The Newsletter 89 Summer 2021

IBP 2021 English Language Edition - Social Sciences

Total number of books submitted: 250
Total number of dissertations submitted: 77

Coordinating Entity: ICAS Secretariat
General Secretary IBP: Paul van der Velde
Secretary IBP English Language Edition: Sonja Zweegers
Chair of 2021 IBP Dissertations Edition: Alex McKay
Reading Committee Members: Carola Erika Lorea and Elena Burgos Martinez (books); Leksa Lee and Carmel Christy (dissertations)
Sponsor of the IBP 2021 English Language Edition: Asian Library / Leiden University

LU - Asian Library

Book Prize 2021 English Edition – Social Sciences Winner

AUTHOR: Deborah Nadal

TITLE: Rabies in the Streets: Interspecies Camaraderie in Urban India

PUBLISHER: Penn State University Press, 2020

This powerful book is the result of participative, multispecies, and multisited ethnography. Following cows, vaccinating dogs, interviewing slum children, Nadal presents heart-breaking stories and a compelling study of a zoonotic disease. This eye-opening book on the implications of rabies, its financial and human costs, and the social and cultural reasons that make it a deadly and neglected disease, is particularly illuminating at a time when humanity is grappling with the Covid pandemic and inoculation campaigns. Through an excellent anthropology of zoonosis from an interspecies perspective, Nadal argues for a One World One Health concept that centres the entanglement of human, nonhuman, animals and environment as co-participants for fostering mutual well-being.


IBP 2021 Social Sciences Shortlist

Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in IndiaAUTHOR: Andrew Flachs

TITLE: Cultivating Knowledge: Biotechnology, Sustainability, and the Human Cost of Cotton Capitalism in India

PUBLISHER: University of Arizona Press, 2019

In view of the recent neoliberal changes in Indian agriculture, provoking debate and mass protests, Andrew Flachs offers us a timely, relevant and well-written book on cotton through the lens of farmers’ every-day life and choices. Flachs studied big issues like farmers suicide, sustainability, and cotton capitalism through a nuanced ethnography of small things, like seeds, their circulation in local markets, and the decisions that motivate farmers to grow hybrid, genetically modified, or organic crops. This remarkable book employs the case of Andhra Telangana cotton farmers to ask how biotechnology and alternative agriculture create possibilities for sustainable rural well-being in the developing world.


Love, Money and Obligation: Transnational Marriage in a Northeastern Thai VillageAUTHOR: Patcharin Lapanun

TITLE: Love, Money and Obligation: Transnational Marriage in a Northeastern Thai Village

PUBLISHER: National University of Singapore Press, 2019.

Following the lives, the journeys and the aspirations of Thai women married to European men (mia farang) and their families in north-east Thailand, this book offers a real contribution to studies on intimacy, migration, and transnational marriage. Deconstructing stereotypes that position economic benefit, sex work, and marriage in different categories, Lapanun offers a nuanced understanding of both white men and Thai women's mutual expectations, gender roles and agency in the context of transnational marriage, while also integrating the perspectives of village and family members. Written in a clear, concise, and accessible language, this book is a remarkable anthropology of cosmopolitan relationships through Asian grammars of women’s agency.


Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian RiverAUTHOR: Sudipta Sen

TITLE: Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River

PUBLISHER: Yale University Press, 2019

Sudipta Sen’s book guides the reader through an epic journey: a seamlessly interwoven history of the river Ganges that includes mythology, ecology, literary pasts and lived relationships of people, waters, and meanings. Beautifully written, it employs a vastness of sources collected and analysed over decades of patient, passionate and meticulous scholarship. Sudipta Sen’s book places the Ganges at the centre as a subject and maker of history in its own right, elegantly bringing together various streams of inquiry on the most pure and most polluted of all rivers, the amphibious deity that bridges between water and earth, and between people and gods.


The Rohingya: An Ethnography of 'Subhuman' LifeAUTHOR: Nasir Uddin

TITLE: The Rohingya: An Ethnography of 'Subhuman' Life

PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Through a deeply embodied and empathetic ethnography, Nasir Uddin guides us in an immersion of powerful biographies and heart-breaking stories of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which he employs to formulate his conceptual framework of ‘subhuman life’. Rooted in commitment and dedication to social justice, dignity and recognition, Nasir Uddin’s book has the revolutionary potential to inspire solidarity by changing people’s understanding and attitude towards Rohingya refugees. Besides helping visibilise the struggles of displaced people, this study also includes many interviews with the local Bengalis, to offer us the perceptions of the 'hosts'. Through his critical analysis, we learn that we should look beyond notions of statelessness as culprit for the refugees’ lives of uncertainty and discrimination and that there are deeper implications in the process of (host and home) state formation itself.


