Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

John KleinenManon Osseweijer
"The contributors -- historians, researchers, anthropologists, and professors -- are eminently qualified to enlighten readers on the various topics on which they expound. The three facets which these contributors examine are intricately intertwined -- various groups of people lived in the ports and on the coasts, while pirates interacted with and victimized them all. Of particular import to any reader of Asian piracy is to understand that it differs from the western concept of piracy, and this is pointed out not only at the beginning of the book, but also in several of the essays. These essays focus on the relationship between pirates, ports, and coasts from various historical perspectives, as well as the links between piracy and organized crime, such as smuggling, trafficking in drugs and people, and taking hostages. The essays hold the reader's interest without being overly pedantic. While each provides important information, the essay I found most intriguing involved the attach on the SS Namoa, an the photograph of the subsequent execution of the pirates. Also of special note is Ikuya Tokoro's essay, for he interviewed (ex-)pirates to obtain firsthand information for this studies. This volume is a worthy addition to any collection that deals with Asian piracy, and the information it contains adds significantly to English-language studies on the topic from a variety of perspectives" (Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy).

"There are several unifying points which nearly all of the contributions highlight and which the introductory essays nicely bring into focus. In their introduction, the editors argue that the problem of contemporary piracy in Asia needs to be studied from a historical perspective and should not be studied in isolation from the larger histories of the coastal spaces in which piratical acts often taken place. Furthermore, piracy and maritime violence more generally must be examined within the complex interrelationship of local and regional trade networks, politics, and cultural traditions. Velthoen's essay on Sulawesi and Knapp's study of the Papuan areas, for example, demonstrate the importance of regional politics and trading patterns in understanding the rise, spread, and decline of maritime raiding in the Indonesian archipelago. The problem of defining piracy is an additional important theme that surfaces throughout the essays in this volume. Michael Pearson's introductory essay clearly lays out the difficulty inherent in defining the various forms of maritime violence that were and often still are lumped under the label of piracy. Historically, what was termed piracy, who were deemed a pirate, and which groups participated in piratical acts varied depending on whose interests were at stake and even according to seasonal weather patterns. Indeed, even today the definition of piracy varies according to which international organization or court of law you consult. Nearly all of the essays included in the book touch on this important issue, reminding us that where colonial sources labelled any maritime activity inimical to their trade interests as piracy or smuggling, historians today need to be more critical of our sources and cautious in our application of such loaded terms. Overall, Pirates, Ports and Coasts in Asia is a valuable contribution to the study of piracy, as well as to maritime history more generally" (International Journal of Maritime History).

"Pirates, Ports, and Coasts in Asia is an important new contribution to the literature on piracy in Asian seas. As the title suggests, the authors were looking to go beyond an examination of piracy wholly on its own, and sought instead to link predation on the high seas to the maritime littoral in general, and to sea-based cities in particular, in their analysis. The thirteen chapters in the book are united in keeping the focus of attention on sea-strand relations, and one never seems to be too far from the other in the three hundred pages that make up this book. This in itself is an innovation of sorts, as many earlier attempts to deal with piracy in Asia have dwelt too much on the high seas and not enough (perhaps) on the coasts that supply people, ships, and material to make piracy possible in the adjacent waterways" (Southeast Asian Studies).

About the Publication

Pirates, Ports and Coasts in Asia aims to fill in some of the historical gaps in the coverage of maritime piracy and armed robbery in Asia. The authors highlight a variety of activities ranging from raiding, destroying and pillaging coastal villages and capturing inhabitants to attacking and taking over vessels, robbing and then trading the cargo and its people. Generally speaking, what connects these activities is the fact that they are carried out at sea, often in the coastal inshore waters, by vessels attacking other vessels or raiding coastal settlements. Acts of maritime piracy cannot be regarded as being located outside the relevant framework of the coastal zone. Coastal zones have therefore become highly desirable places, a circumstance which has transformed them into places subject to great social and ecological pressures. Piracy being the most dramatic of marginal(ized) maritime livelihood, this book brings the relationship between pirates, ports, and coastal hinterlands into focus.