31 August 2007

Islam Marginalized in Southeast Asian Studies

From Robert W. Hefner's introduction to Islam in an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia, ed. by Robert W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1997), pp. pp. 11-12 (references omitted):
The other marginalization to which the study of Islam in Southeast Asia has long been subjected unwittingly reinforced this neglect. This marginalization occurred within the field of Southeast Asian studies, particularly the form that took shape in the United States in the aftermath of World War II. In this emerging academic field, it was not uncommon for Islam to be portrayed as an intrusive cultural force or, as another widely used metaphor would have it, a late-deposited cultural "layer." The real Southeast Asia lay deeper and was somehow less Islamic.

This perspective on Islam in Southeast Asia had deep historical and, more specifically, colonial precedents. In colonial times, particularly in the Dutch East Indies, this notion of Islam as a "thin veneer" appealed to those who wished to justify the suppression of Islam on the grounds that it was a threat to colonial power. In Java, for example, nineteenth-century colonial administrators developed a "structure of not seeing," overlooking Islamic influences in Javanese tradition, while exaggerating and essentializing the influence of non-Islamic ideals. In the aftermath of the brutal Java War (1825–1830), colonial scholars worked to create a canon of Javanese literature that romanticized pre-Islamic literature as a golden age and portrayed the coming of Islam as a civilizational disaster. These Dutch Orientalists conveniently overlooked the fact that the proportion of Islamic-oriented literature in modern court collections was vastly greater than the so-called renaissance literature (pre-Islamic classics rendered in modern Javanese verse) that colonial scholars portrayed as the essence of things Javanese.

Colonial law effected a similar essentialization. Under the direction of Cornelis van Vollenhoven, the "adat (customary) law school" worked under state directive to develop what amounted to a system of legal apartheid. A classic example of the colonial "invention of tradition," European experts divided the native peoples of the Indies into nineteen distinct legal communities. Islamic law was acknowledged in each community's legal traditions only to the extent that colonial scholars determined that local custom (adat) explicitly acknowledged Islamic law. In this manner, colonial authorities reified the distinction between customary adat and Islam. As James Siegel's study of Aceh and Taufik Abdullah's of Minangkabau both demonstrate, however, this distinction between endogenous "custom" and exogenous "Islam" imposed an artificial polarity on a relationship that had always been dynamic. In fact, in the decades preceding the European conquest, legal traditions in places like Malaya and Minangkabau (west Sumatra) had already begun to accord a greater role to textually based Islamic norms. It was precisely this growing Islamic influence that prompted anxious Dutch authorities to implement their adatrecht policy.

British legal policies in Malaya differed from those of the Dutch. Drawing on their experience with Muslims in India, the British at first regarded Malay Muslims as "unheretical members of some idealized and uniform civilization." By treating adat as "custom that has no legal consequences" and allowing the Malay sultans a measure of jural authority, the British allowed the formation of institutional structures in which Islamic law had a substantial albeit circumscribed role. Nonetheless, lacking a framework for integrating the study of local traditions and Islam, British scholars of the colonial era fell into an "anecdotal empiricism" that failed to grasp the dynamics of religious change in Malay society as a whole.

Though there was a tradition of Islamic studies in colonial Southeast Asia, then, it suffered from the subordination of scholarship to the needs of the colonial political order.

Southeast Asia Marginalized in Islamic Studies

From Robert W. Hefner's introduction to Islam in an Era of Nation-States: Politics and Religious Renewal in Muslim Southeast Asia, ed. by Robert W. Hefner and Patricia Horvatich (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1997), pp. pp. 8-9 (references omitted):
One of the most serious impediments to the development of a systematic understanding of Islam in Southeast Asia is the fact that the topic has long been marginalized in the fields of Islamic and Southeast Asian studies. In Islamic studies Western and Middle Eastern scholars alike have tended to place Southeast Asia at the intellectual periphery of the Islamic world. Still today in some overviews of Islamic history and civilization, Southeast Asian Muslims are mentioned briefly if at all. Though Southeast Asian Islam has almost two hundred million believers, it is not uncommon for observers, even learned specialists, to identify Islam with the Middle East and to regard Southeast Asia as, at best, intellectually and institutionally derivative of Middle Eastern Islam.

There is a larger and, in one sense, understandable logic to this neglect. By comparison to Persia and the Arabian heartland, in insular Southeast Asia Islam became a civilizational force relatively late in Islamic history. Though Arab-Muslim traders traveled through island Southeast Asia as early as the seventh and eighth centuries, there was little settlement until the late thirteenth, when a Muslim town, inhabited in part by Arab-speaking foreigners, was established in the Pasai region of north Sumatra, an entrepôt for the trade with Muslim India and Arabia. Shortly thereafter, a Muslim presence appears to have been established in port towns along Java's north coast, territories still then under the control of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdom of Majapahit. Ruling elites in the Malay peninsula were converted in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and those in coastal Sulawesi and much of the southern Philippines were won to the faith in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The primary impetus for this wave of conversion was not conquest or religious warfare, as had been the case in Islam's early expansion in Arabia and North Africa, but trade and interethnic intercourse. Certainly, as Anthony Reid has noted, Muslim potentates (like their Theravada Buddhist counterparts in mainland Southeast Asia) regarded forcible conversion of neighbors as "an honourable motive for conquest," and Muslim rulers periodically engaged in warfare with their Hindu-Buddhist, animist, or, in later times, Christian neighbors. However, as Thomas McKenna's essay in this volume illustrates, the causes of these conflicts were as much commercial and dynastic as they were religious.

More decisively, the rapid and relatively uniform spread of Islam to the insular world's maritime centers was related to broader historical developments, especially the growth of international commerce from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries and the movement of large numbers of people out of localized societies into a multiethnic and interregional macrocosm. Most of the map of modern Muslim Southeast Asia was laid out during this "age of commerce," as Anthony Reid has so aptly described it. A few remote corners of Southeast Asia have been converted to Islam in this century, some even in the last decades. In general, however, the dynamism of Islam in contemporary times has had less to do with a new wave of conversion than with the reform and rationalization of religion among established Muslim populations.

By itself, the comparatively late arrival of Islam in Southeast Asia neither explains nor justifies this region's marginalization within the field of Islamic studies. Given the genesis of what has come to be regarded as "classical" Islamic civilization within the Arabic- and Persian-speaking world, however, there was a tendency on the part of early Western Islamicists to devote their attention to regions where the classical tradition was first composed. This emphasis was reinforced by the focus of this early scholarship on Islamic "culture," not in the modern, social-historical or anthropological sense of this term, but in its great-traditional sense, as in written literature, philosophy, art and architecture, and law. With several notable exceptions, the Orientalist commentaries that introduced Islamic civilization to a Western readership in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were concerned with high culture, not the everyday meaning of Islam for ordinary Muslims. The focus of this writing was leading thinkers and civilizationwide achievements, especially those preserved for time in the printed word.

As a result of this textual emphasis, Southeast Asia—and other areas marginalized in the Orientalist understanding of the Muslim world, such as Central Asia, Bengal, and West Africa—was accorded only a minor role in early accounts of Islamic civilization.

29 August 2007

Judt on the Secular Religion of the 1960s

From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 2005), pp. 401-403:
The youthful impulse of the Sixties was not about understanding the world; in the words of Karl Marx's Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, written when Marx himself was just 26 years old and much cited in these years: 'The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.' When it came to changing the world there was still only one grand theory purporting to relate an interpretation of the world to an all-embracing project of change; only one Master Narrative offering to make sense of everything while leaving open a place for human initiative: the political project of Marxism itself.

The intellectual affinities and political obsessions of the Sixties in Europe only make sense in the light of this continuing fascination with Marx and Marxism. As Jean-Paul Sartre put it in 1960, in his Critique of Dialectical Reason: 'I consider Marxism to be the unsurpassable philosophy of our time.' Sartre's unshaken faith was not universally shared, but there was general agreement across the political spectrum that anyone wishing to understand the world must take Marxism and its political legacy very seriously. Raymond Aron—Sartre's contemporary, erstwhile friend and intellectual nemesis—was a lifelong anti-Communist. But he, too, freely acknowledged (with a mixture of regret and fascination) that Marxism was the dominant idea of the age: the secular religion of its epoch.

Between 1956 and 1968 Marxism in Europe lived—and, as it were, thrived—in a state of suspended animation. Stalinist Communism was in disgrace, thanks to the revelations and events of 1956. The Communist parties of the West were either politically irrelevant (in Scandinavia, Britain, West Germany and the Low Countries); in slow but unmistakable decline (France); or else, as in the Italian case, striving to distance themselves from their Muscovite inheritance. Official Marxism, as incarnated in the history and teachings of Leninist parties, was largely discredited—especially in the territories over which it continued to rule. Even those in the West who chose to vote Communist evinced little interest in the subject.

