The Newsletter 96 Autumn 2023

IBP 2023 English Language Edition – Humanities

Total number of books submitted: 178
Total number of dissertations submitted: 71

Coordinating Entity: ICAS Secretariat
General Secretary IBP: Martina van den Haak
Acting Secretary IBP: Wai Cheung
Secretary IBP English Language Edition: Wai Cheung
Chair of 2023 Dissertations Edition: Anna Romanowicz
Reading Committee Members: Alex McKay and Paul van der Velde (books); Jayati Bhattacharya and Kathleen Gutierrez (dissertations)
Sponsor of the IBP 2023 English Language Edition: The Asian Library (Leiden University Libraries)

Sponsor of the IBP 2023 English Language Edition: The Asian Library (Leiden University Libraries) and ICAS

Book Prize 2023 Humanities - Winner

AUTHOR: Victoria Lee

TITLE: The Arts of the Microbial World: Fermentation Science in Twentieth-Century Japan

PUBLISHER: The University of Chicago Press, 2021

In a highly original study, The Arts of the Microbial World demonstrates that twentieth-century Japanese fermentation science proceeded from a culturally situated approach that allowed microbial agency. It examines the deployment of fermentation in a variety of fields – science, medicine, food, etc. – within the political and cultural economy of Japanese modernity to demonstrate the independent trajectories of indigenous enquiry. An outstanding example of how the use of Asia-centred sources and approaches leads us towards what we might call “New Asia Scholarship”.


IBP 2023 Humanities Shortlist

Empire of Convicts: Indian Penal Labor in Colonial Southeast AsiaAUTHOR: Anand A. Yang

TITLE: Empire of Convicts: Indian Penal Labor in Colonial Southeast Asia

PUBLISHER: University of California Press, 2021.

Empire of Convicts is a primary source-based social history centred on the political and criminal prisoners transported from India to detention in Southeast Asia under the colonial regime. Transportation was a particularly severe punishment in the Hindu cultural context, but in a sophisticated analysis the author demonstrates the prisoners shaping their confinement to establish degrees of agency over their own fate. This is a major contribution to the study of colonial power and its strategies of confinement, discipline and punishment.


The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese RepublicAUTHOR: Bryna Goodman

TITLE: The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic

PUBLISHER: Harvard University Press, 2021.

Taking the suicide of a young female office worker in Shanghai in 1922 as a starting point, the author skillfully examines contemporary gender and morality constructions, legal systems and emerging capitalism and print economy in what is ultimately an engrossing study of Chinese urban society in transition. Well researched and written, this lucid work perfectly demonstrates the macrocosmic insights to be drawn from close examination of and reflection on microcosmic events.


Biotic Borders: Transpacific Plant and Insect Migration and the Rise of Anti-Asian Racism in America, 1890–1950AUTHOR: Jeannie N. Shinozuka

TITLE: Biotic Borders: Transpacific Plant and Insect Migration and the Rise of Anti-Asian Racism in America, 1890–1950

PUBLISHER: The University of Chicago Press, 2022.

This ground-breaking work uncovers the linkage between American exclusion of both human and plant and animal immigration during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing particularly on the Japanese experience, Biotic Borders demonstrates that terms such as ‘alien’ or ‘invasive’ were applied to both plants and humans, prompting both to be regulated or prevented. Of considerable contemporary relevance to studies of anti-Asian racism and the recent pandemic experience, this provocative and original study is of wide-ranging appeal and academic merit.


Heavenly Masters: Two Thousand Years of the Daoist StateAUTHOR: Vincent Goossaert

TITLE: Heavenly Masters: Two Thousand Years of the Daoist State

PUBLISHER: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press and University of Hawai’i Press, 2021.

A masterly critical study of the emergence and development of the Daoist Heavenly Master institution from its semi-legendary origins in the second century CE down to the present 65th Master. Drawing on a vast range of primary and secondary sources and decades of work in the field of Daoist studies, this is a seminal scholarly monograph that demonstrates the extent to which the institution became a “state within a state” in late Imperial China.


IBP 2023 Accolades in the Humanities

Art Book Accolade

A Monastery on the Move: Art and Politics in Later Buddhist MongoliaAUTHOR: Uranchimeg Tsultemin

TITLE: A Monastery on the Move: Art and Politics in Later Buddhist Mongolia

PUBLISHER: University of Hawaii Press, 2021

A brilliant book which situates art and the artist in biographical and historical context. Beautifully produced, a careful and critical source-based work.


