March 2014 (Volume 22, Number 1)
- 141 An Iu-Mienh–English Dictionary with Cultural Notes, by Herbert Purnell
- (reviewed by Elisabeth Ginsburg)
- 145 Women, Leadership, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority, edited by Masooda Bano and Hilary Kalmbach
- (reviewed by Chiara Formichi)
- 147 An Economic History of Indonesia 1800–2010, by Jan Luien van Zanden and Daan Marks
- (reviewed by Gregg Huff)
- 149 Contemporary Vietnam: A Guide to Economic and Political Developments, by Ian Jeffries
- (reviewed by Pietro P. Masina)
- 151 A History of Myanmar Since Ancient Times: Traditions and Transformations, by Michael Aung-Thwin and Maitrii Aung-Thwin
- (reviewed by Jonathan Saha)
- 155 Becoming – An Anthropological Approach to Understandings of the Person in Java, by Konstantinos Retsikas
- (reviewed by Susanne Rodemeier)
Abstract: Leftist movements of the mid-twentieth century have a well earned reputation for sexual conservatism. However, these movements were not of a simplistic reactionary type, but rather were embedded in sexualized contexts that functioned through the displacement of individual sexual desire. Following from the work of Ka F. Wong and his Lacanian analysis of the way displaced sexuality functioned in the experience of participants in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, this paper applies Lacan’s concepts of repressed libidinal energy to analyse the sexual politics of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) from the 1970s to the early 1980s. The CPT promoted personal sexual discipline as a moral alternative to the purported sexual licentiousness and moral bankruptcy of their right-wing opponents. The paper, moreover, argues that party discipline, particularly regarding gender and sexuality, was not necessarily experienced as an annoyance or deprivation, but rather was recounted by participants as liberating, necessary, and even spiritual.
Abstract: The author examines the context and experiences of Shan migrants from Burma regarding men who work in male host clubs in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. While Shan commercial sex workers in Thailand often have cultural understandings of gender and sexual categories in the Shan and Burmese context, their direct experience in performing sexuality takes place in Thailand, and is economically mediated. This study seeks to answer two questions. First, to what extent do migrant Shans ascribe specific sexual and gender comportment to Thai cultural practices? Second, how might engagement with a gay commercial sex industry affect how these Shan men remember and relate to gender and sexual categories back in the Shan state in Burma? As ethnographic evidence shows, Shan male sex workers are able to adapt to certain cultural aspects of Thai ke [gay] identity, but they posit their own masculinity against former familiar categories of sexuality and gender.
Abstract: This paper examines the territorial dispute over the Preah Vihear temple on the Thai–Cambodian border. It sheds new light on discussions of the geo-body and nationalism by engaging with cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard’s notions of the simulacrum and hyperreality in association with maps. The dispute over the temple of Preah Vihear has centred on one particular map, known as the Annex 1 map, which locates the temple in Cambodian territory. The map has not remained an inanimate object, but has instead become a ‘living thing’ and attained something of a ‘soul’. As a result, any sense of mismapping which results in the loss of territory is no other than the equivalent of a loss of the biological body, as a result of which real conflict ensues. This paper reveals the historical process of how the Annex 1 map has become a simulacrum in Baudrillard’s sense of the term, to the extent that it creates an instance of hyperreality to which people are emotionally attached.
Abstract: A content analysis of print advertisements and customer websites of Islamic banks in Malaysia, this paper examines the changing marketing and branding landscape of Islamic banking products and financial services. When Islamic banks were first set up in Malaysia in the early 1980s, their advertising material emphasized the religious obligations of Muslims to save and invest with shari’a-compliant financial products and services. Amid the ongoing liberalization of Malaysia’s Islamic banking sector since the mid-1990s, a transformation of this marketing strategy appears to have taken place. Islamic banks no longer emphasize a priori the religious imperatives or even the ethical principles that underlie their business model. Rather, they tend to stress that banking according to the principles of the shari’a is an economically rational alternative to the conventional system. Islamic banks in Malaysia portray themselves not simply as Islamic banks, but as better, more profitable and safer alternatives to the crisis-prone conventional, interest-based banking sector. This paper examines this transformation, and seeks to relate the three broad trends it has identified in the advertisement of Islamic banking services to the wider socio-cultural, economic and political changes that have been under way in Malaysia since the late 1960s.
Abstract: What role do Muslim social and educational organizations play in Indonesian politics after democratization? When democratization opens up a larger political space for Islamic organizations to participate in politics, do Muslim organizations emerge as political powers or remain socio-religious organizations? How do Muslim organizations engage in electoral politics? This article addresses these questions by examining the role of Muhammadiyah in democratic Indonesian politics. The author argues that Muhammadiyah’s political behaviour is driven by its institutional logic, which places its religious and social duties before its political interests. Although there have been attempts by some elites to take advantage of Muhammadiyah for their own political gains, Muhammadiyah has managed to refrain from building or supporting a particular political party at the organizational level. Moreover, political learning through unsuccessful outcomes in initial elections and bitter experience with PKS also alerted Muhammadiyah to the need to protect itself from partisan politics by emphasizing its organizational principle. This article also demonstrates how religious institutions use politics for religious ends and to confirm the integrity of their community.
Abstract: This paper discusses the foundational history of a major European mercantile house in colonial South East Asia in the context of commercial developments that had both a regional and global reach. In so doing, it seeks to relate a local and historically particular event to a broader world pattern defined by three rapidly evolving commodity chains, based respectively on the production, distribution and consumption of cotton goods, coffee and opium. In this context, the paper argues that the hard-won commercial success of the firm in question resulted from a significant degree of withdrawal from the bilateral ties between colony and metropolis inherent in the cotton and coffee commodity chains. In their place, the firm had recourse to several varieties of the inter-Asian trade, of which the opium commodity chain constituted the key dimension.
Abstract: In the context of mineral extraction in South East Asia, the rural poor are generally portrayed as victims of large, invading corporatized mining enterprises. However, this paper argues that local villagers have also shown considerable agency in taking advantage of the mineral resource boom by diversifying their livelihoods to include informal mining. In South East Asia, the growth of informal mining has occurred within the overall process of agrarian transition. This paper focuses on a mineral-rich valley in southern Laos to highlight the location-specific nature of such transitions. The valley’s environmental transformation has both caused and accompanied a modification in the peasant ways of life, and the recent entry of transnational mining companies and the growing market price of tin have fundamentally altered the relationships of the peasants with place, while at the same time encouraging them to claim mineral resource rights in ways that are not accommodated in conventional mining legislation. To conclude, the paper notes the multiple interpretations and contradictions of the increasing mineral dependence among Lao peasants in a rapidly changing world.
Abstract: One of the initiatives used by the Singapore government to fortify its own position has been to promote Malay culture. This has been done by strengthening the Malays’ attachment to their indigenous culture and also by introducing the customs and practices of the racial minority to non- Malays. This article traces the genealogy of cultural engineering by the state from the 1960s to the present, and argues that the persistence of late capitalism has retained the material dialectic between the political and the popular. Focusing on the local practices of the gamelan and angklung-kulintang, the article explores paradoxes in the way these musical genres are being promoted today by a new generation of non-Malay descendants, who have also become the cultural sculptors of Malay identity for international spectacles.