The Newsletter 96 Autumn 2023

IBP 2023 English Language Edition – Social Sciences

Total number of books submitted: 163
Total number of dissertations submitted: 55

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: Deborah Nadal and Lloyd G. Adu Amoah (books); Alyssa Paredes and Do Young Oh (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

IBP 2023 Social Sciences Winner

AUTHOR: John Lie

TITLE: Japan, the Sustainable Society: The Artisanal Ethos, Ordinary Virtues, and Everyday Life in the Age of Limits

PUBLISHER: The University of California Press, 2021

Modern human conduct emblematically writ large in capitalism has left a devastating impact on life on Earth in what has come to be known in geologico-temporal terms as the Anthropocene. Lie, clearly troubled by the apocalypse that this epoch portends, offers some rather spirited and optimistic ways out of this planetary-scale destruction gnawing at the very elements that make the earth habitable: climate, air, and water, among others. Leveraging his intimate knowledge of its history, culture, and everyday life, Lie uses modern Japan as the symbolic trope of both how humanity orchestrated this dystopian environmental catastrophe and how this can be escaped. In this magisterial work, Lie offers a compelling reconsideration of – if not a convincing path away from – the fetishization of high growth rates, massive infrastructure projects, inordinate profits, and tireless consumption towards the more sustainable trajectory of the ancient artisanal know-how of, say, the sushi maker with the ethos this embodies and the attraction and virtue of “small is beautiful.” Seminal guidebook for sober reflection, indeed, in the age of palpable limits.


IBP 2023 Social Sciences Shortlist

The Criminalisation of People Smuggling in Indonesia and AustraliaAUTHOR: Antje Missbach

TITLE: The Criminalisation of People Smuggling in Indonesia and Australia

PUBLISHER: Routledge, 2022.

In the Global North, from family conversations on television news to political campaigns, the topic treated by Antje Missbach – individuals facilitating the journey of people from the Global South across national borders – is among the most discussed ones. With its clear language and linear structure, this book is a much-needed contribution not only to academic debate, but hopefully also to societal discussion at large. Rooted in an intelligent mix of formal interviews, casual chats and collection of court verdicts, Missbach masterfully guides the reader through a journey into fresh thinking. It’s a journey across the changing narratives of (Global North) migration and people smuggling over time, the stereotypical language used to define today’s irregularised migrants and their facilitators, and the ideological use of angst – angst for the facilitators in charge of the transfers that result in a shipwreck as well as angst for those who safely bring their clients to destination. This book is indispensable for migration scholars and anybody interested in a deep and lucid analysis of injustice.


Crimes in Archival Form: Human Rights, Fact Production, and MyanmarAUTHOR: Ken MacLean

TITLE: Crimes in Archival Form: Human Rights, Fact Production, and Myanmar

PUBLISHER: University of California Press, 2022.

Rich in theoretical references, ethnographic materials, and long-term knowledge of Myanmar’s history of military dictatorship, Ken MacLean’s book offers an engaged, powerful, and original reflection on two aspects of truth-seeking in the context of state-sponsored violence and human rights violations. First, the importance of distinguishing how facts are produced and how facts are found. Secondly, the fundamental importance of considering why this distinction matters, from an epistemological, methodological, and ethical point of view. The author patiently leads the reader through the scrupulous process towards transparency by navigating the interplay of facts and “facts” and by questioning what makes an archival document authentic. MacLean’s final call for a direct conversation on the complexities of fact-finding with the local communities affected by human rights violations confirms the outstanding value of this scholarly work.


The Dark Side of News Fixing: The Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in PakistanAUTHOR: Syed Irfan Ashraf

TITLE: The Dark Side of News Fixing: The Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan

PUBLISHER: Anthem Press, 2021.

Syed Irfan Ashraf’s book is not only a political project, like the author states in the first sentence of his work, but one that requires a lot of courage. The obvious courage to be a war journalist, the additional courage to be a “fixer” (a low-cost, disposable, nameless local journalist hired by foreign journalists to help them report for global media), the self-imposed courage to repeatedly ask oneself whether exposing the teenage activist Malala Yousafzai to the world in a documentary for the New York Times turned her into a target for the Taliban, and the courage to critically reflect on all this for writing a book. Through first-hand experience accounts and in-depths interviews with several Pashtun journalists, Ashraf meticulously describes the little-known role of fixers in the 24/7 frantic production of news from war zones that interest global media, highlighting the commodification of these local “eyes and ears” as professional journalists, members of already vulnerable families and ultimately individuals.


