- Do a search for Mekong and Naga lately – lots of news. Here’s a review in the Nation (Thailand) of a new book relating the Mekong and the Naga. Good stuff, want to read.
- I’ve got a couple of students who are writing a grant to go work and study with the awesome group in Cambodia Tiny Toones. Tiny Toones is an organization founded by Cambodian Deportee K.K., who was one of those young Khmer Americans forcibly deported from the US (usually the only home and dominant culture they’ve ever known) because he never applied for citizenship and got into trouble with the law. Sounds like he had a pretty rough life, but he’s making a seriously positive difference in Phnom Penh, where he teaches breakdancing, life skills, and literacy to street children. Here are a couple of mass-media articles about the group. Time Magazine | NYT
And oh yes, this is what this web site sounds like if it were music.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is about to make his first trip to ព្រះវិហារ (Preah Vihear) temple in the midst of the run-up to the dry-season offensive (military potential, but it’s going to be loud, at minimum), has also been preaching parables to people in his client-base. This parable is all about a good Buddhist elder and a bad Buddhist elder, and how at some point, the good guy eventually gets tired of being good to the bad guy and the bad guy stops getting what he asks for, gets leprosy, and dies. Just sayin’!
Meanwhile, just across the Thai border, the cold-hearted bastards at Reuters who analyze trends for investors have started warning about a possible coup.
Economic indicators in Cambodia: a brand-new, purportedly high-quality modern Rice Mill has opened in Battambang Province. The president has a Khmer name; is the company owned by a Cambodian and do profits stay in country? Meanwhile, pawn shops are becoming legal. That’ll help. Cause god knows, there aren’t enough opportunities to buy second-hand, stolen commodity goods in Cambodia right now.
Human Rights Watch has released a 93 page report which is very hard to read. It details the horrendous abuse taking place in Cambodia’s Drug “Rehab” centers, largely of young children from the streets. Beatings are not the worst of it. HRW recommends that the centers be monitored by the UN. I think they should be destroyed and ripped down to the foundations.
Oh, and that cool image from the MMAP folks of what appears to be a burial urn? It was. And that’s the second one evah. Awesomes.
What I’m reading. Comment if you want to know more about anything in particular.
- Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. Should be a groundbreaking correction to the pernicious and tenacious stereotypes about upland and lowland cultures, genesis, maintenance, and relationships. So thoroughly revises reflexive assumptions about mainland Southeast Asia that the book resists quick summary. A lengthier review may be required. Required reading for SEAsianists, Sociology.
- Holt, John Clifford. 2009. Spirits of the place. Buddhism and Lao religious culture. In many ways this book represents a landmark in the English-language study of Lao religion. Taking upland-lowland realities seriously, Holt treats the interaction between ‘animist’ and Buddhist systems and rituals (and peoples) from a theoretical and historical point of view. A bit weaker in the last two chapters, the first three would serve excellently as an introduction to both the theory and realities of Lao religion and history. Strongly Recommended to SEAsianists and Buddhist Studies.
- Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. Stunning. A corrective to Marxist theories about the genesis (transition) to capitalism, Federici argues convincingly that a necessary and (logically) prior moment in the developing of formally free, male, waged productive labor, is the production of a denigrated, reproductive, female, unwaged domestic laboring class. She then ties in, also completely convincingly, the witch-hunts of roughly two and a half centuries of (primarily) European history (though her last chapter traces the witch-hunt throughout colonialism’s path). Required reading for Anti-capitalists and Feminists.
- Jerryson, Michael K, and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds. 2010. Buddhist Warfare. A much-anticipated and somewhat controversial volume that traces the connections between the Buddhist religion – stereotyped as a pacifist religion – and warfare. The essays are uneven, though some of this unevenness is undoubtedly tied to the wild diversity of attitudes and approaches (insider, outsider, political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, religious studies, etc.) represented. (Note that google books does not show the actual cover on their page. Actual cover has a picture of a Lao Buddhist novice monk holding an automatic pistol). Recommended to Buddhist Studies.
- Kummu, Matti, Marko Keskinen, Olli varis, eds. 2008. Modern myths of the Mekong: a critical review of water and development concepts, principles, and policies. Of great interest and contemporary currency, this volume contains a few critically important moments, but is of such wildly uneven quality that I cannot recommend it in its entirety. I’m personally most impressed with the essays by Jussi Nikula (“Is harm and destruction all that floods bring?” – an introduction to ‘flood-pulse’ ecosystem functioning) and Lustig, Fletcher, et al. (“Did traditional cultures live in harmony with nature? Lessons from Angkor, Cambodia.”). This latter is somewhat misleading, since ‘traditional’ here seems merely to mean ‘historical,’ which in many ways means ‘nothing.’ As a specific case study of Angkor, however, their evidence is clear and the conclusion not negotiable – Angkor was not ‘ecologically neutral.’ Not recommended as a volume.
- Watts, Peter. 2008. Blindsight. Hard Sci-Fi. Very very cool, cerebral: is consciousness worth it, from the perspective of the species? And exactly how would an empathic vampire act in space toward a half-brained crew member who can’t be convinced to act in the interests of self-preservation? Essential for Hard Sci-Fi fans.
- Wu Ming. 2005. ’54. Just awesome. From the same collective author responsible for Q, this time the group tackles the year 1954 – the height of the cold war, the rise of the global heroin industry, and Cary Grant. And Hitchcock. Awesome.
- Germano, William. 2008. Getting it published: a guide for scholars, and anyone else serious about serious books. 2nd Ed. Essential for academics.
- Germano, William. 2005. From dissertation to book. Essential for academics.
- Silvia, Paul J. 2007. How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing. Recommended if you need help scheduling your writing.
- Boice, Robert. 2000. Advice for new faculty members. Recommended for academics.
- Lamont, Michèle. 2009. How professors think: Inside the curious world of academic judgment. Recommended for academics facing tenure review, or charged with some form of ‘assessment.’
Look at those last five titles. I’ve read all of them in the last month. Can you guess what I’m working on?
After surveying wells along the Mekong, which flows through Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and governments concluded that as many as 1.7 million people were at risk of arsenic poisoning, whose long-term symptoms include skin lesions and cancer.
Twenty-one percent of the Vietnamese population is exposed to arsenic above the World Health Organization's acceptable level of 10ppb (parts per billion). It is found not just in groundwater but in bottled water, tap water, even fish, according to the Vietnam Ministry of Health.
In Cambodia and Laos, the precise numbers of people exposed to arsenic contamination is not yet known, though UNICEF and government agencies are compiling a report to be released later this year.
In some provinces along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia, residents are exposed to 30 times the acceptable level of arsenic, according to data from the Vietnam Ministry of Health.
Water containing arsenic above 300ppb could cause cancer within three to four years, the Health Ministry said.
via IRIN Asia | Asia | Cambodia | CAMBODIA: Arsenic in Mekong putting 1.7 million at risk | Early Warning Environment Health & Nutrition Water & Sanitation | News Item