At the same time there was widespread intellectual and academic interest in those parts of the Marxist inheritance that could be distinguished from the Soviet version and salvaged from its moral shipwreck. Ever since the Founder's death, there had always been Marxist and marxisant sects and splinter groups—well before 1914 there were already tiny political parties claiming the True Inheritance. A handful of these, like the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB), were still in existence: vaunting their political virginity and asserting their uniquely correct interpretation of the original Marxist texts. But most late-nineteenth-century Socialist movements, circles, clubs and societies had been absorbed into the general-purpose Socialist and Labour parties that coalesced in the years 1900–1910. Modern Marxist disputes have their roots in the Leninist schism that was to follow....

The exhumation of the writings of Luxemburg, Lukacs, Gramsci and other forgotten early-twentieth century Marxists was accompanied by the rediscovery of Marx himself. Indeed, the unearthing of a new and ostensibly very different Marx was crucial to the attraction of Marxism in these years. The 'old' Marx was the Marx of Lenin and Stalin: the Victorian social scientist whose neo-positivist writings anticipated and authorized democratic centralism and proletarian dictatorship. Even if this Marx could not be held directly responsible for the uses to which his mature writings had been put, he was irrevocably associated with them. Whether in the service of Communism or Social Democracy, they were of the old Left.

The new Left, as it was starting to call itself by 1965, sought out new texts—and found them in the writings of the young Karl Marx, in the metaphysical essays and notes written in the early 1840s when Marx was barely out of his teens, a young German philosopher steeped in Hegelian historicism and the Romantic dream of ultimate Freedom. Marx himself had chosen not to publish some of these writings; indeed, in the aftermath of the failed revolutions of 1848 he had turned decisively away from them and towards the study of political economy and contemporary politics with which he was henceforth to be associated.

Photodude Debunks Civil War Photog Mathew Brady

Atlanta-based blogger Photodude takes Andrew Sullivan to task by debunking Mathew Brady's role as the photographer of the American Civil War. I've seen many, many Mathew Brady photographs, but never heard this angle. Did the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War mention this?
As someone intimately familiar with both the history of photography and the Civil War, I can tell you that Matthew Brady was well known as a sour self-promoting character with far more ego than talent. Yes, he did take some famous photos during the Civil War, but he also took the work of talented photographers like Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, and others, and proudly presented it as his own. The quote I recall is along the lines of “that photo is so good I’m going to tell the world it’s a Matthew Brady photograph.” He was brazen about it. You might say Matthew Brady invented the concept of “work for hire.”
UPDATE: I've corrected the spelling of Brady's first name except where quoting Photodude. As a commenter on my WordPress mirror blog notes, Photodude's animus toward Brady seems excessive. More on Brady here and here.

27 August 2007

Missing Date in Philippines History: 31 December 1844

From A History of the International Date Line:
European explorers who approached the Pacific Ocean by sailing to the east such as the Portuguese, and in their wake the Dutch, the English and the French, naturally kept their ship’s journals and diaries according to the day count of their home land and this was of course also adopted by the colonists who settled along the Asian perimeter of the Pacific Ocean.

However, the colonisation of the Pacific Ocean by the Spanish occurred from the opposite direction and more specifically from the Spanish possessions in America. The Philippine archipelago was discovered in March 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan and Spanish dominion over the islands was first firmly established in 1565 by Miguel López de Legazpi (c. 1510 - 1572), the conquistador and first Spanish governor general of the Philippines....

Most of the shipping from the Philippines to Spain went over the Pacific Ocean to the Mexican port of Acapulco, was transported over land to the port of Veracruz, and then shipped to Spain. In order that the Spanish ships crossing the Pacific Ocean between the Philippines and the Spanish Americas would not have to adjust the dates in their journals whenever they sighted land, the Philippines observed the same day count as that of the Spanish Americas....

During the early 1840s the commercial interests of the Philippine Islands turned more and more away from the Spanish Americas (which for a large part had severed their relations with the motherland Spain) and trading with the Chinese mainland (engendered by the ignominious but lucrative ‘Opium Wars’), the Malay peninsula, the Dutch East Indies and Australia became increasingly important.

In order to facilitate communication and trading with its western and southern neighbours, the secular and religious authorities of the Philippines agreed that it would be advantageous to abolish the American day reckoning and adopt the Asian day reckoning.

This was achieved in 1844 when Narciso Claveria, the governor general of the Philippines, issued a proclamation announcing that Monday, 30 December 1844, was to be immediately followed by Wednesday, 1 January 1845.
The 1867 conversion from Russian to American time in Alaska was much more complicated.

Suppression of Piracy in the Philippines After 1848

From Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, Maritime Raiding and the Birth of Ethnicity, by James Francis Warren (Singapore U. Press, 2002), pp. 345-346, 363-364:
By the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the sea war in the Philippines between Spain and the Iranun and Balangingi had taken on a permanent and normal character of a stalemate in which each party recognized the other as an equal with authority generally limited to the territory each controlled. But in 1848 the combined forces of the Spanish navy and army laid waste to the Samal forts at Balangingi, dispersed the survivors, and forcefully relocated the prisoners of war. This was the decisive moment, the turning point in the history of the century-long conflict between Spain and the slave raiders. The Balangingi were on the brink of climbing out of their Samal identity after nearly half a century of constant upheaval, and, according to Frake, "establishing themselves as a different kind of people." But, in the aftermath of the Spanish devastation of their island stronghold in 1848, they did not succeed. After that event the Balangingi, as 'notorious pirates' and a construed single ethnic group, disappeared from the pages of the historical literature and geographical reports. Balangingi fortunes changed in the 1840s and with them the pattern of maritime raiding in Southeast Asia. The destruction of Tempasuk and Marudu by the English in 1845 also forced Iranun groups to relocate on the east coast at Tunku. The loss of these confederate communities made it more difficult for the Balangingi to conduct slave raids in the western sector of the archipelago. This event, coupled with the founding of Labuan by James Brooke and the appearance of steam gunboats on the northwest coast of Borneo, forced them to gradually withdraw from that area and increasingly concentrate their activities on the Dutch possessions.

At the same time, the Spanish adopted a far more aggressive policy in the south. The new governor of the Philippines, Narciso Claveria, understood the strategic importance of the control of Balangingi which became the focal point of a new Spanish strategy. A daring naval attack aimed at the throat of the Sulu, namely Balangingi, was the key to cutting the sultanate in two and stopping slave raiding in the Philippines....

After the destruction of Balangingi in 1848, the Spanish first used the Samal women and children as hostages to force their husbands and kindred to surrender and make peace. The political ploy did not work. So after a short time, the Spanish assembled their steamers and regularly swept the Visayas and the Sulu archipelago from one end to the other. Repeated punitive campaigns ended with a series of major sea battles off the coasts of Samar and Mindanao and attacks on Taupan's bases to the south. [Julano Taupan was war leader of the Balangingi at Tawi-Tawi.] Hundreds of Balangingi were killed during the six year long war, many of their ships captured, and others destroyed. Taupan sent his raiders to prey on shipping in less troubled waters in the Moluccas, the Banda Sea, the Java Sea, and along the Bornean coasts. But their activities were short-lived. The British and Dutch dealt with the Balangingi menace by joining forces across the region, stationing steamers in all the key straits of the archipelago at certain times of the year when the slave raiders traditionally appeared in those waters. The Dutch navy concentrated on Taupan's Balangingi operations around Sulawesi and Bonerate, and the British, with James Brooke's full support, stationed ships at Labuan to protect the Borneo coasting fleets in the South China Sea.

26 August 2007

Polynesian Languages: Useful for American Football QBs

I don't have much interest in American football. I grew up paying more attention to baseball and sumo. But an intriguing off-topic comment by football fan BitterOldPunk in a thread on Language Hat pointed me to a story in today's New York Times about a remarkable quarterback on the University of Hawai‘i football team.
HONOLULU — After every home game, Colt Brennan waves to his probation officer as he leaves Aloha Stadium....

Brennan, Hawaii’s star quarterback, is on the cusp of what could be a transcendent season in his senior year. He is projected to make a run at the Heisman Trophy, and his coach insists that he will be the first quarterback selected in the N.F.L. draft. His strong right arm, combined with a soft schedule, have people around college football’s most remote program believing that Hawaii’s chances of making a Boise State-like run to a Bowl Championship Series game are, well, not remote.

Those possibilities, for the player and for the team, are even more noteworthy considering the improbable, circuitous road that Brennan, 24, took to Hawaii.

Brennan backed up Matt Leinart in high school in Southern California, went 3,000 miles to a prep school in Massachusetts and was the fourth-string quarterback at Colorado as a walk-on before being arrested and thrown off the team. He then spent spring break in a Colorado jail during a year in junior college and landed at Hawaii only because a reporter showed an assistant coach there a film of one of Brennan’s junior college receivers.

The final twists in Brennan’s rise toward stardom and redemption may be the most compelling of all, however. If not for the anonymity of being a backup, the uncertainty of chasing a scholarship and the humiliation of wearing an orange jumpsuit, he probably would not have the thrill of a Heisman chase, the allure of being a possible first-round pick or the recipient of the affection of an entire state.

