New Publication: It’s a Living – Work and Life in Vietnam Today by Gerard Sasges (ed.)

Sasges, Gerard (ed.) It’s a Living: Work and Life in Vietnam Today, Singapore: NUS Press, 2013.

Through interviews and 70 photographs, It’s a Living reveals the energy and struggle of the world of work in Vietnam today. A goldfish peddler installing aquariums, a business school graduate selling shoes on the sidewalk, a college student running an extensive multi-level sales network, and a girl doing promotions but intent on moving into management are just a few of the people profiled. Based on frank and freewheeling interviews conducted by students, the book engages a broad range of Vietnamese on their feelings about work, life and getting ahead. By providing a ground-level view of the texture of daily working life in the midst of rapid and unsettling change, the book reveals Vietnam today as a place where ordinary people are leveraging whatever assets they have, not just to survive, but to make a better life for themselves, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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New Publication: A Mountain of Difference – The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao by Oona Paredes

Paredes, Oona, A Mountain of Difference – The Lumad in Early Colonial Mindanao, Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2013

A Mountain of Difference recasts the early colonial encounter between the indigenous Lumad and Christian missionaries in the southern Philippines. This groundbreaking study of the Lumad—the non-Muslim native peoples of Mindanao—draws on Spanish archival sources an indigenous oral traditions to reconceptualize the political and cultural history of the island’s “upland” minorities.

While Lumad peoples are widely believed to have successfully resisted the traumatic transformations of Spanish colonization, Oona Paredes makes a case for the deep cultural impact of Catholic missions in Mindanao, arguing that key elements of “traditional” Lumad life today may have evolved from earlier cross-cultural encounters with Iberian Catholic missionaries. Vignettes of Lumad life prior to the nineteenth century show different communities actively engaging colonial power and mediating its exercise according to local priorities, with unexpected results.

This book complicates our understanding of Mindanao’s history and ethnography, and outlines the beginning of an autonomous history for the marginalized Lumad peoples. The interactions explored in this book illuminate the surprisingly complex cultural and power dynamics at the peripheries of European colonialism.

New Publication: Ancient Harbours in Southeast Asia : The Archaeology of Early Harbours and Evidence of Inter-Regional Trade by John N Miksic and Goh Geok Yian (eds.)


Miksic, John N and Goh Geok Yian (eds.), Ancient Harbours in Southeast Asia : The Archaeology of Early Harbours and Evidence of Inter-Regional Trade,  Thailand: SEAMEO SPAFA, 2013

The archaeology of harbours is critical to understanding patterns of ancient trade and inter-regional interaction.  Systematic excavations of sites of harbours, ports and docks are, however, extremely rare in Southeast Asia.  Even though ancient trade has always been a favourite topic of scholars working on ancient Southeast Asia, the working areas of ports/harbours have attracted very little attention.  This is the first publication to focus on the archaeology of Southeast Asian harbours.

This book compiles some of the first research by Southeast Asian archaeologists on this significant but neglected subject.  It contains much new information on the roles of Southeast Asians in ancient commerce and industry, and on the nature of cultural interaction which has taken place in these sites for over 2,000 years.

The bulk of contributions in this volume concern Indonesia, as befits the immense geographical expanse of a nation comprising thousands of islands.  The book brings together studies on Sumatra, Java, Bali, Sulawesi, and the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago.  Another chapter deals with protohistoric Malaysia.  Chapters on the Philippines range from the thousand-year-old trading port of Butuan to Spanish colonial-era shipyards.  A study of late prehistoric sites of inter-regional seaborne trade in peninsular Thailand indicates that these may be the oldest harbours in the region to link the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.  The publication should shed more light and encourage further research on this neglected field.

New Publication: The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia, 1965-68 by Douglas Kammen and Katharine McGregor (eds.)

Kammen, Douglas and Katharine McGregor (eds.), The Countours of Mass Violence in Indonesia, 1965-68, Singapore: NUS Press, 2012

The violence directed against the political left in Indonesia from 1965 until 1968 has been the subject of intense speculation. The large number of deaths, brutal interrogations, as well as rape, torture, short- and long-tern detention and on-going discrimination inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people who make this a compelling topic. However, political sensitivities within Indonesia and a dearth of evidence made serious research on the topic extremely difficult under the New Order regime.

The Contours of Mass Violence in Indonesia presents case studies from diverse locations throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The accounts revolve around the impact and interpretations of the September 30th Movement and its aftermath; the roles of military and civilian groups in   fomenting and perpetrating violence; short- and long-tern detention; and the   legacies of the assault on the political Left. Although events unfolded   differently in various parts of the country, the violence amounted to a   counter-revolution intended to curtail the mass mobilization and popular participation unleashed by the national revolution some twenty years earlier. The goal was to destroy the social bases of President Sukarno’s left-leaning Guided Democracy, and to establish a military regime that was authoritarian and pro-Western.

