University of Wisconsin Press

New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies

John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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New Perspectives in Se Asian Studies

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Revolution Interrupted

Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand

Tyrell Haberkorn; Foreword by Thongchai Winichakul

In October 1973 a mass movement forced Thailand’s prime minister to step down and leave the country, ending nearly forty years of dictatorship. Three years later, in a brutal reassertion of authoritarian rule, Thai state and para-state forces quashed a demonstration at Thammasat University in Bangkok. In Revolution Interrupted, Tyrell Haberkorn focuses on this period when political activism briefly opened up the possibility for meaningful social change. Tenant farmers and their student allies fomented revolution, she shows, not by picking up guns but by invoking laws—laws that the Thai state ultimately proved unwilling to enforce.
    In choosing the law as their tool to fight unjust tenancy practices, farmers and students departed from the tactics of their ancestors and from the insurgent methods of the Communist Party of Thailand. To first imagine and then create a more just future, they drew on their own lived experience and the writings of Thai Marxian radicals of an earlier generation, as well as New Left, socialist, and other progressive thinkers from around the world. Yet their efforts were quickly met with harassment, intimidation, and assassinations of farmer leaders. More than thirty years later, the assassins remain unnamed.
    Drawing on hundreds of newspaper articles, cremation volumes, activist and state documents, and oral histories, Haberkorn reveals the ways in which the established order was undone and then reconsolidated. Examining this turbulent period through a new optic—interrupted revolution—she shows how the still unnameable violence continues to constrict political opportunity and to silence dissent in present-day Thailand.

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The Social World of Batavia

Europeans and Eurasians in Colonial Indonesia

Jean Gelman Taylor

In the seventeenth century, the Dutch established a trading base at the Indonesian site of Jacarta. What began as a minor colonial outpost under the name Batavia would become, over the next three centuries, the flourishing economic and political nucleus of the Dutch Asian Empire. In this pioneering study, Jean Gelman Taylor offers a comprehensive analysis of Batavia’s extraordinary social world—its marriage patterns, religious and social organizations, economic interests, and sexual roles. With an emphasis on the urban ruling elite, she argues that Europeans and Asians alike were profoundly altered by their merging, resulting in a distinctive hybrid, Indo-Dutch culture.
    Original in its focus on gender and use of varied sources—travelers’ accounts, newspapers, legal codes, genealogical data, photograph albums, paintings, and ceramics—The Social World of Batavia, first published in 1983, forged new paths in the study of colonial society. In this second edition, Gelman offers a new preface as well as an additional chapter tracing the development of these themes by a new generation of scholars.

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Thailand’s Political Peasants

Power in the Modern Rural Economy

Andrew Walker

When a populist movement elected Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister of Thailand in 2001, many of the country’s urban elite dismissed the outcome as just another symptom of rural corruption, a traditional patronage system dominated by local strongmen pressuring their neighbors through political bullying and vote-buying. In Thailand’s Political Peasants, however, Andrew Walker argues that the emergence of an entirely new socioeconomic dynamic has dramatically changed the relations of Thai peasants with the state, making them a political force to be reckoned with. Whereas their ancestors focused on subsistence, this generation of middle-income peasants seeks productive relationships with sources of state power, produces cash crops, and derives additional income through non-agricultural work. In the increasingly decentralized, disaggregated country, rural villagers and farmers have themselves become entrepreneurs and agents of the state at the local level, while the state has changed from an extractor of taxes to a supplier of subsidies and a patron of development projects.
    Thailand’s Political Peasants provides an original, provocative analysis that encourages an ethnographic rethinking of rural politics in rapidly developing countries. Drawing on six years of fieldwork in Ban Tiam, a rural village in northern Thailand, Walker shows how analyses of peasant politics that focus primarily on rebellion, resistance, and evasion are becoming less useful for understanding emergent forms of political society.

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Viet Nam

Borderless Histories

Edited by Nhung Tuyet Tran and Anthony Reid

Moving beyond past histories of Viet Nam that have focused on nationalist struggle, this volume brings together work by scholars who are re-examining centuries of Vietnamese history.  Crossing borders and exploring ambiguities, the essays in Viet Nam: Borderless Histories draw on international archives and bring a range of inventive analytical approaches to the global, regional, national, and local narratives of Vietnamese history. Among the topics explored are the extraordinary diversity between north and south, lowland and highland, Viet and minority, and between colonial, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and dynastic influences. The result is an exciting new approach to Southeast Asia's past that uncovers the complex and rich history of Viet Nam.


“A wonderful introduction to the exciting work that a new generation of scholars is engaging in.”—Liam C. Kelley, International Journal of Asian Studies

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Voices from the Plain of Jars

Life under an Air War

Edited by Fred Branfman with essays and drawings by Laotian villagers; Foreword by Alfred W. McCoy

During the Vietnam War the United States government waged a massive, secret air war in neighboring Laos. Two million tons of bombs were dropped on one million people. Fred Branfman, an educational advisor living in Laos at the time, interviewed over 1,000 Laotian survivors. Shocked by what he heard and saw, he urged them to record their experiences in essays, poems, and pictures. Voices from the Plain of Jars was the result of that effort.
    When first published in 1972, this book was instrumental in exposing the bombing. In this expanded edition, Branfman follows the story forward in time, describing the hardships that Laotians faced after the war when they returned to find their farm fields littered with cluster munitions—explosives that continue to maim and kill today.

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