“The consensus between myself and Colt’s high school coaches is that Colt is the person he is today and the quarterback he is today because of the path he took,” said Dan Morrison, Hawaii’s quarterbacks coach. “I firmly believe he is who he is today because of the road he traveled.”
It's a fine story of personal redemption and of those who had faith in him, but the bit that got notice on Language Hat was the following.
Soon after Brennan arrived, in the summer of 2005, Morrison, the quarterbacks coach, advised him that the culture of the island valued humility and character. Having spent spring break in jail that year, Brennan hardly needed a humility check.

“I had gone through a real embarrassing time in my life,” Brennan said. “I was humiliated and I needed to go find myself somewhere else. Hawaii had that appeal to it. It was my getaway, my escape.”

So he kept his mouth shut and did his best to blend in. He took three semesters of Samoan as a way to bond with his offensive linemen, all of whom are of Polynesian descent. (Morrison beamed when telling of Brennan calling an audible in Samoan last year.)
I suspect that Brennan has also learned a bit of New Zealand Māori, because Hawai‘i is one of a growing number of American football teams that psyche themselves up (and psyche their opponents out) before games by performing Māori-style haka, first introduced into international sports by New Zealand's famed All-Blacks.

The blog A Nice Gesture has quite a compilation of commentary and video of haka being performed by, among others, New Zealand's Tall Blacks before a basketball game against Argentina, and a whole range of American football teams from Hawai‘i to Utah to Texas.

25 August 2007

Outburst of Piracy in Southeast Asia, 1754-1838

From Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, Maritime Raiding and the Birth of Ethnicity, by James Francis Warren (Singapore U. Press, 2002), pp. 53-56:
The Iranun burst quite suddenly into Southeast Asian history in the second half of the eighteenth century with a series of terrifying raids and attacks on the coasts and shipping of the Philippines, the straits of Malacca and the islands beyond Sulawesi. Their primary targets were unprotected coastal settlements and sailing boats that travelled throughout Southeast Asia bringing valuable commodities from China and the West back to the most remote parts of the archipelago. Many of these marauders were sponsored by rulers from the trading states of Cotabato, Sulu, Siak, and Sambas. They were soon described as 'Lanun' or 'Illanoon'—'pirates'—by those who suffered their depradations or either travelled with or hunted them and wrote about their widespread impact on the Southeast Asian world.

It is estimated that during the last quarter of this century (1774–1798) of maritime raiding and conflict against the Dutch and Spanish, between 100 and 200 seaworthy raiding prahus set out from the Mindanao-Sulu area each year. The sheer size of the vessels—the largest joanga measuring upward of 130 feet in length—and the scale of the expeditions dwarfed most previous efforts, marking a significant departure in the naval strategy of Malay maritime raiding as it had been traditionally understood. The Iranun were far more than mere 'pirates' or brigands. The colonial powers and precolonial Malay trading states had to reckon with a dominant force in their own right; a force that was capable of inflicting major defeats on the Spanish and Dutch and toppling local kingdoms. The huge numbers of these skilled sea raiders and slavers that the sultanate of Sulu could mobilize during the heyday of the China trade would henceforth have a profound impact upon Southeast Asia's history.

The geographical range of Iranun-Balangingi slave raiding activity was enormous, spanning all of Southeast Asia and beyond. Until the latter part of the eighteenth century, the joanga of the Cotabato and Sulu Sultanates were more or less integrated into fleets belonging to the respective sultanates, but by the end of the century many Iranun vessels were also operating independently. Iranun prahus sponsored by both states had their own target areas but inevitably, there was some overlap. Cotabato and Sulu raiding vessels cruised between the Visayas and Luzon, and out into the South China Sea. Those from Tempasuk, on the northwest coast of Borneo, harassed shipping to the west of the huge island itself. Samal Balangingi, situated midway between the Iranun communities in Mindanao and those on Borneo, operated vessels throughout the Philippines and in the central and eastern parts of the Netherlands Indies.

Iranun maritime raids affected virtually the entire coastline of Southeast Asia, and even stretches of New Guinea and the Bay of Bengal were not secure from slave raids. In the east, the Iranun sailed down the Makassar Strait to cross the Java Sea and South China Sea to attack the north coast ports on Java and the large tin mining island of Banka. Iranun raided extensively in the Sangir Islands, Halmahera and, to a lesser extent, in the Moluccas. They also pushed beyond the defended limits of the Southeast Asian world, crossing the South China Sea to attack undefended stretches of the coastlines of Thailand and Cochin China. At the opposite extremity they also raided, but failed to dominate, the dangerous coasts of New Guinea. In the 1790s, Iranun slave hunters in search of captives extended the limits of their known world even further, sailing far into the waters of the Bay of Bengal, touching at the Andaman Islands and perhaps exploring the southern coast of Burma. There seemed no practical way for the colonial powers to link their respective 'dominions' together in an island-wide network of defense and communication, and consequently the Iranun made the most of the ill-defended seas and ravaged the coastal populations and commerce....

In the second half of the eighteenth century many Philippine ports, towns, shipyards, and monasteries were not adequately defended while others were totally defenseless. From the mid-1750s onward, the scale, ferocity and unexpected nature of the initial wave of Iranun attacks were deeply disturbing. Thousands of Filipinos perished or were seized as captives; the more so as the Iranun were Muslims and recognized none of the accepted conventions and taboos that were meant to protect the property and personnel of the Catholic Church in times of war between Christians.... This terrifying period of Iranun slave raiding activity, which lasted more than 70 years from roughly 1752 to 1832, severely hampered the overall social and material well-being and growth of the Philippine island world and the colonial state.

Marmot's View of Islam in Medieval Korea

Robert Koehler at The Marmot's Hole offers his summary of early relations between the Islamic world and Korea, based on a 2005 Korean-language piece in the Hankyoreh Shinmun by Professor Jeong Su-il. Here are a few excerpts.
Following the establishment of the Goryeo kingdom, the Muslim presence in Korea would reach new heights. At first, it was mostly Arab traders flooding into the kingdom, but in the late Goryeo era, when Korea was dominated by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, Muslims would come to Korea as soldiers and administrators, and the Muslim faith would begin putting down roots in the country.

Historical records show that in the early years of the Goryeo era, large Muslim — probably Arab — tribute delegations came to the Korean capital of Gaegyeong (present day Kaesong) in 1024, 1025 and 1037, presenting such rare gifts as mercury and myrrh. The Goryeo king prepared for these travelers special lodging and presented them with gold and silk upon their return to their homeland....

Professor Jeong noted the historic irony that Islam was brought to Korea on the (horse)back of non-believers. This irony could be taken even further by noting that the afore mentioned non-believers were not just your garden-variety infidels, but the very same enemies of God who that year had single-handedly stuck a fork in the Islamic Golden Age with the “Mother of All Sackings” of Baghdad.

Following the Mongol conquest of Goryeo, the saengmokin, regarded by the Mongols as highly cultured and educated (many Central Asians, particularly Uighurs, served as administrators for the empire — even the Mongol script was invented by a Uighur), came to Korea as guards, military aide-de-camps and attendants to the Mongol princesses sent to Korea to marry the Goryeo princes. At the same time, many Muslims came to Korea in a civilian capacity as traders, with many settling down for good.
An update links to another article in English by Don Baker in Harvard Asia Quarterly entitled Islam Struggles for a Toehold in Korea. Here's the abstract.
This paper explores the history of Islam in Korea from its first introduction on the peninsula in as early as 11th-century to the present day. Although Korea is rightfully perceived as a country whose religious landscape has been traditionally dominated by Buddhist temples, Confucian study halls, and shrines for Korea’s own folk religion, Islam has also secured a foothold in this East Asian country. The author reveals the traces of the early contacts with the Muslim civilization in Korea’s own culture, ranging from the adoption of advanced calendrical techniques to the import of a sophisticated distillation technology that came to be used for the production of soju, Korean rice wine. Against the backdrop of this historical overview, the paper goes further to analyze why Islam has not made more headway in Korea. This research concludes suggesting that Islam’s failure to adapt itself to local customs accounts for its status as a minority religion that attracts primarily foreign residents of Korea and has only a small number of Korean adherents.

Hans Rosling on Global Trends Since the 1960s

Dr. Hans Rosling, cofounder of the Swedish branch of Doctors Without Borders, has a fascinating video presentation about how much the world—especially Asia—has changed since the days of Mao and Nehru, when many of today's world leaders (and my generation of baby boomers) formed their increasingly obsolete impressions of global trends.
What sets Rosling apart isn’t just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You’ve never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling’s hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.
via Belmont Club

24 August 2007

East German Female Seeking North Korean Male

The Korea Times profiles a German woman seeking her North Korean husband, long since repatriated from the former East Germany to North Korea. Quite an unusual case of Ostnostalgie: "Liebe Kennt Keine Grenzen."
A German woman has expressed hope that the upcoming inter-Korean summit will be a breakthrough toward meeting her husband, Hong Ok-geun, 73, who was sent back to North Korea 46 years ago.

"I believe that my long-time desire will come true now that talks between South and North Korea are taking place," Renate Hong, 70, told a news conference in Seoul Thursday.

The now elderly Hong first met her North Korean husband when she was 18 and they were both students at a university in East Germany. The two fell in love and married after dating five years.