A Medicated Empire: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Modern JapanAUTHOR: Timothy M. Yang

TITLE: A Medicated Empire: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Modern Japan

PUBLISHER: Cornell University Press, 2021.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic – which still casts a gloomy shadow on life across the globe despite its purported end – was marked by a frenetic race for a cure worldwide. Large, rich, powerful, globe-spanning pharmaceutical corporations (known as Big Pharma) were the ones which won the race for vaccines. In this groundbreaking work, Yang takes the reader on a timely journey on the emergence of Big Pharma in Asia – a region which has only recently joined the medicines producing club. Yang’s work provides us with captivating historical insights on the rise and fall of the Japanese firm, Hoshi Pharmaceuticals. The book enriches our understanding of the industry through Hoshi, by exposing the entanglements and complications of Japanese modernization, state building, industrialization, politics, scientific knowhow, empire building, colonialism, cooperate capitalism, technology, warfare, humanitarian goals, and epic inhuman degeneration. A commendable intellectual effort well worth the read.



IBP 2023 Accolades in the Social Sciences

Art Book Accolade

Artists and the People: Ideologies of Art in IndonesiaAUTHOR: Elly Kent

TITLE: Artists and the People: Ideologies of Art in Indonesia

PUBLISHER: NUS Press, 2022


Best Read for the General Public Accolade

The King of BangkokAUTHOR: Claudio Sopranzetti, Sara Fabbri and Chiara Natalucci

TITLE: The King of Bangkok

PUBLISHER: University of Toronto Press, 2021


Book Cover Accolade

The Logic of Compressed ModernityAUTHOR: Chang Kyung-Sup

TITLE: The Logic of Compressed Modernity

PUBLISHER: Polity Press, 2022


Edited Volume Accolade

China and Taiwan in Africa: The Struggle for Diplomatic Recognition and HegemonyAUTHOR: Sabella O. Abidde

TITLE: China and Taiwan in Africa: The Struggle for Diplomatic Recognition and Hegemony

PUBLISHER: Springer, 2022


Specialist Publication Accolade

Collaborative Damage: An Experimental Ethnography of Chinese GlobalisationAUTHOR: Mikkel Bunkenborg, Morten Nielsen and Morten Axel Pedersen

TITLE: Collaborative Damage: An Experimental Ethnography of Chinese Globalisation

PUBLISHER: Cornell University Press, 2022


Teaching Tool Accolade

China's Leaders: From Mao to NowAUTHOR: David Shambaugh

TITLE: China's Leaders: From Mao to Now

PUBLISHER: Polity Press, 2021

Dissertation Prize 2023 English Edition – Social Sciences Winner

Shozab Raza, Theory from the Trenches: Revolutionary Decolonization on Pakistan's Landed Estates

Raza’s Theory from the Trenches is a remarkable account of peasant-led theorization in the pursuit of agrarian liberation and revolutionary decolonization in Pakistan. Each chapter is framed around a trench theory concept – on religion and its radical potential, populism’s successes and failures, recognition and its implications for revolutionary organization, and the afterlife concepts in landlord theory – which altogether offer a comprehensive look into the intellectual lives that inform agrarian change. Raza’s “theory-ography,” is a testament to the intellectual project of finding emancipatory potential everywhere. It champions theory from the Global South without fetishizing it or replicating current decolonizing modes that tend to see Western sources as the “epistemic enemy.” In all, Theory from the Trenches serves as a powerful call for unity-in-difference in a time of fractious, polarized politics the world over. Crystalline in clarity, authoritative in tone, and highly original in its focus and argumentation, this work has high potential for being widely read in critical agrarian studies, historical anthropology, and beyond.