Students of Indonesia will learn much from the accounts in this volume, but the discussion will also benefit scholars concerned with the dynamics of mass violence, the Cold War, regime change and counter-revolution.

New Publication: The Spirit of Things: Materiality and Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia by Julius Bautista (ed.)

Bautista, Julius (ed.), The Spirit of Things: Materiality and Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia,  Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program Publications, 2012

What role do objects play in crafting the religions of Southeast Asia and shaping the experiences of believers? The Spirit of Things explores religious materiality in a region marked by shifting boundaries, multiple beliefs, and trends toward religious exclusivism. While most studies of religion in Southeast Asia focus on doctrines or governmental policy, contributors to this volume recognize that religious “things” – statues, talismans, garments, even sacred automobiles – are crucial to worship, and that they have a broad impact on social cohesion. By engaging with `religion in its tangible forms, faith communities reiterate their essential narratives, allegiances, and boundaries, and negotiate their coexistence with competing belief systems. These ethnographic and historical studies of Southeast Asia furnish us with intriguing perspectives on wider debates concerning the challenges of secularization, pluralism, and interfaith interactions around the world.

In this volume, contributors offer rich ethnographic analyses of religious practices in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Burma that examine the roles materiality plays in the religious lives of Southeast Asians. These essays demonstrate that religious materials are embedded in a host of practices that enable the faithful to negotiate the often tumultuous experience of living amid other believers. What we see is that the call for plurality, often initiated by government, increases the importance of religious objects, as they are the means by which the distinctiveness of a particular faith is “fenced” in a field of competing religious discourses. This project is called “the spirit of things” to evoke both the “aura” of religious objects and the power of material things to manifest “that which is fundamental” about faith and belief.    .

New Publication: The Court of Surakarta by John N Miksic

Miksic, John N, The Court of Surakarta, Menteng, Jakarta: BAB Publishing Indonesia, 2012

In the early 20th century, Indonesia was divided into 350 greater and lesser kingdoms. Although Dutch imperialism influenced this pattern, the political history of the archipelago over the centuries had been marked by the expansion and contraction of various local spheres of influence. One of the oldest and most powerful centers of power in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago has always been located in central Java. The court of Surakarta Hadiningrat, formed in the 1740s, can trace its origins to kingdoms of the 8th century. In 1945 the ancient kingdoms were superseded by the newly-formed Republic of Indonesia.

The courts with their panoply of ancient traditions gave way to a new political ethos in which individual achievement replaced aristocratic birth as the main criteria for success. Overnight the courts were reduced to political irrelevance. Their rulers lost both inherited power and traditional sources of income. Many simply disappeared, while others clung to a precarious existence as tourist attractions or cultural centers.

Java is now home to over 100 million people, two-thirds of whom belong to the ethnic group known as Javanese. Javanese culture is known for its high degree of refinement and devotion to ideas of spirituality and etiquette. This stereotype, fostered in part by the Dutch, masks a much richer complexity. The past half-century has seen much rapid social change, usually peaceful, but more than once marked by extreme violence. The court of Surakarta continues to strive to find new ways to achieve the harmony between change and tradition which Javanese philosophy has always emphasized as one of its main goals.

New Publication: The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah: Encounters, Mobilities, and Histories along the Malaysian-Thai Border (Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies) by Irving Chan Johnson

Johnson, Irving Chan, The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah: Encounters, Mobilities, and Histories along the Malaysian-Thai Border (Critical Dialogues in Southeast Asian Studies), Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012

The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah examines the many ways in which people living along an international border negotiate their ethnic, cultural, and political identities. This ethnography of a small community of Thai Buddhists in the Malaysian state of Kelantan draws on rich, original vignettes to show how issues such as territoriality, identity, and power frame the experiences of borderland residents. Although the Thai represent less than 10 percent of the Kelantan population, they are vocal about their identity as non-Muslim, non-Malay citizens. They have built some of the world’s largest Buddhist statues in their tiny villages, in a state that has traditionally been a seat of Islamic governance. At the same time, the Thai grapple with feelings of social and political powerlessness, being neither Thai citizens nor Muslim Malaysians. This thoughtful study offers new perspectives and challenges the classical definition of boundaries and borders as spaces that enforce separation and distance.