Hong, however, has not seen her husband since North Korea forcibly called back students studying abroad in 1961. They had been married for one year and Hong was pregnant with their second child.
via The Marmot's Hole

23 August 2007

The Fall of the Ming and the Rise of the Dog Shogun

From The Dog Shogun: The Personality and Policies of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, by Beatrice Bodart-Bailey (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2006), p. 67:
Japan's leadership was confronted with serious questions [after the fall of the Ming dynasty]. Northern China had more or less peacefully capitulated to the invading Manchu forces, abruptly ending the supremacy of the nearly three-hundred-year-old Ming dynasty. From Shoho 3 (1646) onwards over some forty years the bakufu received requests for military assistance from the supporters of the beleaguered Ming holding out in South China. These served as a constant reminder of the fallen giant. Chinese scholars seeking refuge in Japan readily pointed out that the Chinese imperial house in no small way had been brought down by misgovernment and the discontent of the commoners. The question of how Japan would stand up to a Manchu threat could not be ignored. We know that the senior councilor Matsudaira Nobutsuna probed Kumazawa Banzan on this topic. The latter feared that last-minute preparations for battle would create enormous logistical problems with regard to food supplies. Shortage of rice would cause mutiny and riots, making it easy for the invaders to conquer Japan. Even if the invaders were repelled, the social and economic havoc resulting from the attempted invasion would leave Japan in a state of anarchy and civil war.

A solution in accord with Confucian concepts was to better the lot of the commoners so that they would rally behind their government. This was to be achieved by Confucian-style benevolent government (jinsei), where the commoners were administered with increased expertise, efficiency, and dedication on the part of samurai officials. Education brought enlightenment and reduced violence. Yet education and appointment commensurate with performance challenged the inherited birthright of the samurai. Moreover such benevolent government often required financial sacrifice. Especially at times of natural calamities, the military was expected to forgo tax collection and contribute to relief funds.

In opposition stood the resolve to maintain the political status quo by consolidating the privileges of the ruling class. This strategy meant adherence to Ieyasu's maxim that farmers were to be taxed so that they barely retained enough grain for seeding and burdened with corvee leaving just enough energy to produce good crops. Education encouraged insubordination. As Sakai Tadakiyo had advised Ikeda Mitsumasa, in these troubled times expenditures on military and public duties were more appropriate.
From the publisher's blurb:
Tsunayoshi (1646–1709), the fifth Tokugawa shogun, is one of the most notorious figures in Japanese history. Viewed by many as a tyrant, his policies were deemed eccentric, extreme, and unorthodox. His Laws of Compassion, which made the maltreatment of dogs an offense punishable by death, earned him the nickname Dog Shogun, by which he is still popularly known today. However, Tsunayoshi’s rule coincides with the famed Genroku era, a period of unprecedented cultural growth and prosperity that Japan would not experience again until the mid-twentieth century. It was under Tsunayoshi that for the first time in Japanese history considerable numbers of ordinary townspeople were in a financial position to acquire an education and enjoy many of the amusements previously reserved for the ruling elite.

19 August 2007

Judt on the Lessons of 21 August 1968

From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 2005), pp. 444-447:
On August 21st 1968, 500,000 Warsaw Pact troops from Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the DDR and the Soviet Union marched into Czechoslovakia. The invasion met some passive resistance and quite a lot of street protests, especially in Prague; but at the urgent behest of the Czech government it was otherwise unopposed. The unfriendly reception was a source of some surprise to the Soviet leadership, who had been led to expect that their tanks would encounter widespread support. Having at first arrested Dubček and his leading colleagues, flown them to Moscow and obliged them to sign a paper renouncing parts of their program and agreeing to the Soviet occupation of their country, the Kremlin was now perforce obliged to accept that the reformers had the support of the Czech and Slovak people and allow them to retain formal charge of their country, at least for the moment. It was clearly imprudent to do otherwise.

Nevertheless, the repression of the Prague reforms—‘normalization’, as it became known—began almost immediately.... The ‘screening’ and purging of [dissident] intellectuals was carried out by lower ranking bureaucrats, policemen and party officials—more often than not the victims’ own colleagues. Their goal was to extract petty confessions—not so much in order to incriminate their victims but rather to humiliate them and thus secure their collaboration in the self-subjugation of a troublesome society. The message went out that the country had passed through a mass psychosis in 1968, that false prophets had exploited the ensuing ‘hysteria’, and that the nation needed to be directed firmly back to the correct path: induced by the carrot of consumer goods and the stick of omnipresent surveillance.

The threat of violence was of course always implicit, but the fact that it was rarely invoked merely added to the collective humiliation. Once again, as in 1938 and again in 1948, Czechoslovakia was being made complicit in its own defeat. By 1972—with poets and playwrights forced to clean boilers and wash windows; university lecturers stacking bricks, and their more troublesome students expelled; the police files full of useful ‘confessions’; and reform Communists cowed or else in exile—‘order’, in the words of a brilliant, bitter essay by one of normalization's victims, had been ‘restored’.

There were ripples of protest throughout the Communist bloc.... East European army units engaged in the invasion of Czechoslovakia had been led to believe that they were defending the country against West German or American invaders, and some of them had later to be quietly withdrawn, their reliability—notably that of Hungarian units occupying Slovakia—seriously in question. In Poland, as we have seen, the repression in Prague both stimulated student protests and strengthened the hand of the authorities in stamping them down.... The attitude of Czechs and Slovaks themselves, hitherto among the most pro-Russian nations in the Soviet bloc, now shifted irrevocably to a stance of sullen acquiescence.

But all this was easily contained. The Kremlin had made its point—that fraternal socialist states had only limited sovereignty and that any lapse in the Party’s monopoly of power might trigger military intervention. Unpopularity at home or abroad was a small price to pay for the stability that this would henceforth ensure. After 1968, the security of the Soviet zone was firmly underwritten by a renewed appreciation of Moscow’s willingness to resort to force if necessary. But never again—and this was the true lesson of 1968, first for the Czechs but in due course for everyone else—never again would it be possible to maintain that Communism rested on popular consent, or the legitimacy of a reformed Party, or even the lessons of History....

Reflecting in later years upon his memories of August 21st 1968, when Red Army troops burst into a meeting of Czech party leaders and a soldier lined up behind each Politburo member, [Zdeněk] Mlynář recalled that ‘at such a moment one’s concept of socialism moves to last place. But at the same time you know that it has a direct connection of some sort with the automatic weapon pointing at your back.’ It is that connection which marked the definitive turning point in the history of Communism, more even than the Hungarian tragedy of 1956.

The illusion that Communism was reformable, that Stalinism had been a wrong turning, a mistake that could still be corrected, that the core ideals of democratic pluralism might somehow still be compatible with the structures of Marxist collectivism: that illusion was crushed under the tanks on August 21st 1968 and it never recovered.
One of the 80,000 Czechs and Slovaks who fled into exile following the Soviet invasion was my fellow fieldworker in Papua New Guinea and sometime officemate and housemate during my grad school years.

18 August 2007

Romania, 1984: Toilet Paper Tales

During our Fulbright orientation session for Romania in 1983, we had been warned about the difficulty of finding many of the basic consumer commodities to which we had become accustomed. In order to cope with the absence of fresh green vegetables during the long winter, we arrived with several kilograms of alfalfa seeds, which made Romanian customs officials suspicious but allowed us (and others) to eat fresh sprouts all winter. In order to make sure we had enough toilet paper to last the year, we ordered a box of 100 rolls of Scott tissue in the first of our three orders to Peter Justesen that the U.S. Embassy allowed us during our time there. We split that order with two other Fulbright households in Bucharest and we never ran short.

It wasn't that our bums were too delicate for the coarse Romanian toilet paper. It's just that the latter was rarely available. We always kept a sharp lookout for queues of shoppers on the streets in our long walks between our apartment and the University of Bucharest in the city center. We would join any queue at least long enough to find out what they were waiting to buy. Paper products appeared very rarely and were usually sold right from the sidewalk, with a quota of, say, six rolls of paper and two packs of napkins (serviettes) per person. Everyone carried an expandable shopping bag (pungă) or two, but some would carry rope as well, so that two people could thread it through their ten or twelve rolls and carry it between them on the way home. Or one person could wear a lei or bandolier of toilet paper rolls and still have two hands free to carry other goods.

Public toilets were never stocked with paper. Instead, you paid a small fee to the attendant at the entrance, and received in return a few inadequate squares of paper to use. It was safest to carry your own supply. As in France and Italy, public urinals (vespasiene) were named for Emperor Vespasian, who reinstituted Nero's Vectigal Urinae. I remember entering one public toilet downtown where one of the urinals was clogged and overflowing, and someone had helpfully placed a perforated plastic waste basket underneath to collect rechannel the overflow.

Of course, few Romanians in 1984 could order paper products from abroad. They had to make do by other means. The most amusing alternative I encountered was in the house of a retired schoolteacher in Rădăuţi, Bucovina. He was a kinsman of the Romanian American Fulbrighter in our group. Next to his toilet was a small basket with scraps of used student papers he had once collected and graded. I'm sure he thought of his students every time he used their papers.

