Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 9 No. 2, June 2010

Document Type

Full Issue



The Sea Otter Islands: Geopolitics and Environment in the East Asian Fur Trade by Richard Ravalli

The origins of the sea otter trade can be traced to inter-Asian fur markets that developed centuries prior to the well-chronicled journeys of Vitus Bering and James Cook in the North Pacific. Japanese merchants and Ainu hunters traded for otter pelts as part of a larger system of exchanges in the Western Pacific. Russian entry to the trade by the early eighteenth century intensified territorial disputes in the Kuril Islands. A series of Russo-Japanese showdowns in the region helped forge an international borderland that lasted well into the nineteenth century. A comparison of the environmental effects of the Western Pacific sea otter trade prior to 1800 with other areas where otters were hunted and traded reveals limited degradation of otter herds in the Kurils.

Shadows of Modernity: Hybrid Identities of Buraku Outcastes in Japan by Nicholas Mucks

The emergence of modern Japan was a complex process in which burakumin and other minorities were affected differently than the majority culture. Burakumin face discrimination because they traditionally had occupations considered polluted and were outcaste by society. Compared to the institutional discrimination during the Tokugawa period and the social discrimination of the Meiji era, prejudice toward burakumin today is comparatively invisible. As a subculture facing discrimination, the Meiji era moral suasion depicting what was ‘Japanese’ helped to create a burakumin hybrid identity acclimating to the dramatic changes in social and cultural norms of the time. Similar to the way identity, community, and environmental spaces redefined the characteristics of burakumin historically, these same spaces continue to be deconstructed and reinvented today as new temporal spaces from globalization and technology broaden the opportunities for burakumin in Japanese society.

East Timor and the Power of International Commitments in the American Decision Making Process by Christopher R. Cook

This article looks at American foreign policy towards East Timor in 1999 using internal documents from the White House, Defense and State Departments, as well as interviews with decision makers alongside the extant literature. It examines policy decisions while shedding theoretical light on different types of humanitarian intervention. I argue that Washington had various policy options for the Timorese situation ranging from military intervention to indifference. So why did the White House ultimately choose the path of logistical aid to the Australian INTERFET mission instead of a more muscular response? The best explanation lies in bringing liberal institutionalism back into a constructivist framework. International institutional membership and identity shape state preferences, not only in decisions to intervene but in determining the size and scope of the mission. In the case of East Timor, the Clinton Administration developed policies based on cues received from global institutions. One can imagine easily that if Australia had not been eager to intervene, or that Indonesia had not given approval for an international force, the U.S. might not have been involved at all.

Syed Hussein Alatas: His Life and Critiques of the Malaysian New Economic Policy by Choon-Yin Sam

This paper pays tribute to Syed Hussein Alatas. Alatas was well known for his writings on the sociology of corruption. This paper focuses on the less well known aspect of his work - his critiques of the New Economic Policy (NEP) of Malaysia. Alatas was critical of the Malay political leaders on their perceived underachievement of the Malay population, which had led the former to adopt the preferential policy. This article draws some implications of this discourse in the assessment of the NEP.

Betel Nut Culture in Contemporary Taiwan by Annie Liu

In the past century, Taiwan underwent multiple major hegemonic changes. As the country entered a rapid economic boom in the 1970s, it made a mark on the global scene and interactions with different cultures greatly increased. The combination of globalization, industrialization, urbanization, and rapid political changes within the past century created an identity crisis for the Taiwanese. In what later became an assertion of ethnic and national identity, a revived interest in the betel nut chewing culture has led to an emergence of betel nut girls, who are scantily clad women who sell betel nuts in roadside stalls. This paper explores the history of the usage of betel nuts in Taiwan and considers consumption of betel nuts as a social, economic, and ethical barrier, as well as their contribution to the formation of personal and national identity. Health, gender, and ethical issues that have risen due to the increased consumption of betel nuts and arrival of the betel nut girls are also addressed.

A Note from the Publisher by the Center for the Pacific Rim