Best Read for the General Public Accolade

Mumbai Taximen: Autobiographies and Automobilities in IndiaAUTHOR: Tarini Bedi

TITLE: Mumbai Taximen: Autobiographies and Automobilities in India

PUBLISHER: University of Washington Press, 2022

A delightful, engagingly written study which demonstrates the value of social anthropology approaches as an informative tool for both academic and more “general public” understanding.


Biography Accolade

Young Soeharto: The Making of a Soldier, 1921-1945AUTHOR: David Jenkins

TITLE: Young Soeharto: The Making of a Soldier, 1921-1945

PUBLISHER: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, 2021

A balanced and penetrating academic biography by a respected journalist, which breaks considerable new ground in its analysis of the subject’s early years. Sure to become a standard work.


Book Cover Accolade

Climates.Habitats.Environments.AUTHOR: Ute Meta Bauer

TITLE: Climates.Habitats.Environments.

PUBLISHER: NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and The MIT Press, 2022

An excellent and well-illustrated text, it features an attractive fully integrated cover that perfectly illustrates the subject and is an obvious winner of this new Accolade.


Edited Volume Accolade

Japan’s Russia: Challenging the East-West ParadigmAUTHOR: Olga V. Solovieva and Sho Konishi (eds)

TITLE: Japan’s Russia: Challenging the East-West Paradigm

PUBLISHER: Cambria Press, 2021

An innovative multi-disciplinary volume that avoids common East-West dichotomies to highlight a distinct trans-national process of encounter with non-Western forms of modernity.



Ground-Breaking Publication Accolade

Language Ungoverned: Indonesia’s Chinese Print Entrepreneurs, 1911-1949AUTHOR: Tom G. Hoogervorst

TITLE: Language Ungoverned: Indonesia’s Chinese Print Entrepreneurs, 1911-1949

PUBLISHER: Cornell University Press, 2021

A highly original work drawing on primary sources to examine the development of vernacular Malay, set in the wider context of Dutch colonial rule.


Publishers Accolade

Ikat from Timor and Neighbouring Isles: Insular and InterwovenAUTHOR: Peter ten Hoopen

TITLE: Ikat from Timor and Neighbouring Isles: Insular and Interwoven

PUBLISHER: Sidestone Press, 2022

A work of considerable scholarship, this is a beautifully produced and superbly well-illustrated work that, while soft-covered, still demonstrates the very highest publication production values.



Specialist Publication Accolade

The Heirs Of Vijayanagara Court: Politics in Early Modern South IndiaAUTHOR: Lennart Bes

TITLE: The Heirs Of Vijayanagara Court: Politics in Early Modern South India

PUBLISHER: Leiden University Press, 2022

An outstanding example of traditional source-based historical scholarship. A magisterial account of elite social and political strategies in the pre-modern era.


Teaching Tool Accolade

Tribe and State in Asia through Twenty-Five CenturiesAUTHOR: Sumit Guha

TITLE: Tribe and State in Asia through Twenty-Five Centuries

PUBLISHER: Association for Asian Studies, 2021

A mature, stimulating, and wide-ranging study, concise, reasoned, and an ideal introduction to any discussion of these important terms: “tribe” and “state”.


Translation Accolade

Transmutations of Desire: Literature and Religion in Late Imperial ChinaAUTHOR: Qiancheng Li

TITLE: Transmutations of Desire: Literature and Religion in Late Imperial China

PUBLISHER: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2020

An important study of love and desire that features extensive translations from Ming and Qing writings which provide an important source for future work.


Dissertation Prize 2023 English Edition – Humanities Winner

Adam K. Frost, Speculation and Profiteering: The Entrepreneurial Transformation of Socialist China

The dissertation focuses on the maneuvers and interplay between entrepreneurial progress and the socio-ideological changes in a socialist China for two decades between 1958 and 1978. This is groundbreaking research on the Mao Tse Tung period that emphasises the growth and sustenance of local entrepreneurship despite the persisting efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to suppress the same. It has been well-treated with both official archives and little-known and unconventional sources of information. The structure of governance and institutions were deeply explored through years of extensive field work, participant observation and nuanced comprehension of the structural mechanisms of Chinese society, and the transformations captured with critical, yet fluid presentation in writing style. The research opens an unknown chapter in China’s history of strong socialist narratives.