17 August 2007

Wordcatcher Tales: Dawasi, Kousapw, Sakau

Three words from the Micronesian language Pohnpeian (aka Ponapean) that surfaced in my background reading about the church shootings in Neosho, Missouri, tell stories of distant connections across time and space.

Dawasi - When I first heard about the Neosho church shooting, I assumed the Micronesians involved were from the Marshall Islands, because I know that many Marshallese work for Tyson Foods in nearby Springdale, Arkansas. But one key term (which I've italicized) in the following passage cited in a posting on the Marshallese YokweOnline network hinted that the Micronesians involved were from the state of Pohnpei, not the Marshalls. (They were actually from the outer islands of Pingelap, not the main island of Pohnpei.)
Kernel [Rehobson] owns a retail store that is a gathering place for Micronesians from dozens of miles around since he stocks his store with the type of down-home items that are so difficult to find in the US: the large plastic combs that women wear in their hair, zoris, dawasi and brushes for showers, and island-style skirts with embroidered hems.
Dawasi 'scrub brush' (made of coir bristle) is the official Pohnpeian spelling for a word borrowed from Japanese before the Pacific War. The same word was borrowed by Palauans, who spell it tauas(i). In current Japanese, tawashi (束子) can refer to scouring pads made of acrylic yarn, but the bristle brush variety is such a Japanese cultural icon that tiny replicas dangle from cellphones and backpacks.

The passage above cited on YokweOnline comes from the article on Micronesians Abroad by Francis X. Hezel, S.J., and Eugenia Samuel, that I blogged about earlier. The two words italicized in the next passage from the same article tell of very different connections.
Our team intended to visit Kansas City, home of a growing Micronesian community, largely Pohnpeian, that sprang from students who attended Park College during the 1970s and 1980s. Small colleges, once well attended by Micronesian students, have frequently served as the seedbeds for migrant communities in the US, accounting in part for the seemingly odd locations of Micronesian strongholds. Kansas City is said to have been constituted a kousap by a Pohnpeian chief not long ago when he paid a visit to his compatriots who had settled in that city. He was feted with sakau—the type made from powder rather than pounded—and left a week or two later with several thousand dollars, which had been collected as tribute from Pohnpeians who are now living 8,000 miles from their own island.
Kousapw - The kousapw (sapw means 'land') is a Pohnpeian land unit—translated 'section' below—intermediate between a farmstead and a district (or "municipality"). According to Douglas Oliver's (1988) Oceania: The Native Cultures of Australia and the Pacific Islands, p. 983:
Most sections extended from coast to island center, and consisted of from fifteen to thirty-eight farmsteads. Each section had a meeting house of its own, and was headed by an official known as a kaun or soumas, who was usually the senior male member of the section's senior sub-clan. The section functioned mainly as an administrative subdivision of the district.
This raises several questions. (1) There seem to be many old cultural connections between chiefly high-island Polynesians (possibly from Samoa) and Pohnpei. Is it just coincidence that the kousapw in Pohnpei usually runs from seashore to mountaintop, like the ahupua‘a of Hawai‘i (and presumably other large islands in Polynesia)? (2) Which of the major districts on the island of Pohnpei was the Kansas City kousapw assigned to? (3) Does this mean we now have a third Kansas City to contend with: one in Missouri, one in Kansas, and one in Pohnpei?

Sakau - One strong indication of old Polynesian influence on Pohnpei is the cultivation and use of Piper methysticum, known in Pohnpei as sakau, in Hawaiian as ‘awa, and in Samoan as ‘ava. In fact, the Pohnpeian word sakau derives by regular sound correspondences from the earlier Polynesian article+noun combination *te kawa.

Micronesian Emigration Rising

The Micronesian Seminar regularly publishes articles on issues facing Micronesians under a series called Micronesian Counselor. The latest in the series is on HIV/AIDS in Micronesia. In December 2006 MicSem published an article on Micronesians Abroad by Francis X. Hezel, S.J., and Eugenia Samuel. Here's just the introduction.
Today there are over 30,000 FSM citizens and 20,000 Marshallese living in the United States and its territories. Add to that possibly another 10,000 Palauans, and you have a total of 60,000 Micronesians living away from home. These are not students, young people away for a short time, or islanders who are doing a brief stint with the military. These are people-young and old, fluent English-speakers and those who know no more than a few words of the language-who have chosen to take up residence abroad.

Emigration is not an entirely new phenomenon. Palauans have been leaving home since the late 1940s. Already in 1953, there were a hundred Palauans on Guam with their own Palau Association. As their numbers grew in subsequent years, they would meet in a Palauan bai and worship in a local language Protestant church. From the early 1970s, as hundreds of Micronesian students began heading for college in the US, thanks to the extension of the Pell Grant, emigration from Palau stepped up to about 250 a year. These were not young men and women on their way to college for a few years before returning home; they were people with a one-way ticket out. By the late 1970s, individuals from other parts of Micronesia as well were dribbling into Guam and the US with the intention of staying. The 1980 US Census recorded several hundred people from what was then coming to be known as FSM, most of them Outer Island Yapese, living in the US. These mostly educated, young people were loathe to return to their atolls where there was no wage employment, but reluctant to settle in Yap where they lacked status and land.

Then, in 1986 with the formal implementation of the Compact of Free Association in FSM and the Republic of the Marshalls, Micronesians were granted the right to live and work in the US for an unlimited period. The ensuing emigration was limited at first: the emigration from FSM was only about one percent a year, half of what it is today, and the early migrants were heavily Chuukese. The main destinations in those early years were Guam and Saipan. As both places suffered from a recession in the early 1990s and new jobs became scarce, more and more Micronesians headed for Hawaii. The migrant outflow increased sharply in the mid-1990s as the effects of the stepdown in Compact funding for FSM and RMI were felt and as the government reforms, initiated by Asian Development Bank, lopped jobs from the public sector.

Today we are witnessing an emigration comparable to those that other Pacific islands—Tonga, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Guam—have been experiencing for years. A decade or two ago, writers took delight in pointing out that the emigration population of, say, Samoans in California was half the size of its resident population, or that the Guamanians on the West Coast outnumbered those on their home island. Now Micronesia is rapidly moving in the same direction. With 2,000 FSM citizens, 1,000 Marshallese, and a couple hundred Palauans leaving home each year to live abroad, one out of every four Micronesians is now living in the US or its territories. If migration continues at this same pace, we can expect that the number of emigrants will be about half the size of the resident population just ten years from now.

Some Micronesian Immigrant Success Stories

The article on Micronesians Abroad by Francis X. Hezel, S.J., and Eugenia Samuel, published in December 2006 on the Micronesian Seminar's very informative website, profiles several successful Micronesian immigrants in the various enclaves of such immigrants that the authors visited. Among those profiled was the most prominent of the recent church shooting victims in Neosho, Missouri: Kernel Rehobson. Here are some excerpts from each of the communities visited.


The Honolulu press has given considerable attention to the problem of homeless Micronesians. We found that a good many Micronesians are on welfare and quite a few have declared themselves homeless, partly because being listed as homeless gives people a leg up on finding affordable housing in a state where even the smallest unit is prohibitively expensive at market prices.... But that's far less than half the story. Many Micronesians we talked to were angry at the "newcomers" for abusing the system and destroying the good reputation they had worked so hard to build up....

To their credit, many of the Micronesians we met were doing far better than just getting by. Serlino Harper, a young Chuukese, came to Hawaii more than ten years ago and lived with his older brother for a while before striking out on his own. His first job was as an employee at McKinley's Car Wash. Today he is the supervisor of the car wash, which employs more than a dozen other Chuukese, and he lives in a small studio apartment with his pet cat. Xavier Fethal from Ulithi, married and with a family of six, has a good job selling medical supplies to hotels and still finds the time to play guitar in a local band and maintain a steady involvement in community activities. Bruce Musrasrik, born in Pohnpei but a resident of Honolulu for several years, manages one of the hotels in Waikiki. Then, too, there is Lubuw Falenruw, a Yapese, one of the most publicized success stories of Micronesians in Hawaii. He is owner of a computer graphics company that employs some 20 people, nets millions each year, and is famous throughout the state for its innovative displays.

Southern California

Our next stop was San Diego, where we spent more time with many of those we had met at the gathering in Pasadena. John Akapito, a Chuukese who has his master's degree and teaches English to foreign students at National University, cut a fine figure in his suit and tie as we interviewed him in his private office on the campus. Like most other Micronesians in the San Diego area, John has close ties with the Micronesian Outreach Ministry based in Pasadena. Sabino Asor, former FSM congressman from Chuuk, is also in San Diego; he currently works in the service department of a car dealership, but aspires to getting into the real estate business before long. His spacious four-bedroom house with garage was rather typical of the homes occupied by Micronesians with large families. At the farewell party they threw for us the evening we left, we met dozens of other islanders, including the offspring of half a dozen well known Chuukese families: Masataka Mori's daughter, Susumu Aizawa's niece, Mitaro Dannis' nephew, Tosiwo Nakayama's granddaughter, and three Narruhn women, among others.