IBP 2021 Accolades in the Social Sciences

Publisher’s Accolade for Outstanding Production Value

Staging China: The Politics of Mass SpectacleAUTHOR: Florian Schneider

TITLE: Staging China: The Politics of Mass Spectacle

PUBLISHER: Leiden University Press, 2019

In his timely sociology of mega-events in China, Schneider empirically engages with the fine detail of the networks behind mass-spectacles in China. He coherently focuses on the relevance of networks and brings a variety of actors to the forefront scrutinizing the complex political and performative power of interactions and communication behind China's mass-spectacles.


Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the Non-Specialist Reader Accolade

In the Name of the Nation: India and its NortheastAUTHOR: Sanjib Baruah

TITLE: In the Name of the Nation: India and its Northeast

PUBLISHER: Stanford University Press, 2020

Controversies around new Indian laws on citizenship for migrants and refugees from neighbouring countries are embedded in the complicated colonial and post-/neo-colonial history of the Northeast region. In this relevant book, Baruah successfully 'translates' this complex political history of ethnic, religious and linguistic identity conflicts in accessible terms for non-specialists.


Specialist Publication Accolade

One or Two Words: Language and Politics in the Toraja Highlands of IndonesiaAUTHOR: Aurora Donzelli

TITLE: One or Two Words: Language and Politics in the Toraja Highlands of Indonesia

PUBLISHER: NUS Press, 2020

Donzelli's ethnographic account of cosmopolitan indigeneity in the Toraja Highlands, offers an innovative account of the recalibration of power between local and national languages in post-Suharto's Indonesia. Her nuanced monograph is a product of long-term critical fieldwork, exploring social change and collective belonging through the power of transient acts of speech.


Teaching Tool Accolade

Colonialism and Male Domestic Service across the Asia PacificAUTHOR: Julia Martínez, Claire Lowrie, Frances Steel, Victoria Haskins

TITLE: Colonialism and Male Domestic Service across the Asia Pacific

PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018

This clearly articulated and accessible book travels across archipelagoes to examine 'trans-colonial' male domestic labour. The authors demonstrate the active role of male domesticity in shaping cultures of racialised servitude through a variety of everyday interconnected spaces, highlighting the importance of the intimate as central element in the construction of transnational power.


Ground-Breaking Subject Matter Accolade

Becoming a Malaysian Trans Man: Gender, Society, Body and FaithAUTHOR: Joseph N. Goh

TITLE: Becoming a Malaysian Trans Man: Gender, Society, Body and Faith

PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer, 2020

A nuanced monograph about transgender identity as collectively negotiated and embodied. Goh's chapters bring us into the fine grain of the everyday of Malaysian transgender men, navigating religious and secular narratives. In this excellent account, Goh takes the time to coherently articulate the constitutive elements of the struggle to belong beyond medical transitioning as becoming, and down to state failure.


Edited Volume / Co-Authored Monograph Accolade

Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South AsiaAUTHOR: Lucia Michelutti, Ashraf Hoque, Nicolas Martin, David Picherit, Paul Rollier, Arild E. Ruud, Clarinda Still

TITLE: Mafia Raj: The Rule of Bosses in South Asia

PUBLISHER: Stanford University Press, 2018

Collaborative, multivocal and organic, this book offers an accessible and comprehensive anthropology of gangster politicians and violent entrepreneurs in South Asia. It elucidates muscular politics and everyday criminality with analytical depth and ethnographic detail through portraits of charismatic anti-heroes with blurred identities, encompassing boss, delinquent and movie star.


Best Art Publication

Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long DecolonizationAUTHOR: Sanjukta Sunderason

TITLE: Partisan Aesthetics: Modern Art and India’s Long Decolonization

PUBLISHER: Stanford University Press, 2020

This beautifully written study of politically engaged visual artists explores a fascinating phase of the history of arts and politics in Calcutta, informing the local while resonating transnationally. A groundbreaking call to take aesthetic sensibilities seriously and consider art as archive of late colonial and post-colonial histories.