Social Sciences Dissertations Shortlist

Didi Kyoung-ae Han, Practising Urban Commons Amidst Precarity: A Genealogical Analysis of the Urban Precariat Movements in Tokyo and Seoul

Han’s dissertation examines the development and production of the discourses, practices, and subjectivities evolving within urban precariat movements in Tokyo and Seoul, drawing from 17 months of ethnographic research, 70 in-depth interviews, and extensive archival data. Through a comparative analysis of two cities, this dissertation demonstrates how the precariat’s alternative practices simultaneously shape and are shaped by uneven urbanisation processes. The author successfully develops theoretical and empirical understandings of the commons from a relational and comparative perspective by showing how urban commons and communities are practised based on their geographical and historical contexts. Notably, this thesis offers a fresh insight into the commons through ‘co-research’ in which researchers and activists collectively strive to translate discourse into practices and vice versa.


Farhana Afrin Rahman, Making a Life for Themselves: Gender, Identity, and Everyday Negotiations of Rohingya Women in Bangladesh's Refugee Camps

In her thesis, Farhana Afrin Rahman tackles the challenging topic of the everyday negotiations, contestations, and strategies of the Rohingya women who have been forced to abandon their homes and live in a refugee camp. Rahman’s dissertation is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork conducted within a feminist framework at the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee camp in Bangladesh. Her work presents a compelling narrative that delves into navigating power relations and asserting agency and identity under unimaginably difficult circumstances. Elegantly and compassionately written, this dissertation reflects the intricate reality faced by Rohingya women living in displacement. It explores topics such as marriages, divisions of labour within households, and humanitarian aid. This timely, vivid, and empathic portrayal of Rohingya refugees addressed a crucial gap in existing scholarship. Despite the sombre subject matter, this thoughtful analysis of power asymmetries provided readers with a glimmer of hope regarding the role of human agency.


Ping-hsiu Lin, Precious Economies: Gems and Value Making in the Pakistan-Afghanistan Borderlands

Lin’s Precious Economies tracks the political transformation of pieces of rock into precious gems and markers of opulence against the backdrop of socio-politically fraught geographies from Pakistan to Thailand. It draws on an impressive array of multi-sited, archivally informed, and embodied methods, in part as an apprentice gem cutter herself, to understand how differential valuation across nodes form the infrastructural basis of a luxury economy. Much like the work of faceting a rough crystal itself, the author cuts across deep regional histories and changing values of the world beyond, market-mediated discourse and knowledge from the natural sciences, and technological devices and artisanal skill to tell her story. Elegantly and engagingly written, this dissertation accomplishes what even anthropologists in our global age still find difficult to do: transnational ethnography that is capacious in scope but thick in description. Already an admirable work of scholarship, future iterations of this dissertation will surely intervene even more boldly into commodity studies as it is currently done.


Rupak Shrestha, The Border Came Between Us: Securing Development, Surveillance and Securitization, and Refugee Memory and Placemaking in Nepal

Shrestha’s dissertation is a richly illustrated ethnographic study on Tibetan refugees in Nepal related to the increasing Chinese influence in the region. This dissertation persuasively demonstrates how geopolitics affects the everyday life of Tibetan refugees by covering different themes such as borders, sovereignty, placemaking, memory, and indigeneity. In doing so, this thesis illustrates the northeastern Nepal borderlands as a conflicting site where various multi-scalar geopolitical, social, and economic issues intersect. The findings are vividly supported by more than 50 original photographs taken by the author at the field sites.

IBP 2023 Social Sciences Dissertations Accolades

Ground-breaking Subject Matter Accolade
Kathrin Eitel, Recycling Infrastructure: Practices of Waste Handling in Phnom Penh

Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the Non-specialist Reader Accolade
Farhana Afrin Rahman, Making a Life for Themselves: Gender, Identity, and Everyday Negotiations of Rohingya Women in Bangladesh's Refugee Camps

Specialist Accolade
Yan Ho Lai, Legal Resistance against Authoritarian Legal Transplantation: The Politics of the Rule of Law and the Legal Profession in Post-Umbrella Hong Kong

Chairwoman’s Accolade
Franco Galdini, The Post-Soviet Space and Uzbekistan in the International Division of Labour: From Transition to Capital Accumulation

Insightful and Rigorous Doctoral Study Accolade
Paankhi Agrawal, Struggles for Decommodifying Housing: Protected Tenants and Rent Control in Mumbai, 1918-2018