As we chatted, it became clear that the children were much more fluent in English than in their local language, even if both parents were from the same island. At nearly all the social events we attended, the parents used their own language whenever they could, while the young generation spoke English. Young people seemed to have understood the local language when they were spoken to, and they have all learned songs and hymns in an island language, but they did not feel comfortable speaking it. Acculturation happens quickly in the US mainland, much more rapidly, I suspect, than in Hawaii or Guam.

Corsicana, Texas

Corsicana, an hour's drive from Dallas, might seem an unlikely spot for a Micronesian community, but there are about 300 islanders living there. The origins of this community date back to the late 1970s when dozens of young Micronesians were attending Navarro Community College....

One of the icons of the Corsicana community, by all accounts, is a Palauan woman by the name of Grace. Like so many others, she attended Navarro Community College and after graduation decided to stay. She is the manager of a Pizza Hut in the middle of town where she has worked for eighteen years. As part of her work, she supervises eight employees, half of whom are also Palauan. Her life has been a model of persistence in carrying out her responsibilities for her work and family. Others like her have worked their way up to the managerial level. She told us that she would hope to return home one day after her retirement, but for the present she has a good salary and a generous pension for her retirement. As much as she misses the laid-back pace of life at home, Grace plans to continue working in Corsicana as long as she can. After all, she reflects, there will always be time to enjoy the slow life in the islands after retirement.

Central Florida

This community—if it can be called that—is spread throughout an area that extends from Orlando to Tampa and Clearwater. This place differs from the other destinations we visited in that there are no senior founders of this community, "elders" who pull people together for gatherings and resolve community problems. Nearly all the Micronesians who settled in central Florida were brought out by recruiters to work at SeaWorld, Disney World, Busch Gardens, or one of the several nursing homes in the area. The community here, which is heavily Pohnpeian but with a few Mortlockese thrown into the mix, is composed mainly of young men and their starter families. We met no one who was there longer than ten years, and most have lived in central Florida for just five or six years. This group lacks the experienced leadership that has proven vital for binding together individuals in other migrant communities....

Some of the migrants have continued working in the theme parks. One young man operates the kiddie rollercoaster at SeaWorld while a Pohnpeian woman works the sky lift at Busch Gardens. Most, however, seem to hold jobs in food services, like the young lady from Pohnpei we found rolling cinnamon sticks in another part of the park. All seem to get along very well with their coworkers and enjoy the respect of their bosses.

A small Japanese restaurant called Kanpai employs seven Micronesians, one as hostess and six as chefs. When we went there for dinner one evening, we were treated to a virtuoso performance demonstrating what the Pohnpeian chefs could do with a knife, a hot grill, and bowls of vegetables and meat. The chefs came out, each in front of a grill surrounded by patrons, and did a juggling act with knives and food, as they chopped at lightning speed, swirled and twirled food on the grill faster than we could follow, and doffed their chef hats for the applause that followed their act.

Corner of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma

Neosho lies just a bit north of the Missouri-Arkansas border, no more than eighty miles from Springdale, Arkansas, the site of the large Tyson Chicken Factory and home to thousands of Marshallese immigrants. Another fifty miles west of Neosho, just across the state border, is Miami, Oklahoma, a town slightly larger than Neosho that has an island community of its own. We joined the 300 or so Micronesians to watch the baseball games and enjoy the mixed buffet, featuring island delicacies like banana pihlohlo along with such American standards as spareribs and chicken. Micronesians came from all over Missouri, some from northern Arkansas and Wichita, and even from as far away as Cincinnati and Corsicana, to attend. Most were Pohnpeians, but there were also a few Chuukese and Marshallese on hand. We were told that Cincinnati would, in turn, host the next Pohnpeian games, scheduled for September 11—a day celebrated on their home island as Liberation Day.

The person who organized the games—and who oversees most other activities that take place in Neosho—is a Pingelapese businessman by the name of Kernel Rehobson. Kernel owns a retail store that is a gathering place for Micronesians from dozens of miles around since he stocks his store with the type of down-home items that are so difficult to find in the US: the large plastic combs that women wear in their hair, zoris, dawasi and brushes for showers, and island-style skirts with embroidered hems. Kernel says that he had his troubles when he first settled in Neosho; people mistook him for a Mexican and kept asking for his papers when he tried to enroll his kids in school or gain access to any social services. He started out working for K-Mart as a warehouseman, worked his way up to manager, and later quit to begin his own business. Kernel also serves as pastor to the Pingelapese community in the church that they share with the Neosho Protestant congregation. Anyone from the islands who needs help of any sort-a social security number, a driver's license, a job-always comes to Kernel first.

Portland, Oregon

The Willamette Valley between Portland and Salem has for at least twenty years been one of the favorite destinations of Micronesian migrants. The area represents one of the greatest concentrations of islanders anywhere in the continental US; and if the area is expanded to include the southern part of Washington and eastern Oregon, the Micronesian population probably numbers a few thousand....

In Oregon, as in other places, Protestants are able to attend Sunday services in their own language, while Catholics must assimilate into local parishes as best they can. Thus, Dio and his family attend mass at St. Lourdes with its international community, afterwards meeting Hispanics, Samoans, Asians and others over coffee and pastries. Chuukese Protestants generally meet on Sunday mornings at a large church in Aurora, an hour's drive from Portland, where Mitaro Dannis and a few other ministers preach in Chuukese and discuss with their congregation the importance of raising funds so that they can build a church of their own.

Elsewhere in Portland Ken Henry in his late forties and Lisa Uehara in her late twenties, work for William C. Earhart Company, a business that helps administer employee benefit plans. Ken, a Pohnpeian married to an American woman, is an accountant, while Lisa, a Chuukese from Weno, is a receptionist. Lisa, her Chuukese husband and their nine children live in a very nice three-bedroom house that they own. Lisa's sister and her family are conveniently settled right next door in a similar house of their own. Next to the children's swings and slides in the back yard there is an earth oven that the two families use to bake pork and breadfruit on special occasions.

16 August 2007

Judt on 'Uneasy, Unbalanced' Czecho-Slovakia in 1967

From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 2005), pp. 438-439:
Brezhnev had long regarded Czechoslovakia as the least ideologically reliable element in the Warsaw Pact. [That's something I still admire about the Czechs.--J.] It was because they knew this that the aging Stalinists in Prague Castle had tried for so long to hold the line. If they did not clamp down firmly on the intellectual opposition emerging in 1967 it was not for want of trying. But they were held back by two constraints: the need to pursue the recently implemented economic reforms, which implied a degree of openness and tolerance of dissenting opinion along Hungarian lines; and the emerging difficulties in Slovakia.

Czecho-Slovakia (as it was initially known) had always been an uneasy and unbalanced state. The Slovak minority in the south and east of the country was poorer and more rural than the Czechs to the northwest. Released from Hungarian rule in 1918, Slovaks were the poor relations in multi-ethnic inter-war Czechoslovakia and were not always treated well by Prague. Many Slovak political leaders had thus welcomed the breakup of the country in 1939 and the Nazi-sponsored appearance of an 'independent' puppet state with its capital in Bratislava. Conversely it was the urban and heavily Social Democratic Czechs of Bohemia and Moravia who had backed Communist candidates in the post-war elections, while the Catholic Slovaks remained indifferent or opposed.

All the same, Slovakia had not done badly under Communism. Slovak intellectuals fell victim to Communist purges, accused of bourgeois nationalism or anti-Communist plotting (or both). And the small number of surviving Slovak Jews suffered along with their Czech confreres. But 'bourgeois nationalists', Communists, Jews and intellectuals were fewer in number in Slovakia and much more isolated from the rest of society. Most Slovaks were poor and worked in the countryside. For them the rapid urbanization and industrialization of the first post-war decade carried real benefits. In contrast to Czechs, they were by no means displeased with their lot.

The mood in the Slovak region of the country changed sharply after 1960, however. The new 'Socialist' Constitution made even fewer concessions to local initiative or opinion than its predecessor and such autonomy as had been accorded Slovakia in the post-war reconstruction of the country was now taken back. Of more immediate consequence for most Slovaks, however, was the stagnation of the economy (by 1964 Czechoslovakia's rate of growth was the slowest in the bloc), which hit the heavy industry of central Slovakia harder than anywhere else.

15 August 2007

Caleb Crain on the End of American Whaling

The 23 July 2007 edition of The New Yorker contains an article by Caleb Crain on the demise of American whaling entitled There She Blew. Here's how it ends.
There are two ways to explain the end of American whaling.

First, history. During the Civil War, the North bought up aging whaleships, loaded them with stone, and sank them in Charleston Harbor in an attempt to block it. The South, meanwhile, purchased warships from Britain and set about catching and burning Union whalers. In all, Dolin reckons, more than eighty whaleships perished in the Civil War. Then, in 1871, pack ice descended on the northern coast of Alaska sooner than expected, pinning a fleet of whalers and cracking their hulls like so many eggshells. In this and a similar disaster five years later, forty-five more whaleships were lost. A new and far more destructive era of global whaling was about to begin—in the eighteen-sixties, a Norwegian named Svend Foyn devised a radically more efficient way to kill whales, by firing explosive-tipped harpoons from a cannon mounted on a steam-powered, iron-hulled schooner—but the American industry was too demoralized to participate.