Dissertation Prize 2021 English Edition – Social Sciences Winner

AUTHOR: Alyssa Dawn Esquivel Paredes

TITLE: Plantation Peripheries: The Multiple Makings of Asia’s Banana Republic 

Yale University, 2020

 “Plantation Peripheries” is a gripping journey of the banana from the field in Philippines to the markets in Japan. It argues that any given commodity be treated as fundamentally multiple and shape-shifting despite the market logic of singularity attached to them. It is a rigorous exposition of the shortcomings of the commodity chain’s production calculus and signposts the need for local actors to be reinserted into the market frame.


IBP 2021 Dissertations in the Social Sciences Shortlist


AUTHOR: Chao-yo Cheng

TITLE: Autonomy in Autocracy: Explaining Ethnic Policies in Post-1949 China

University of California-Los Angeles, 2019.

This dissertation brings together machine learning with fascinating expert interviews to investigate the underlying motivations for China to designate autonomous ethnic regions. Finding that questions of power consolidation and center-periphery arrangements are more decisive than demands by ethnic minorities, it deepens understandings of Chinese ethnic policy and suggests new directions for the study of ethnic management and authoritarianism beyond China.


AUTHOR: Guillaume Dandurand

TITLE: The Techno-Politics of Food Security in New Delhi: The Re-Materialization of the Ration Card

York University, 2018

This is a well-researched dissertation, which is theoretically articulated at the intersection of governmentality and an anthropological reading of science and technology studies literature. It explores the gaps in the technical implementation of the National Food Security Act, through a rich ethnography of the bureaucratic labyrinths of the ration card system in different urban contexts of India.


AUTHOR: Jiazhi Fengjiang

TITLE: Grassroots Philanthropy in China: Work, Ethics, and Social Change

London School of Economics and Political Science, 2019

This dissertation relates poignant ethnographic stories of men who engage in volunteerism as a form of gendered, ethical self-making in a time of professional precarity in China. The dissertation is original in providing a window into China’s ongoing seismic shifts in economics and employment through people’s unpaid labor and ethical engagements.


AUTHOR: Huê-Tâm Jamme

TITLE: Productive Frictions and Urbanism in Transition: Planning Lessons from Traffic Flows and Urban Street Life in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

University of Southern California, 2020

This work proposes an innovative way of understanding the urbanism of street life as the result of a “productive friction” between traffic flows and the built environment. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with multivariate analyses of a transportation survey, it brings out the implications of car-based frictionless mobility on the urban poor in Ho Chi Minh City, and recommends friction planning to ensure inclusive urban spaces.



IBP 2021 Accolades for Dissertations in the Social Sciences


Chairman's Accolade

AUTHOR: Karolina Kluczewska

TITLE: Development aid in Tajikistan: Six global paradigms and practice on the ground

University of St Andrews, 2018

This thesis offers a critical examination of development aid in Tajikistan. It analyses the motives and trajectories of global paradigms promoted by Western donors, and the local NGO and government actors’ perspectives on donors’ interventions and their practices of re-appropriation of the paradigms.


Specialist Accolade

AUTHOR: Devika Mittal

TITLE: ‘Secular’ School Culture: A Study of a Government Aided School in Delhi

University of Delhi, 2019

This dissertation is an extensive ethnography of the meaning of secularism in the everyday life of a school in New Delhi. Nuanced and well-written, it unravels the multiple and complex layers of the theory and practice of secularism without falling into the received notions of the concept.


Ground-breaking Subject Matter Accolade

AUTHOR: Ranjana Raghunathan

TITLE: Inhabiting Intimate Worlds: Tamil Women and Belonging in Singapore

National University of Singapore, 2020

This dissertation is a thoughtful reading of the intricacies of the intimate life of Tamil women in Singapore and offers a nuanced rethinking of the category of belonging, beyond, but also related to, identity, citizenship and place.


Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the Non-specialist Reader Accolade

AUTHOR: Anna Maria Iskra

TITLE: Healing the Nation through Self-Discovery: The Chinese New Age Milieu and the Politics of Emotion

University of Hong Kong, 2020

This work presents vivid ethnographic descriptions of New Age workshops and individuals’ journeys of self-making in China today. Based on extensive in-depth research, it directs attention to how emotional excess subverts and distorts state projects with often unpredictable effects.