Press news

Grant Evans
from Press News, posted 09/17/2014 - 14:16

We have just heard the following sad news from Justin McDaniel on the TLC list:

I am very sad to announce the news of the passing of one of the greatest scholars of Southeast Asian Studies in the last century. Grant Evans, author of numerous ground-breaking books and friend and mentor to many people in the field, passed away from cancer on 16 September 2014. I thank Ian Baird and Nick Enfield for informing me. They have no details about his memorial at this time, but I will send any information out when I hear. He passed away in his home with friends and family.

Thanks to Philip Taylor for the advice.

As well as editing Where China Meets Southeast Asia and contributing to such other NIAS publications as Contesting Visions of the Lao Past, Grant undertook peer reviews for us and generally offered critical support to many scholars in the field. He will be sorely missed.


Upwardly mobile but ...
from Press News, posted 08/14/2014 - 15:59

Just received today are our first copies of Catherine Earl’s absorbing study of upwardly mobile young women in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s New Middle Classes explores the social consequences of the massive industrialization and urbanization that followed the doi moi reforms of the late 1980s. It focuses on young women graduates who have moved to the cities to better themselves, an ambition that is achievable – so long as they remain single.

And there’s the rub. As they enter their 30s, Vietnamese women face increasing pressure to marry, as the author recounts in an extract from the book appearing here.

That needn’t be a problem, says Oscar Salemink, a leading Dutch scholar working on Vietnam and now located at Copenhagen University. When presented with a copy of the book earlier today, he remarked somewhat flippantly, “The trick is to marry but get divorced within the month. Then you are free.”

Judging by the cases recounted by Catherine Earl (which cover much more than the marriage issue, by the way), it is not always quite that simple.


Still relevant
from Press News, posted 05/23/2014 - 23:14

All scholarly books experience a brief moment of freshness at publication. Thereafter they age, some gracefully, while a select few works mature becoming timeless classics in their field. However, far too many studies wither under the pitiless sun of passing time, fading into irrelevance.

Sadly, most books do not become utterly irrelevant, let alone valueless; they are simply forgotten. And yet, time and again, something happens in the world that apparently is new but which is beautifully explained – given context – by one of these old texts.

NIAS books are not immune to ageing, either, but we have decided to do something about the obsession with now and the stampede towards obsolescence – hence the launching today of a new website with which we aim to link current events (especially in Asia) to Asia research published by NIAS.

Welcome to NIAS Inside, a website demonstrating that fine scholarship is timeless.


Sleeping Beauty
from Press News, posted 05/18/2014 - 17:46

It is often said of social science books that typically their sales go ‘up like a rocket, down like a stick’ because the subject matter quickly gets out of date. In contrast, history titles may have a flatter sales trajectory but a much longer one.

Even so, it is rare that books whose sales are dormant suddenly take off again. Generally, this is because of an event reviving interest in a study (hence, in addition to the splurge of new books on World War I currently being published, there is certainly a revival of interest in some of the classical studies of the war as the 100th anniversary of its outbreak approaches).

Map from "On the Fringes"

So it is with the ongoing unhappy situation in Xinjiang. This has not only increased interest in a recent NIAS Press book exploring the place of Tibet and Xinjiang within China; it has also revived curiosity in a NIAS title published way back in 1999: David Wang’s Clouds over Tianshan, which explores the brief quasi-independence of Xinjiang in the 1940s.

Nor is this the only NIAS book suddenly enjoying new sales.

The trick, of course, is for authors and publishers to point new readers to their books long after they have been published, demonstrating their continued relevance. That is not easy, but it is something we are working on.


Indie authors
from Press News, posted 05/18/2014 - 17:10

As usual, NIAS Press attended the London Book Fair in mid-April. In part this was to meet with authors and talk business with our partners. However, in addition, with its excellent seminar programme and hundreds of exhibitors promoting new products (e.g. in ebook conversion), the LBF is an ideal venue to explore new trends in the world of publishing.

One phenomenon really starting to have an impact is self-publishing as could be seen at the LBF where the seminars aimed at authors were packed tight with crowds of attendees listening outside as well.

Is self-publishing starting to affect scholarly publishing? Yes and no – more details here.


A tale of two conferences
from Press News, posted 04/21/2014 - 21:35

Recently, NIAS Press exhibited at two quite different conferences and with utterly different results.

The first conference, held in mid-March and attended by almost 200 scholars, was the third Southeast Asian Studies Symposium to be held at the University of Oxford. Here the Press hosted a 6-table publishers' exhibition by all the world's leading Southeast Asian Studies publishers (apart from Routledge who exhibited separately). The exhibition was a stunning success with conference-goers braving some foul English weather to get a look at the wide selection of books on offer.

In contrast, the annual conference of the Asian Studies Association held in Philadelphia a week later was something of a lack-lustre affair for NIAS press and indeed most publishers exhibiting there despite there being about 3,500 conference-goers.

Even so, we appreciated the chance to showcase our latest titles to a largely American audience and were of course immensely pleased to catch up with a number of our authors, old and new.

A few days after that, we traipsed the halls of the London Book Fair – but that is another story soon to follow.



First book for 2014
from Press News, posted 01/07/2014 - 18:19

On the first day back at work after the Christmas-New Year break, we found two cartons of the first book of the year awaiting us. This is On the Fringes of the Harmonious Society: Tibetans and Uyghurs in Socialist China, edited by Trine Brox and Ildikó Bellér-Hann.

