[URBANTH-L] REV: Faier on Yamashita et al, The Making of Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Sun Mar 26 15:50:13 EST 2006

[x-posted from CAELIST at LISTSERV.VT.EDU]

Yamashita, Shinji, Joseph Bosco, and J.S. Eades, eds.  The Making of 
Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia.  New York, NY:  Bergham Books, 
2004. 374 pp. ISBN 1571812598, $27.00

Reviewed for the Anthropology and Education Quarterly by Lieba Faier, 
University of California, Los Angeles

Given recent scholarly attention to the politics of producing 
anthropological knowledge, surprisingly little consideration has thus far 
been given to the connections and inequalities among anthropologies on a 
global scale.  This edited volume addresses this oversight by inviting us to 
think about the discipline in both cross-cultural and transnational terms. 
Bringing together eminent anthropologists in and from East and Southeast 
Asia, the collection asks several questions:  Why have anthropologists in 
the West consistently overlooked anthropological traditions in East and 
Southeast Asia?  How can attention to these projects help us build a better 
anthropology?  The 14 chapters in the book respond to these questions by 
exploring the development and distinctive characteristics of the discipline 
in these regions.  In doing so, they consider both the diversity and status 
of anthropologies in East and Southeast Asia and their historical and 
present-day relationships to each other and to traditions in the West.

In a self-conscious sense, the volume is an exploration of the discipline's 
margins-and a call to pay attention to them.  In an early chapter, Takami 
Kuwayama discusses the problem of Western hegemony in the "world system of 
anthropology."  He challenges scholars in the West, and particularly the 
United States, to pay attention to their relationships with their colleagues 
abroad, just as he urges scholars within East and Southeast Asia to avoid 
the pitfalls of parochialism and nationalism.  Yet, the collection also 
complicates any easy categorization of anthropologists as insider/outsider 
or native/indigenous/exoticist.  Whereas previous discussions have primarily 
focused on relationships between ethnographers and their interlocutors, the 
editors of this volume insightfully argue the importance of paying attention 
to questions of audience.  Doing so, they instruct, complicates how we can 
understand both our locations as ethnographers and our anthropological 
projects.  As a result, questions of audience have serious implications for 
how we understand not only relations of power among us as scholars, but also 
anthropology's contributions in an increasingly interconnected world.

While as a whole the book makes an interesting and useful addition to recent 
discussions of the politics of institutionalized knowledges and historical 
and contemporary global flows, the primary contributions of most chapters 
are historical: They offer detailed sketches of the development of 
anthropology in various countries in East and Southeast Asia, discussing 
these countries one by one.  The chapters are sometimes redundant-and some 
are more sophisticated and focused on the volume's themes than others-but 
overall they are instructive.  For example, David Askew and Shinji Yamashita 
productively examine the development of anthropology in Japan in the context 
of imperialist projects; their chapters will be useful to studies of 
comparative colonialisms.  Other contributors focus on the relationships 
between anthropology and nationalist projects in China, Taiwan, Korea, 
Malaysia, and the Philippines, considering what indigenizing anthropology 
has meant (and might mean) in these countries.

Although the structure of the book is comparative, it also begins tracing 
links between anthropologies in East and Southeast Asia and those in the 
United States, Britain, France, and Australia.  Xin Liu's exploration of 
"Two Moments in the History of Chinese Anthropology" importantly reminds us 
that there is considerable variation in regional anthropological traditions 
and that anthropologies in China and the West are not easily dichotomized. 
Other of the chapters, however, might have more imaginatively traced global 
inter-anthropological connections.  The introduction maintains that most 
anthropologies in the region developed in conversations more with the West 
than with each other; yet in some cases even these links might have been 
more carefully explored.

The collection as a whole also has a couple gaps.  First, it is unbalanced 
in its geographic foci, and most countries in Southeast Asia, including 
Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, 
are omitted completely.  Readers will likely wonder why discussions of these 
countries are minimalized or altogether excluded.  Second, while the volume 
draws careful attention to the national, colonial, and racial politics of 
anthropologies in both Asia and the West, scant attention is paid to gender, 
notably all but one of the 14 contributors are men.  Gender, we know, has 
played central roles in shaping both nationalist and colonial projects and 
anthropology as a discipline.  Given the collection's interest in the 
politics of knowledge and questions of academic hegemony and elitism, this 
oversight, and imbalance, is striking.

More than anything, however, the collection's gaps only suggest the need for 
more research along the lines these scholars introduce, and thus the new and 
important questions this edited volume opens up.  The collection is also 
very accessibly written.  It will be useful not only for graduate seminars, 
but also for undergraduate courses both on East and Southeast Asia and on 
themes of nationalisms, colonialisms, or transnationalisms.  It also 
could-or, rather, should-be used to add cross-cultural perspectives to 
classes on anthropological theory and the history of the discipline.

© 2005 American Anthropological Association.  This review will appear on the 
web site http://www.aaanet.org/cae/aeq.html, will be cited in the December 
2005 issue (36.4) of the Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and will be 
indexed in the December 2005 issue (36.4).

The Anthropology & Education Quarterly publishes reviews of current books in 
the anthropology of education and related fields.  The Book Review Editor 
identifies the books to be reviewed and solicits each review from an 
appropriate scholar.  The Book Review Editor may also consider reviews 
submitted voluntarily at his or her discretion, but volunteered reviews are 
rare.  The Book Review Editor makes the decision whether to accept the 
review for publication.  This policy has applied and continues to apply to 
all book reviews, whether published on the AEQ web site or in the paper 

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