Press news

Two years on
from Press News, posted 03/11/2013 - 09:40

Today we remember the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan two years ago and led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. No doubt most of us have seen the horror images (especially the video record) from that time. These are unforgetable but distance and the passing of time leaches away their impact. It is another matter for the people on the ground, actually having to cope with the aftermath, even now.

The latest Economist notes that today (Monday, 11 March):

... marks the second anniversary of the tsunami that killed 18,500 people in Japan. Good news is scant. Almost 315,000 evacuees still live in cramped temporary housing, and need new homes.

That assessment perhaps is a little unfair. In the last two years, the Japanese authorities have had to cope with the immediate aftermath of an immense catastrophe. If that weren’t enough, also the country’s leadership has had to rethink huge swathes of public policy – not least for energy, climate change, food security, agriculture and the economy – amidst political turmoil at home and with a roller-coaster economic crisis and a deteriorating international security situation impacting from abroad.

PM Kan visits JSDF and service members at Ishanomaki High School

The magnitude of this situation is captured in a new book just published by NIAS Press, After the Great East Japan Earthquake: Political and Policy Change in Post-Fukushima Japan, edited by Dominic Al-Badri and Gijs Berends. This book is a little unusual, being written (rather carefully, let’s be frank) by diplomats and policy experts at European embassies to Japan. Rather than simply chronicle the triple disaster, it also explores subsequent shifts in Japanese politics and policy-making to see if the disaster has led to a transformation of the country, a shift in how Japan functions.

The book is now available in Europe and Japan, with copies arriving elsewhere soon.


from Press News, posted 03/05/2013 - 11:45

We have just heard from Sean Turnell that an old NIAS friend, Melanie Beresford, died last week (of what causes is uncertain). She was only in her early sixties.

Melanie had a long association with NIAS from at least the 1990s when she collaborated with Irene Nørlund on various projects relating to Vietnam. Through this connection, she came to publish her first work with NIAS. This was a small but important study of the evolution of state institutions since 1945 in Vietnam with regard to economic power structures and decision-making. The study was especially important as it drew on the insider knowledge of her co-author, Dang Phong. Fifteen years later, we are still occasionally selling copies of Authority Relations and Economic Decision-Making in Vietnam.

A few years later, we were pleased to publish another book by Melanie (co-edited with Angie Ngoc Tran), Reaching for the Dream. The cover said it all about Vietnamese aspirations, optimism and pride in the economic transformation of their country. Melanie wrote:

It is of our landlady in Hanoi posing with her Dream II. The title ‘Reaching for the Dream’ contains a pun you see. I really like this photo: it reminds me of one of those very formal victorian married couple poses and … I'm sure she loves her Dream more than [her husband] ... It also happens to depict the Vietnamese idea of the bourgeois life (just as those victorian photos did).

Of course, she was more than a good friend of NIAS. Melanie Beresford was also a leading scholar on the political economy of Vietnam, one whose area of expertise also extended to gender and development, agrarian change and rural development, and network analysis. She conducted consultancies in Vietnam for various UN agencies, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Oxfam Quebec, and numerous Vietnamese ministries and committees. Apart from at NIAS itself, she also held visiting fellowships at numerous locations worldwide, including at the ANU’s Department of Political and Social Change, the Institute of World Economy in Hanoi and the Swedish Centre for Working Life in Stockholm.

These are just the bare bones from a long and varied career. What is not clear here is that Melanie was also a lovely person. It is frankly unbelievable that she is gone.

We’ll miss you, Melanie.


Richly deserved
from Press News, posted 02/23/2013 - 17:37

It was with great pleasure to be informed late on Friday that Jessica Harriden’s The Authority of Influence: Women and Power in Burmese History had been nominated for the Asia Society’s 2013 Bernard Schwartz Book Award.

The award (as the email stated) recognizes nonfiction books that:

  • Provide special insights and new perspectives into understanding contemporary Asia and/or U.S.-Asia relations.
  • Describe and explain changes taking place in Asia and/or in U.S.-Asia relations and the implications for the wider world to a general audience.
  • Bring forth ideas that offer potential policy impacts relating to the region.

