show how the practices of health in Southeast Asia over the past two centuries were mediated by local medical traditions, colonial interests, governments and policies, international interventions, and by a wide range of health agents and intermediaries. Their findings call into question many of the claims based on medicalization and biopolitics that treat change as a process of rupture. While governments, both colonial and national, used their powers to institute policies that affected large numbers of people, much healthcare remained rooted in a more interactive and locally-mediated experience, in which tradition, adaptation and hybridization is as important as innovation and conflict. "Semi-subaltern" Western-trained doctors adn varied traditional healers, many of them women, were among the cultural brokers involved in the building of healthcare systems, and helped circulate mixed practices and ideas about medicine and health even as they found their place in new professional and social hierarchies in an era of globalization.

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The Government of Mistrust

Illegibility and Bureaucratic Power in Socialist Vietnam

Ken MacLean

Focusing on the creation and misuse of government documents in Vietnam since the 1920s, The Government of Mistrust reveals how profoundly the dynamics of bureaucracy have affected Vietnamese efforts to build a socialist society. In examining the flurries of paperwork and directives that moved back and forth between high- and low-level officials, Ken MacLean underscores a paradox: in trying to gather accurate information about the realities of life in rural areas, and thus better govern from Hanoi, the Vietnamese central government employed strategies that actually made the state increasingly illegible to itself.
            MacLean exposes a falsified world existing largely on paper. As high-level officials attempted to execute centralized planning via decrees, procedures, questionnaires, and audits, low-level officials and peasants used their own strategies to solve local problems. To obtain hoped-for aid from the central government, locals overstated their needs and underreported the resources they actually possessed. Higher-ups attempted to re-establish centralized control and legibility by creating yet more bureaucratic procedures. Amidst the resulting mistrust and ambiguity, many low-level officials were able to engage in strategic action and tactical maneuvering that have shaped socialism in Vietnam in surprising ways.

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Hard Interests, Soft Illusions

Southeast Asia and American Power

by Natasha Hamilton-Hart

In Hard Interests, Soft Illusions, Natasha Hamilton-Hart explores the belief held by foreign policy elites in much of Southeast Asia-Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam-that the United States is a relatively benign power. She argues that this belief is an important factor underpinning U.S. preeminence in the region, because beliefs inform specific foreign policy decisions and form the basis for broad orientations of alignment, opposition, or nonalignment. Such foundational beliefs, however, do not simply reflect objective facts and reasoning processes. Hamilton-Hart argues that they are driven by both interests-in this case the political and economic interests of ruling groups in Southeast Asia-and illusions.

Hamilton-Hart shows how the information landscape and standards of professional expertise within the foreign policy communities of Southeast Asia shape beliefs about the United States. These opinions frequently rest on deeply biased understandings of national history that dominate perceptions of the past and underlie strategic assessments of the present and future. Members of the foreign policy community rarely engage in probabilistic reasoning or effortful knowledge-testing strategies. This does not mean, she emphasizes, that the beliefs are insincere or merely instrumental rationalizations. Rather, cognitive and affective biases in the ways humans access and use information mean that interests influence beliefs; how they do so depends on available information, the social organization and practices of a professional sphere, and prevailing standards for generating knowledge.

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Hating Empire Properly

The Two Indies and the Limits of Enlightenment Anticolonialism

Sunil M. Agnani

In Hating Empire Properly, Sunil Agnani produces a novel attempt to think the eighteenth-century imagination of the West and East Indies together, arguing that this is how contemporary thinkers Edmund Burke and Denis Diderot actually viewed them. This concern with multiple geographical spaces is revealed to be a largely unacknowledged part of the matrix of Enlightenment thought in which eighteenth-century European and American self-conceptions evolved. By focusing on colonial spaces of the Enlightenment, especially India and Haiti, he demonstrates how Burke's fearful view of the French Revolution-the defining event of modernity-was shaped by prior reflection on these other domains. Exploring with sympathy the angry outbursts against injustice in the writings of Diderot, he nonetheless challenges recent understandings of him as a univocal critic of empire by showing the persistence of a fantasy of consensual colonialism in his thought. By looking at the impasses and limits in the thought of both radical and conservative writers, Agnani asks what it means to critique empire "properly." Drawing his method from Theodor Adorno's quip that "one must have tradition in oneself, in order to hate it properly," he proposes a critical inhabiting of dominant forms of reason as a way forward for the critique of both empire and Enlightenment.Thus, this volume makes important contributions to political theory, history, literary studies, American studies, and postcolonial studies.

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Hell in An Loc

The 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle That Saved South Viet Nam

Lam Quang Thi

In 1972 a North Vietnamese offensive of more than 30,000 men and 100 tanks smashed into South Vietnam and raced to capture Saigon. All that stood in their way was a small band of 6,800 South Vietnamese (ARVN) soldiers and militiamen, and a handful of American advisors with U.S. air support, guarding An Loc, a town sixty miles north of Saigon and on the main highway to it. This depleted army, outnumbered and outgunned, stood its ground and fought to the end and succeeded. Against all expectations, the ARVN beat back furious assaults from three North Vietnamese divisions, supported by artillery and armored regiments, during three months of savage fighting. This victory was largely unreported in the U.S. media, which had effectively lost interest in the war after the disengagement of most U.S. forces. Thi believes that it is time to set the record straight. Without denying the tremendous contribution of the U.S. advisors and pilots, this book is written primarily to tell the South Vietnamese side of the story and, more importantly, to render justice to the South Vietnamese soldier.

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