IBP 2023 Humanities Dissertations Shortlist

Nicolo Paolo P. Ludovice, Domesticated Geographies: Animals and the Making of Modern Health in the Philippines, 1860-1935

Domesticated Geographies is a well written and extensive work on health in the colonial Philippines. The dissertation is the first of its kind to examine this important topic through animals—as commodities, wild species, domesticates, and resolutely, as the foundation of colonial bio-management. It demonstrates the co-constitution of colonial space, animal and human domestication, and health, a timely analysis in the unveiling aftermath of the pandemic. Ludovice relies considerably on novel archival sources, including cartographic and architectural materials, that bring animals to the centerstage of Philippine history. The author furthermore contributes to animal studies more broadly, offering a swathe of case studies that span the late Spanish and early U.S. colonial periods that are situated sufficiently in intellectual debates and current scholarship.


Rui Hua, Peasants Versus Empires: Transnational Civil Justice and National Legal Decolonization in Manchuria, 1881-1951

Peasants versus Empires is a smartly written piece of scholarship that highlights the role of Manchuria in the development of transnational legal modernity. Interpreting Manchuria as a “borderland” from the late nineteenth century into the mid-twentieth century, Hua provides an exciting legal history of those who lived and traversed the northeast Asian territory. The research is posited in the Manchurian borderland as a generative site of international lawmaking and critically deliberates on the consequential confluence of three imperial legal cultures. This complex research theme is based on several archival and non-archival sources across northeast China, Taiwan, Russia, Japan, USA and different other nation states across the Pacific. Together, they paint a picture of how this seemingly out-of-the-way location influenced the notions of justice and law enforcement for multiple competing empires. The subject of anti-colonial resistance in the borderlands through civil justice is unique and commendable, especially that Hua contextualizes the decolonization of the global south. It is a welcome contribution to borderland studies, comparative imperialisms, and East Asian studies.


Sam H. Bass, The Bound Steppe: Slavery, State, and Family in Qing Mongolia

The Bound Steppe is a compelling dissertation. The work advances what we know of the history of Mongolia by examining the bonded sector of society from the eighteenth century through the nineteenth century. As the dissertation argues, a social flattening occurred over time as bonded individuals transformed into “commoners” from the late eighteenth century onward, contributing to a major social transformation that has remained embedded in popular Mongolian historiography since. Bass’s historical sociology of the “slave,” “aristocrat,” and “retainer” positions – and their change over time – relies on an assortment of legal source material, including tax titles, religious donor records, and court testimonies. The dissertation’s general topic, coverage, and notion of bondage make the work relevant to other world areas that have long grappled with, studied, and theorized enslavement.


Shoufu Yin, The “Chinese” Rhetorical Curriculum and A Transcultural History of Political Thought, ca. 1250–1650

Shoufu Yin’s dissertation is a very well-written analysis of the ways in which Chinese ‘rhetorical’ curriculum, a specific form of instruction of literary Sinitic, evolved and influenced notions of the individual, bureaucracy, and politics in East Eurasia (East Asia and Inner Asia). In essence, Yin convincingly argues that ‘rhetorical’ curriculum sparked and brought about new political theories from the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. Impressively, Yin examines documents in multiple languages, including (among others) Chinese, Mongolian, Manchu, and Persian. Through this captivating and compelling narrative, we gain insights into how millions of individuals and many ideas were affected by this unique form of education; perhaps paradoxically, ‘rhetorical’ curriculum became a medium of articulation, a platform for expression, and a tool for empowerment. With crystal-clear arguments, an engaging writing style, and adept handling of source compilation and analysis, this dissertation will prove to be an engaging read not only for trained historians, political philosophers, and political scientists, but also for students and the general public.

IBP 2023 Humanities Dissertations Accolades

Ground-breaking Subject Matter Accolade  
Mark Bookman, Politics and Prosthetics: 150 Years of Disability in Japan

Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the Non-specialist Reader Accolade
Biswajit Sarmah, Park, People and Politics: An Environmental History of the Kaziranga National Park

Specialist Accolade
Julie Bellemare, 'A New Creation of This Dynasty': Enamels, Glass, and the Deployment of Color in Qing China, 1700-1735

Chairwoman’s Accolade
Fumi Inoue, The Politics of Extraterritoriality in Post-Occupation Japan and U.S.-Occupied Okinawa, 1952-1972 

Insightful and Rigorous Doctoral Study Accolade
Matthew Woolgar, Communism in Context: The Indonesian Communist Party in West Java, 1949-66