(Technically, since it was printed and shipped in December, it should be the last book for 2013 – but, hey, who’s quibbling?)

There are of course heaps of books published every year about Tibet and far fewer (but some) looking at the situation in Xinjiang. However, this volume is unusual by looking in tandem at – and comparing – the two most problematic members of the PRC’s great family of peoples. Here, Tibetans and Uyghurs are examined not only in their own terms but also in the context of the broader minority situation in China.

In so doing, the volume explores the arenas of socio-economic development and market liberalization, popular culture, urban planning and relocation, environment and ecological migration, civil society, education and language, ethno-nationalism, as well as religious policies and practices. It is especially topical at a time when fieldwork in the regions where these two minorities live remains extremely difficult and politically sensitive.

In other words, here’s a cracking new read from NIAS Press for 2014.

Happy New Year!


Just arrived
from Press News, posted 11/21/2013 - 23:51

 The other day, two advance copies of Marcus Mietzner’s Money, Power and Ideology: Political Parties in Post-Authoritarian Indonesia arrived at NIAS Press. Our colleague Vera Altmeyer – whose PhD thesis focuses on the core arena of political power contestation in Indonesia: election campaigns – has been awaiting the appearance of this book for ages and snapped up a copy with glee.

According to Vera, a lot of other scholars are keen to read the book as well. This is not surprising if one is to believe Professor R. William Liddle of Ohio State University. ‘This is a wonderful book’, he says, ‘the best to appear on Indonesian party politics, indeed on Indonesian politics in general, since democratization more than a decade ago.’

With the Indonesian presidential election looming, the book is also highly topical. Well, we have no objection to selling lots of copies as a result.


Recognition, sort of
from Press News, posted 11/14/2013 - 11:00

A key purpose of NIAS’s efforts in recent decades has been to raise the international profile of Nordic Asia scholarship – and of the Institute itself – via a high-quality, globally based publication programme. It’s fair to say we have succeeded.

Now, however, we have another indicator of international recognition – a smart Russian hacker looks to have broken into Google Scholar and posted a copy of Margaret Mehl’s Private Academies of Chinese Learning in Meiji Japan online.

Thanks, Margaret, for the news.



Required reading
from Press News, posted 06/18/2013 - 23:40

A while back we reported the first review out of Xavier Romero-Frias’s Folk Tales of the Maldives, a sternly academic assessment that downplayed the book’s literary qualities. Now the Asian Review of Books has come out with a review that recognises – indeed focuses on – the attraction the book will have for people simply wanting to enjoy a good story or who dream of a holiday in the Maldives.

The reviewer starts provocatively, writing:

The Maldives are today best-known as a collection of resorts populated by tourists rather than an indigenous people with a unique culture and long traditions. Spanish author-anthropologist Xavier Romero-Frias collected the 80 folk-tales presented here over a period of 28 years and in so doing reveals that there is considerably more to the Maldives than a spot for wealthy visitors from other lands.

As for the stories:

These generally moral fables are predominantly very short, none ranging to more than a few pages. Originally passed orally from generation to generation with slight adaptations dependent on which island they were told, they acted not so much as entertainment but – by explaining why Maldivian society and environment is and should remain as is – as forms of social control. Several are amply illustrated also by Romero-Frias himself, augmenting their original format. …

This, indeed, is the first collection of Maldivian tales actually written down. It’s just as well, for the rise of a more upfront version of Islam has coincided with a downswing in the popularity and profile of such widespread and repeated traditional folktales, in favour of a stricter theocratic version of “how things are” and “how things should be”. …

The reader is therefore fortunate that the editor has made strenuous efforts to collate this anthology of stories, collected while they were still in living memory.

Some of these tales are gruesome. … Cannibalism is also rife – very often with a woman as the perpetrator!

Sorcerers and spirits quite literally spin and twist throughout also, while – unsurprising given that Maldives are islands – tales about cargo ships, and sea-wrecks and indeed sea wrack, proliferate. These tales also feature a moralistic climax and subsequent denouement. They leave the profound impression that their purpose is to extend societal stability by virtue of the manifest messages implied …

Summing up, the reviewer writes:

Folk Tales of the Maldives is, all in all, a quite delightful collection, not merely because it is well-presented and has prolific and cogent notation throughout, but more obviously because the tales – as we dive in here and there over a period of a few days – are rather charming in what I would nominate as their ingenuous innocence, a reflection of a Maldives which has largely disappeared in an increasingly globalized and cynical world, but which at the same time offer a welcome escape from this very world.

Even if the intended audience for this review are general readers, there is much to offer the academic reader (the reviewer points to an “excellent academic and well-footnoted Introduction”, for instance). And who knows,for those of you in the northern hemisphere contemplating your upcoming summer holiday (and those shivering in the Antipodean winter), the occasional dip into a world of sorcerers and spirits, sharks and sea-wrecks could be just what you need.

And that need not be mere relaxation. As Lars Bo Kaspersen, chairman of the NIAS Board and head of Political Sciance at Copenhagen University, said at a staff meeting yesterday: Enjoy your summer holiday but don’t forget to read; that is where your new ideas and insights will come from.

Happy (summer) reading!


Press news

  • Aug. 9 2019
    Carol Ann Boshier's book 'Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society,1910-1935' has been shortlisted for the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2019. Congratulations!

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