For the 2013 award, the first English edition of the book must have been published between 1 January and 31 December 2012. The winner, chosen by an independent jury comprised of experts in the fields of policy, media, academia, cultural, and business, will receive a $20,000 prize and be honored at a special event at Asia Society’s New York headquarters. Additionally, two honorable mentions will be selected to receive a $2,000 prize. More information on the award, eligibility and rules, and previous winners can be found here.

We are no strangers to this prestigious prize, one of our authors – Duncan McCargo – winning the 2009 prize for his Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand. Sadly, Duncan did not offer that book to NIAS Press though (in a recent review) his Mapping National Anxieties: Thailand’s Southern Conflict – published by NIAS Press in 2011 – was judged to be the natural companion volume.

Jessica Harriden

Meantime, our fingers are crossed for Jessica. More detailed information about her book than found on our website is available here.


Welcome home
from Press News, posted 02/18/2013 - 14:31

The other day a prospective NIAS author wrote of his lengthy period of fieldwork in a Thai village, recounting that his host family wryly mentioned earlier researchers who had come and gone without a trace.

Such is not the case with Oluf Schönbeck and Peter Andersen, whose book All Religions Merge in Tranquebar. Religious Coexistence and Social Cohesion in South India was recently published by NIAS Press. No doubt the fact that Tranquebar (modern Tharangambadi) in Tamil Nadu was once an old Danish colony has attracted the interest and enthusiasm of many Danes, including Oluf and Peter. But the town is also an oasis of relative social cohesion and religious coexistence in a country often noted for being otherwise. It was in part this exceptionalism of Tharangambadi that attracted the authors to undertake their study.

Also included in the book is a discussion of the town’s status as a world heritage site and the work being undertaken to restore much of the old town. One of the organisations involved in this work has been the Danish Tranquebar Association, which has especially been involved in the restoration of Fort Dansborg. As a result, members of the association of often found visiting the town.

Recently, a library was opened in connection with the Tranquebar Maritime Museum. At its inauguration, the vice-chairman of the association, Mr Poul Petersen, presented a copy of All Religions Merge in Tranquebar to the library.

The celebration was attended by a number of journalists from the local press and we understand the book was well received. The book will be more generally available in India in the near future.

Certainly, this is one study that will not come and go without a trace.


Hunting snakes
from Press News, posted 02/15/2013 - 10:40

(Here is one last nod to Chinese New Year and the new Year of the Snake.)

Of course, the immense snake mentioned by Xavier Romero-Frias (in his retelling of the legend about the origin of the Maldivian ruling dynasty - see our last news item) was a mythical creature. Pythons are (often unpleasantly) real, as are those other snakes encountered in the uplands of Laos. Even so, real though they may be, these serpents can present an other-worldly danger to the unwary hunter and his family.

As elsewhere in his fascinating study, Kàm Ràw (Damrong Tayanin) draws on memory and shamanic learning from his youth to offer detailed information on how pythons and other snakes once were handled by Kammu hunters (and perhaps they still are).

Hunting Certain Animals

(Kàm Ràw begins by discussing the hunting of elephants, horses, gaur and the rhinoceros. He then moves on to “big felines” and remembers a scary encounter with a leopard. Finally, he tells how pythons present a bit of a problem.)

Also the killing of a python requires special caution in a similar manner, since the python is closely connected with the dragon, pryɔ̀ɔŋ. The dragon may transform itself into a man, a python, a water-buffalo or a small grasshopper called hɔ́ɔs pryɔ̀ɔŋ which literally means “dragon grasshopper”. Should anyone accidentally kill a dragon in any of these shapes, the revenge may take the form of floods and landslides.

Yet pythons are killed for food, and some men eat python meat, but women never do. The dragon is particularly dangerous for women, and it is said that dragons rob women in order to marry them. Women must therefore always take care not to touch or have anything to do with things belonging to the dragon.