Second, economics. If all had been well with whaling’s profit margins, the Civil War’s blow would have glanced like a blunt iron off a sperm whale’s snout. But for a long time beef tallow had been selling cheaper than spermaceti as an ingredient in candles, and lard oil had been underselling whale oil as a fuel for lamps. From the eighteen-forties on, more and more cities lit their streets with coal-derived gas, and a Canadian discovered how to extract from coal an oil called kerosene, which burned brighter and cleaner than whale oil. By the time crude petroleum was found underground in western Pennsylvania, in 1859, the whaling industry was already in retreat. Petroleum doomed it. In a single day, an oil well pumped as many barrels as a whaleship might collect in a three-year voyage. As sales shrank, the owners of whaleships cut costs by offering smaller lays, and the rate of literacy and the level of experience of the whaling workforce dropped, dragging productivity down with it. Davis, Gallman, and Gleiter surmise that the fashion for wasp waists in the late nineteenth century added about fifteen years to the dying industry’s life, by bidding up the price of baleen for corsets, but it was only a temporary reprieve....

But the economists tell us that whales are innocent of having damaged the whaling industry by becoming scarce, and nineteenth-century whalers had to keep searching for new grounds because whales in much-hunted areas grew more canny. Americans never caught enough sperm whales to throw them out of equilibrium. They did harm the populations of grays and bowheads, it seems, and maybe of right whales, too, but too late to have contributed to the decline of American whaling.

With Foyn’s new technology, the Norwegians hunted bigger and faster whales than the ones that man power and sail power had been able to handle; requiring new fleets, it was tantamount to a whole new industry. There was no reason to think that America would be good at it, especially since American labor cost more than Norwegian labor, so New Bedford’s millionaires quietly shifted their capital to railroads, petroleum refining, and textiles.

Whaling in the United States survived as a conscious antique, but only for a few decades. In 1914, the newspaper of the whaling industry shut down for lack of readers. Like “a staunch old whaling bark,” the editors wrote, the “Journal is to be hauled out on the beach.” As it happens, Melville dropped hints from time to time that the making of literature was like whaling. It, too, was a craft that lingered into the industrial age. It, too, expressed by a somewhat violent process the essence that a living creature collected in its head. In “Moby-Dick,” Ishmael even claims that, while working at his desk, he once saw in a mirror “a certain semi-visible steam” rising from his own head, like a whale’s spout. Perhaps writing, then, is the career to run away to—so long as you don’t mind figuring as both whaler and whale.
via Arts & Letters Daily

14 August 2007

New Journal: Language Documentation & Conservation

I'm at least a month overdue in calling notice to a new open-access, online journal from my old alma mater. The debut issue of Language Documentation & Conservation is sort of like a cross between a traditional linguistics journal and Popular Mechanics. Just look at the list of articles:

Endangered Sound Patterns: Three Perspectives on Theory and Description
Juliette Blevins

Solar Power for the Digital Fieldworker
Tom Honeyman and Laura C. Robinson

Copyright Essentials for Linguists
Paul Newman [no, not the salad dressing and pasta sauce magnate--J.]

Managing Fieldwork Data with Toolbox and the Natural Language Toolkit
Stuart Robinson, Greg Aumann, and Steven Bird

Ethics and Revitalization of Dormant Languages: The Mutsun Language
Natasha Warner, Quirina Luna, and Lynnika Butler

Writer’s Workshops: A Strategy for Developing Indigenous Writers
Diana Dahlin Weber, Diane Wroge, and Joan Bomberger Yoder

via the UHP Journals Log

12 August 2007

Two Schoolgirls in Kabul, 1992

From A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books, 2007), pp. 159-161:
IN JUNE OF THAT YEAR, 1992, there was heavy fighting in West Kabul between the Pashtun forces of the warlord Sayyaf and the Hazaras of the Wahdat faction. The shelling knocked down power lines, pulverized entire blocks of shops and homes. Laila heard that Pashtun militiamen were attacking Hazara households, breaking in and shooting entire families, execution style, and that Hazaras were retaliating by abducting Pashtun civilians, raping Pashtun girls, shelling Pashtun neighborhoods, and killing indiscriminately. Every day, bodies were found tied to trees, sometimes burned beyond recognition. Often, they'd been shot in the head, had had their eyes gouged out, their tongues cut out.

Babi tried again to convince Mammy to leave Kabul. "They'll work it out," Mammy said. "This fighting is temporary. They'll sit down and figure something out.""Fariba, all these people know is war," said Babi. "They learned to walk with a milk bottle in one hand and a gun in the other."

"Who are you to say?" Mammy shot back. "Did you fight jihad? Did you abandon everything you had and risk your life? If not for the Mujahideen, we'd still be the Soviets' servants, remember. And now you'd have us betray them!"

"We aren't the ones doing the betraying, Fariba."

"You go, then. Take your daughter and run away. Send me a postcard. But peace is coming, and I, for one, am going to wait for it."

The streets became so unsafe that Babi did an unthinkable thing: He had Laila drop out of school.

He took over the teaching duties himself. Laila went into his study every day after sundown, and, as Hekmatyar launched his rockets at Massoud from the southern outskirts of the city, Babi and she discussed the ghazals of Hafez and the works of the beloved Afghan poet Ustad Khalilullah Khalili. Babi taught her to derive the quadratic equation, showed her how to factor polynomials and plot parametric curves. When he was teaching, Babi was transformed. In his element, amid his books, he looked taller to Laila. His voice seemed to rise from a calmer, deeper place, and he didn't blink nearly as much. Laila pictured him as he must have been once, erasing his blackboard with graceful swipes, looking over a student's shoulder, fatherly and attentive....

ONE DAY THAT same month of June, Giti was walking home from school with two classmates. Only three blocks from Giti's house, a stray rocket struck the girls. Later that terrible day, Laila learned that Nila, Giti's mother, had run up and down the street where Giti was killed, collecting pieces ofher daughter's flesh in an apron, screech- ing hysterically. Giti's decomposing right foot, still in its nylon sock and purple sneaker, would be found on a rooftop two weeks later.

At Giti's fatiha, the day after the killings, Laila sat stunned in a roomful of weeping women. This was the first time that someone whom Laila had known, been close to, loved, had died. She couldn't get around the unfathomable reality that Giti wasn't alive anymore. Giti, with whom Laila had exchanged secret notes in class, whose fingernails she had polished, whose chin hair she had plucked with tweezers. Giti, who was going to marry Sabir the goalkeeper. Giti was dead. Dead. Blown to pieces. At last, Laila began to weep for her friend. And all the tears that she hadn't been able to shed at her [Mujahideen] brothers' funeral came pouring down.

A Tale of Two Baptist Churches in Romania, 1984

During our year in Romania on a Fulbright linguistics research grant during 1983–84, the Far Outliers were able to attend a few Baptist church services, thanks to one of our colleagues who had both family ties to Baptists in Georgia, where she was from, and relatives in Romania, where her parents were from. I'm not sure whether she also had ties to the Bible smugglers active at the time. (When we first crossed the border into Romania, the customs officers who came through the train asked if we had any Bibles, guns, or typewriters—three signature items of subversion forbidden to private citizens at the time.)

One Sunday evening, our friend led us to a small church far out on the outskirts of Bucharest where we attended a pleasant two-hour service that mostly featured singing and mandolin-playing. There were a lot young people in the congregation, all of whom knew each other and who were very friendly and welcoming toward us.

Another Sunday morning, our friend led us to an unofficial house church in a suburb of Bucharest, but it was so overflowing with people that we couldn't even get in the door. So we turned around and headed for an officially recognized church where we found a seat in the balcony of a fairly large sanctuary. Before an audience of several hundred that included both casual visitors and regular informers, the pastor chose his words carefully. After recounting various afflictions of war and famine elsewhere in the world—in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Iran and Iraq, Nicaragua and El Salvador—he was careful to add that Romania was better off than ever before. The congregation was mostly middle-aged and elderly, with very few young people.

We made one more visit to the small church on the outskirts to hear a visiting evangelist from Florida preach. Two more resident American couples joined us. The American evangelist was accustomed to preaching in Spanish as well as English, and he would sometimes forget that his audience on this occasion understood Romanian, but not Spanish. His interpreter was the Romanian pastor's son, who spoke excellent English and hoped to go abroad for seminary training. He did a spectacular job, translating not just the words, but mimicking every gesture and change in voice quality. I have never seen the like of it, before or since, even though I had witnessed as a missionary kid in Japan more than a few bilingual sermons, translated sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph from one language to the other, usually in manner that was stultifying in either language.

