ASEASUK's blog

Review of: Kanchan Chandra, Ed., Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics

Democratic Dynasties: State, Party and Family in Contemporary Indian Politics, edited by Kanchan Chandra, proposes “a rethinking of the simplistic view that dynastic politics is a violation of democracy” (p.3). Dynasties are not only a “systemic product of modern democratic institutions” (p.5), but can also lead to more inclusive politics than is commonly assumed. Chandra and her co-authors believe that dynasties are the result of two institutional dimensions: the state and political parties. They have also allowed subaltern groups to increase their presence in politics. The book makes important contributions to the study of political monopolies and dynastic politics. The volume provides a detailed sociology of dynasties that can serve as a blueprint for the study of such political monopolies in other countries and regions of the world, and opens up new avenues into the relationship between party internal dynamics and the rise and fall of political dynasties. There are, however, several issues that are problematic. The main argument of the book, that dynasties are not the result of “traditional” politics associated with certain “cultures” but originate in institutional change associated with democratization, is not a new or innovative insight. The focus on institutions as determinants of dynastic politics is rather narrow and the subsequent discussion therefore underdeveloped.A more critical discussion of the role institutions may or may not play with regard to the emergence and collapse of dynasties around the world would have strengthened the explanatory power of the theoretical arguments put forward in the book.

Obituary: Professor Adnyana Manuaba

 

Professor Adnyana Manuaba was one of the great creative thinkers of Balinese and Indonesian society. He was the founder of Bali Human Ecology Studies Group, a think tank and creative exchange forum bringing together academics, business leaders and policy makers. He was arguably the first scientist to note that tourism had huge and unforeseen medical consequences. He was born in Yogyakarta on 8th May, 1936 and passed away on 4th November, 2018.

Review of: Adam Simpson, Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South

 

Adam Simpson's book on emancipatory environmental movements and contributions they make to governance contributes significantly to debates concerning resource extraction and the centrality of the state in energy security, as well as the governance of (transnational) projects undertaken in its name. Focusing primarily on emancipatory social movements and activism, Simpson undertakes a multi-level multi-scalar analysis of these movements and introduces a typology of environmental governance through an analysis of energy projects in Thailand and Myanmar - states with differing domestic spaces for activism. Simpson has produced an insightful and rigorous book, which should be worthy of interest for any scholars of environmental activism and energy security. His conclusions and model should prove particularly useful in future, offering a solid basis for exploring future projects in a region which shows no signs of slowing down its pursuit of (state-dominated) energy security.

Review of: Carool Kersten, A History of Islam in Indonesia: Unity in Diversity

 

Drawing upon his considerable knowledge of the subject, Carool Kersten succeeds in crafting a nuanced, broad-ranging and informative (albeit introductory) historical portrait of Indonesian Islam, tracing its ongoing, dynamic and multi-layered contextual development to establish its historical and cultural legitimacy. Handling the multiple threads of Indonesian Islamic history with consummate skill, Kersten successfully weaves a coherent picture from complex material. It is nevertheless regrettable that the text rarely takes the reader beyond Java and Sumatra; while these two regions are undoubtedly central to any understanding of Islam in modern-day Indonesia, other parts of this vast country (frequently dismissed here as the ‘outer islands’) are no less Indonesian, no less Islamic and no less interesting. Their near exclusion is therefore unfortunate, ultimately rendering A History of Islam in Indonesia a competent but less than comprehensive treatment of its subject.

Review of: Carol Ann Boshier, Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society, 1910-1935

 

Carol Ann Boshier’s newly-published book – Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society - charts the rise and fall of the Burma Research Society from its foundation in 1910 through the 1930s. Founded by colonial scholar-administrators, the BRS promoted a Burman-Buddhist homogenising identity in an effort to unify Burma as a modern nation-state. Ultimately, however, the society lost relevance during the 1930s, when militant expressions of nationalism and anti-British sentiment gained prominence. These changes exposed the contradictions and the Orientalism inherent in BRS idea that it was the West, in collaboration with colonised scholars, which should lead Burma into the modern world. Boshier approaches the controversies and contradictions at the heart of the society with care. Through a series of case studies, she sheds light on cultural nationalism, controversies over elite knowledge production, and the divisions at the heart of Burmese colonial society in the early years of Burmese nationalism.

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