Even the killing of an ordinary python may arouse the wrath of the dragon, for the dragon is the owner-spirit also of pythons that are real snakes.

In order to find out whether a python is a snake or a spirit in snake form, a chopping block is placed beside the snake’s head, when a python is caught alive. The animal is carefully instructed: “Well, if you have an owner or if you are a spirit, then go away. If you do not have an owner and are not a spirit, then put your head on the block.”

Although the snake thus takes the decision itself, as it were, further precautions still have to be taken. A dead-fall trap is made [see below], and the severed snake head is put into it in order to make the owner-spirit believe that the python was caught by the trap and not by a human being.

The killing of other kinds of snakes is not problematic in the same way, but still most people resent eating snake meat. It is also considered unlucky to shoot a snake with a new weapon, because a gun used in this manner will probably never kill again. In the same way it is believed that a trap that catches a snake as its first animal will never catch any other prey.

Snakes are thus creatures of bad luck, and therefore the laying down of a snake is not celebrated with a feast.

A fuller extract from Hunting and Fishing in a Kammu Village can be found here (click on the Extract tab to download the PDF file).

And that’s enough about snakes for now.


Giant snakes and other creatures
from Press News, posted 02/14/2013 - 12:38

As I said yesterday with regard to Chinese New Year and the new Year of the Snake, few NIAS books discuss snakes to any great extent. However, one NIAS book features a giant snake (as well as cunning birds, boastful fish, fearsome witches and much more). Here is Xavier Romero-Frias’s retelling of the legend about the origin of the Maldivian ruling dynasty.

The Legend of Koimala

Long ago, in the northern mainland, lived a poor couple in a hut deep in the forest. One day the husband went to hunt and didn’t return. His wife, who was pregnant with her first child, went to look for her husband, dreading that something had happened to him. While she was walking through the forest, the woman suddenly felt the pains of childbirth. She sat under a nikabilissa tree and gave birth there alone. While she was lying there exhausted, a tiger jumped out of a bush and devoured the woman. Since the child was hidden between two roots, the tiger didn’t see him and went away. 

A herd of cows arrived after some time at that particular spot and one cow with a full udder happened to stand right above the child while she was grazing. The child felt for the nipple with his lips and sucked the milk. The cow, whose swollen udders had been hurting, felt relieved and returned everyday to that place under the nikabilissa tree. In this manner the baby grew and, as soon as he could crawl, he followed the herd of cows.

The story continues here (just click on the Extract tab and download the PDF file). The giant snake appears in the story just after the enormous fish and huge bird pictured below.

In our next post, another NIAS book discusses snakes - but this time how to hunt them.


Snakes and ladders
from Press News, posted 02/13/2013 - 16:19

Chinese New Year is upon us and with it the Year of the Snake. While few NIAS books discuss snakes to any great extent (with one exception to be revealed in a following post), for quite a few of our authors the Press has certainly proved to be a ladder for academic success.

(Happily, no NIAS book has proved to be a ‘snake’ affecting the fortunes of its author!)

With that thought in mind, we are happy to report where the following books are on the production ladder:

1) After the Great East Japan Earthquake: Political and Policy Change in Post-Fukushima Japan, edited by Dominic Al-Badri and Gijs Berends, was delivered to the printer today. Copies will be out in the next few weeks, especially in Japan for the second anniversary of the 11 March earthquake/tsunami.

2) Wu Song Fights the Tiger: The Interaction of Oral and Written Traditions in the Chinese Novel, Drama and Storytelling by Vibeke Børdahl is nearly ready for indexing. This immensely complicated layout involves the careful use of colour. As such, it will be printed probably in Singapore with copies available in May.

3) Dialogue with North Korea? Preconditions for Talking Human Rights With the Hermit Kingdom by Geir Helgesen and Hatla Thelle is about to be typeset. Copies will be available by mid-March.