11 August 2007

Judt on France in May 1968

From Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, by Tony Judt (Penguin, 2005), pp. 411-413:
France was prosperous and secure and some conservative commentators concluded that the wave of protest was thus driven not by discontent but by simple boredom. But there was genuine frustration, not only in factories like those of Renault where working conditions had long been unsatisfactory, but everywhere. The Fifth Republic had accentuated the longstanding French habit of concentrating power in one place and a handful of institutions. France was run, and was seen to be run, by a tiny Parisian elite: socially exclusive, culturally privileged, haughty, hierarchical and unapproachable. Even some of its own members (and especially their children) found it stifling.

The ageing De Gaulle himself failed, for the first time since 1958, to understand the drift of events. His initial response had been to make an ineffective televised speech and then to disappear from sight. When he did try to turn what he took to be the anti-authoritarian national mood to his advantage in a referendum the following year, and proposed a series of measures designed to decentralize government and decision-making in France, he was decisively and humiliatingly defeated; whereupon he resigned, retired and retreated to his country home, to die there a few months later.

Pompidou, meanwhile, had proven right to wait out the student demonstrations. At the height of the student sit-ins and the accelerating strike movement some student leaders and a handful of senior politicians who should have known better (including former premier Pierre Mendès-France and future president François Mitterrand) declared that the authorities were helpless: power was now there for the taking. This was dangerous talk, and foolish: as Raymond Aron noted at the time, ‘to expel a President elected by universal suffrage is not the same thing as expelling a king.’ De Gaulle and Pompidou were quick to take advantage of the Left's mistakes.... At the end of May De Gaulle announced a snap election, calling upon the French to choose between legitimate government and revolutionary anarchy.

To kick off its election campaign the Right staged a huge counter-demonstration. Far larger even than the student manifestations of two weeks before, the massed crowds marching down the Champs Elysees on May 30th gave the lie to the Left's assertion that the authorities had lost control. The police were given instructions to re-occupy university buildings, factories and offices. In the ensuing parliamentary elections, the ruling Gaullist parties won a crushing victory, increasing their vote by more than a fifth and securing an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. The workers returned to work. The students went on vacation.

The May Events in France had a psychological impact out of all proportion to their true significance. Here was a revolution apparently unfolding in real time and before an international television audience. Its leaders were marvelously telegenic; attractive and articulate young men leading the youth of France through the historical boulevards of Left Bank Paris.* (*There were no women among the student leaders.... The youth revolt of 1968 talked a lot about sex, but was quite unconcerned with inequalities of gender.) Their demands—whether for a more democratic academic environment, an end to moral censorship, or simply a nicer world—were accessible and, despite the clenched fists and revolutionary rhetoric, quite unthreatening. The national strike movement, while mysterious and unsettling, merely added to the aura of the students' own actions: having quite by accident detonated the explosion of social resentment, they were retrospectively credited with anticipating and even articulating it.

Above all, the May Events in France were curiously peaceful by the standards of revolutionary turbulence elsewhere, or in France's own past. There was quite a lot of violence to property, and a number of students and policemen had to be hospitalized following the ‘Night of the Barricades’ on May 24th. But both sides held back. No students were killed in May 1968; the political representatives of the Republic were not assaulted; and its institutions were never seriously questioned (except the French university system, where it all began, which suffered sustained internal disruption and discredit without undergoing any significant reforms).

The radicals of 1968 mimicked to the point of caricature the style and the props of past revolutions—they were, after all, performing on the same stage. But they foreswore to repeat their violence. As a consequence, the French ‘psychodrama’ (Aron) of 1968 entered popular mythology almost immediately as an object of nostalgia, a stylized struggle in which the forces of Life and Energy and Freedom were ranged against the numbing, gray dullness of the men of the past. Some of the prominent crowd pleasers of May went on to conventional political careers: Alain Krivine, the charismatic graduate leader of the Trotskyist students is today, forty years on, the sexagenarian leader of France's oldest Trotskyist party. Dany Cohn-Bendit, expelled from France in May, went on to become a respected municipal councilor in Frankfurt and thence a Green Party representative in the European Parliament.

But it is symptomatic of the fundamentally apolitical mood of May 1968 that the best-selling French books on the subject a generation later are not serious works of historical analysis, much less the earnest doctrinal tracts of the time, but collections of contemporary graffiti and slogans. Culled from the walls, noticeboards and streets of the city, these witty one-liners encourage young people to make love, have fun, mock those in authority, generally do what feels good-and change the world almost as a by-product. Sous le pavé, as the slogan went, la plage. (‘Under the paving stones—the beach’). What the slogan writers of May 1968 never do is invite their readers to do anyone serious harm. Even the attacks on De Gaulle treat him as a superannuated impediment rather than as a political foe. They bespeak irritation and frustration, but remarkably little anger. This was to be a victimless revolution, which in the end meant that it was no sort of revolution at all.

09 August 2007

More Good News about DDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mosquitoes that carry malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever avoid homes that have been sprayed with DDT, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The chemical not only repels the disease-carrying insects physically, but its irritant and toxic properties helps keep them away, the researchers reported in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

They estimate that DDT spray reduced the risk of disease transmission by nearly three-quarters.

Malaria affects more 40 percent of the world's population, killing more than a million people every year, most of them young children.

DDT use has been discontinued in most countries because of fears the pesticide may cause cancer and because of its potential effects on animals such as birds.

But the World Health Organization last year recommended the use of DDT in places like Africa where malaria is still common, saying the benefits outweighed the risks.

Is China Globalizing Religiously, Too?

The Asia Times columnist who calls himself Spengler speculates about the history of world religions in China.
Ten thousand Chinese become Christians each day, according to a stunning report by the National Catholic Reporter's veteran correspondent John Allen, and 200 million Chinese may comprise the world's largest concentration of Christians by mid-century, and the largest missionary force in history. If you read a single news article about China this year, make sure it is this one.

I suspect that even the most enthusiastic accounts err on the downside, and that Christianity will have become a Sino-centric religion two generations from now. China may be for the 21st century what Europe was during the 8th-11th centuries, and America has been during the past 200 years: the natural ground for mass evangelization. If this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it. Islam might defeat the western Europeans, simply by replacing their diminishing numbers with immigrants, but it will crumble beneath the challenge from the East....

The World Christian Database offers by far the largest estimate of the number of Chinese Christians at 111 million, of whom 90% are Protestant, mostly Pentecostals. Other estimates are considerably lower, but no matter; what counts is the growth rate. This uniquely American denomination, which claims the inspiration to speak in tongues like Jesus' own disciples and to prophesy, is the world's fastest-growing religious movement, with 500,000 adherents. In contrast to Catholicism, which has a very long historic presence in China but whose growth has been slow, charismatic Protestantism has found its natural element in an atmosphere of official suppression. Barred from churches, Chinese began worshipping in homes, and five major "house church" movements and countless smaller ones now minister to as many as 100 million Christians.* (*See Luke Wesley, "Is the Chinese Church predominantly Pentecostal?" in American Journal of Pentecostal Studies 7:2 [2004].) This quasi-underground movement may now exceed in adherents the 75 million members of the Chinese Communist Party; in a generation it will be the most powerful force in the country.

While the Catholic Church has worked patiently for independence from the Chinese government, which sponsors a "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association" with government-appointed bishops, the evangelicals have no infrastructure to suppress and no hierarchy to protect. In contrast to Catholic caution, John Allen observes, "Most Pentecostals would obviously welcome being arrested less frequently, but in general they are not waiting for legal or political reform before carrying out aggressive evangelization programs."...

Where traditional society remains entrenched in China's most backward regions, Islam also is expanding. At the edge of the Gobi Desert and on China's western border with Central Asia, Islam claims perhaps 30 million adherents. If Christianity is the liquidator of traditional society, I have argued in the past, Islam is its defender against the encroachments of leveling imperial expansion. But Islam in China remains the religion of the economic losers, whose geographic remoteness isolates them from the economic transformation on the coasts. Christianity, by contrast, has burgeoned among the new middle class in China's cities, where the greatest wealth and productivity are concentrated. Islam has a thousand-year presence in China and has grown by natural increase rather than conversion; evangelical Protestantism had almost no adherents in China a generation ago.
Great. First Korea, now China. Yet another reason for Christian missionaries to Japan to feel inadequate. Can we blame/credit Wal-mart?

07 August 2007

Industrial Benefits of Downward Social Mobility?

Today's New York Times carries a story about new research on the causes of the Industrial Revolution.
Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past....

Dr. Clark’s first thought was that the population might have evolved greater resistance to disease. The idea came from Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” which argues that Europeans were able to conquer other nations in part because of their greater immunity to disease.

In support of the disease-resistance idea, cities like London were so filthy and disease ridden that a third of their populations died off every generation, and the losses were restored by immigrants from the countryside. That suggested to Dr. Clark that the surviving population of England might be the descendants of peasants.

A way to test the idea, he realized, was through analysis of ancient wills, which might reveal a connection between wealth and the number of progeny. The wills did that, , but in quite the opposite direction to what he had expected.

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy. It was this significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.
Well, I don't know. Sounds like the English became more Scottish and less Irish. But it does seem to me that temporary downward social mobility of many, many ambitious immigrants has made a huge contribution to the continuing health of the North American economy.