With insights applicable to comparative border and frontier studies around the world, The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah will appeal not only to anthropologists but also to specialists in Asian and Southeast Asian studies, cultural geography, religious and ethnic studies, globalization, and cosmopolitanism.

New Publication: Philippine Ancestral Gold by John N Miksic, Florina H. Capistrano- Baker and John Guy (eds.)


Miksic, John, Florina H. Capistrano- Baker and John Guy (eds.), Philippine Ancestral Gold, Singapore: NUS Press, 2012

Philippine Ancestral Gold is a spectacular publication   in full-color that features more than 1,000 gold objects that were recovered in   the Philippines from the 1960s to 1981 and now form part of the collection of   the Ayala Museum in Manila. Many of these treasures were found in association   with tenth-to-twelfth century Chinese export ceramics, and formal similarities   with objects from other Southeast Asian cultures affirm regional affinities and   inter-island trade networks that flourished in the region before there was   regular contact with the Western world. Adornments of elite individuals and the   deities they adored include a spectacular array of golden sashes, necklaces,   pectorals, diadems, earrings, finger rings, and arm and leg ornaments.

The book situates these objects within the context of early   Southeast Asian history. In the first chapter, Floriana H. Capistrano-Baker   outlines the history of the collection and presents an overview of the objects   according to over-lapping categories of form, function, technology, and   geographic provenance. In the second chapter, John Miksic explains how the   collection contributes to a reassessment of the prehistory of Southeast Asia.   Miksic notes the persistence of indigenous forms and the localization of   imported traditions, and discusses the correlation between burial practices and   social organization and suggests that the removal of gold objects from   circulation through ritual burial is an indicator of non-hereditary leadership.   Chapter 3, John Guy examines the meaning and metamorphosis of forms in   comparison with related material recovered in the region. Guy highlights   stylistic similarities and differences between the Philippine objects and those   from such cultures as Java, Champa, and Borneo. He discusses as well the   important role of export ceramics in dating associated gold finds. Chapter 4   describes related finds from the Butuan-Surigao-Agusan region in light of the   rise and fall of different polities in Southeast Asia.

This extraordinary collection exists because of the passion and   dedication of Leandro and Cecilia Locsin, whose vision of preserving for future   generations these marvelous objects provides valuable glimpses into the   Philippine precolonial past, and is a remarkable homage to the Filipino people.

New Publication: Rethinking Cultural Resource Management in Southeast Asia: Preservation, Development, and Neglect by John Miksic, Goh Geok Yian and Sue O’Connor (eds.)


Miksic, John, Goh Geok Yian and Sue O’Connor (eds.), Rethinking Cultural Resource Management in Southeast Asia: Preservation, Development, and Neglect , London: Anthem Press, 2011

Presenting both the need for – and difficulty of – introducing effective cultural resource management (CRM) in the region, ‘Rethinking Cultural Resource Management in Southeast Asia’ explores the challenges facing efforts to protect Southeast Asia’s indigenous cultures and archaeological sites from the ravages of tourism and economic development. Recognising the inapplicability of Euro-American solutions to this part of the world, the essays of this volume investigate their own set of region-specific CRM strategies, and acknowledge both the necessity and possibility of mediating between the conflicting interests of short-term profitability and long-term sustainability.

New Publication: Decentring & Diversifying Southeast Asian Studies: Perspectives from the Region by Goh Beng Lan (ed.)

Goh Beng Lan (ed.) Decentring & Diversifying Southeast Asian Studies: Perspectives from the Region, Singapore: ISEAS Publishing, 2011.

Current critical thinking on regions outside the West appears to have shifted from a preoccupation with the limitations of Western discourse to endeavours in fostering inter-referencing in Asian contexts as a means to decentre and diversify knowledge production (Chen 2010, Hillenbrand 2010). This book presents an instance of dialogue and elaborations among Southeast Asian scholars on their dilemmas and ethical recourse as they respond to the critique of area studies and new political-economic and cultural reconfigurations around them. It proposes that the contemplation of the future of Southeast Asian Studies by intellectuals in the region involves both epistemological and ethical questions: How can Southeast Asian intellectuals respond to current critical norms yet construct representations which are faithful to lived realities and meanings in the region and which can also challenge oppressive discourses at the official and oppositional levels? By insisting that theoretical distinctions are shaped by moral imperatives, this book hopes that it can help bring to an end the quarrel between insider-outsider or regional versus Eurocentric perspectives on Southeast Asia. The different interpretations between insider/regional or outsider/European perspectives may be more telling of distinct ethical-political imperatives in knowledge production than the ontology of Southeast Asia. Rather than being oppositional, these different perspectives may in fact complement each other.