4) Power and Dissent in Imperial Japan: Three Forms of Political Engagement by Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins is also ready for typesetting. We would expect copies to be available by early April but will be aiming to exhibit an advance copy (minus the index) at the AAS Annual Meeting in San Diego in six weeks time.

5) Hot Science, High Water: Assembling Nature, Society and Environmental Policy in Contemporary Vietnam by Eren Zink has just been edited but the author has not yet seen the edited ms, let alone agreed to/implemented all of the changes. With luck we can have this book out in late April, otherwise note your calendar for a May arrival.

6) Negotiating Autonomy in Greater China: Hong Kong and its Sovereign Before and After 1997, edited by Ray Yep, has just been sent for editing. We announced a June delivery date and that sounds about right.

7) Beyond the Singapore Girl: Discourses of Gender and Nation in Singapore, by Chris Hudson, is also being prepared for editing. We would have liked to have this book out in May but a wee bit later is probably more realistic.

In addition to these new titles, we have another five titles on the go and several more are brewing that haven't been announced yet.

Watch this space!


Just arrived
from Press News, posted 02/12/2013 - 11:24

Look what Tippe just came with!

 A long time ago (it feels) we sold world Arabic rights in the book Constructing Singapore by Michael Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš to an organisation based in Abu Dhabi. A few minutes ago, a carton with 10 copies of the freshly printed Arabic edition arrived here at NIAS Press.

NIAS secretary, Tippe Eisner, with the Arabic edition of "Constructing Singapore"

Frankly, I don’t understand a word inside these copies but I’m not worried. Verification of the translation is always part of any agreement we sign for such a foreign-language edition.

And what we do know is that this ‘rigorously researched book’ – ‘an invaluable study and critique of [Singapore’s] elitist mechanisms and processes’, which is ‘essential reading for anyone wishing to study further the nature of elite rule in Singapore and in particular the stark realities that underpin that elitism’ (etc., etc. – there have been many positive reviews) – is now available to a whole new readership. We are certain these readers will find it a compelling study.



Simply Outstanding
from Press News, posted 01/29/2013 - 12:41

We have talked about Choice book reviews before, noting their importance especially in North America.

What we didn't say then however is that, in its January issue each year, Choice publishes a list of "Outstanding Academic Titles", selected for their excellence in scholarship and presentation, the significance of their contribution to the field and their value as important – often the first – treatment of their subject.

This time a NIAS Press title has hit the jackpot – Chris Goscha's Historical Dictionary of the Indochina War has won the recognition it richly deserves, earning the accolade of "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2012.

This is not the first recognition the study has received – see for instance a lengthy review published recently in Revue d'histoire (which we must soon translate and post to the website) – nor will it be the most fulsome; we confidently expect the rave reviews to begin roiling in as the year progresses. Nonetheless, the recognition by Choice is a nice way to start 2013.

Chris Goscha at AAS General Meeting, Toronto, 2012

Brilliant work, Chris!


Snow beyond, bubbles inside
from Press News, posted 01/26/2013 - 22:21

The hours can be long but not all aspects of publishing involve a hard slog. The occasional celebration also comes our way.

Outside a chill wind gave a sharp edge to the sub-zero temperatures last Friday but, inside the Royal Library's Black Diamond building on Copenhagen's waterfront, warm cheer plus champagne and oysters (and many other goodies) were on offer.

The occasion was a celebration of the career and achievements of Stig T. Rasmussen (seated in photo), now retiring after many years as the head of the Royal Library's Orientalia and Judaica department. Stig is also series editor of the library's COMDC series, which aims at providing a complete set of catalogues of the Oriental collections in the Library. To date, 11 works have been published in the series, the last four of which have been produced by NIAS Press. These are fantastically detailed and special reference works of immense value to scholars working on old manuscripts (more details here).

Happily, Stig is staying on at the Library for a while to oversee the completion of two more volumes in the series, one on Chinese manuscripts, the other on Persian. More about these major works at a later date.


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!

Latest catalogue

See our latest catalogue of new books or click here to get information about the catalogue and how to get notification when a book is published.