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- Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia
- EN988: The Literature of the Asian Disapora
- Venezuela refugee crisis to become the largest and most underfunded in modern history
Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia
As Sunil Amrith states in the introduction to his book, it is a history of migration in modern Asia, written for anyone coming to the subject for the first time, and with students particularly in mind.
It should therefore not be judged on any criterion other than that of providing a good, reliable and interesting introduction to the subject. In this respect, it serves its purpose well. Indeed, those coming to Asian migration studies for the first time, and many who have been involved in this area of knowledge for longer, will find much that enthrals in this account of the broad sweep of Asian migration history—from the mass movements of labourers and others during the colonial period in Asia to the complex mix of contract labour migrants, flows of professional and technical workers and students and refugee movements of recent decades.
I believe the key contribution of the book is in furthering the process of redressing the Eurocentric emphasis on the migration flows from Europe to the New World and to a more limited extent the flows of slaves that accompanied this movement over the past two centuries, by highlighting the vast movements of mainly Chinese and Indians to other parts of Asia since around As pointed out in the book, both flows arose from a shared set of initial stimuli.
But Chinese migration was much more autonomous of the colonial state. Importantly, the vast numbers of Chinese and Indians involved in these movements produced a less striking permanent presence in the countries of destination than was the case for European migration to the New World, most of which was seen by its actors from the start as permanent movement. The Chinese who migrated both to Southeast Asia and to Manchuria saw themselves as sojourners rather than permanent migrants.
And in the case of the Indian migrations, the indenture. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3. The author of a page book covering the entire sweep of modern Asian migration history and the early part going back further in time to early modern Asia cannot really be faulted for failure to develop various themes in more detail.
Such a book necessarily has to skim briefly over many important issues. But every reader will have in mind aspects that are of particular interest and that could have been developed further. For me, there are two. The first is the changing sex ratio of Indian and Chinese migration in the early 20th century. The fact that both flows were essentially those of sojourners was related to the very small share of women in the movement, meaning that most of the men could not contemplate settling and forming a family unless it were by marrying local women which some of them did, producing communities such as the peranakan and baba in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
However, the proportion of women in the migration flows to Malaya including Singapore was beginning to increase in the s, though it remained very small, particularly for the Indians. So the potential for the movements to become more permanent was building up—until it was cut short by the Great Depression, and the repatriation of Chinese and Indian labourers in the early years of the s. It does not take much imagination to envisage a very different population structure in Peninsular Malaysia than that which we have today, if the Great Depression had never occurred, or even if it had been delayed by a decade, to coincide roughly with the outbreak of World War 2.
We might then have had a population in which Indians, Chinese and Malays were in roughly equal proportions.
The political implications in the lead-up to independence could have resulted in a very different outcome for the Malaysian state than we see today. The second important aspect that might have been developed further is the role of Chinese and Indian diasporas in complicating relations between the Chinese and Indian governments and those of the countries of settlement. In Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, this has been a very prickly area for international relations, exacerbated by the strongly anti-Communist stance of the Suharto government but complicated by the key role of Chinese-Indonesian capital in many aspects of Indonesian development.
The Chinese government, on its part, had great difficulty in coming. Many Chinese Indonesians had totally lost the Chinese language. India has more recently set up a Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which would benefit from studying the pitfalls faced by the Chinese state in relating to ethnic Chinese citizens of other countries.
The book is full of interesting snippets of information, such as the multiple possibilities canvassed on p. More weighty issues of contemporary concern are also addressed: India, Pakistan and Iran are highlighted as Asian states that host more refugees than Western states "that proclaim more loudly their humanitarian credentials". At the same time, one could question the accuracy of certain statements in the book, notwithstanding their source in various published studies.
Some indication of the present-day value of the million Chinese dollars raised by the Chinese diaspora for war and relief efforts between and would have been useful p. In the discussion of more contemporary migration flows, there is much more material to draw on, and it is easier to find areas that could have done with greater emphasis: for example, the calculated gamble, including significant levels of debt, which many of the labour migrants from South Asia and their families take in enabling them to work in the Gulf, in Singapore, and elsewhere.
The gamble is that unless a follow-on contract can be secured, the debt incurred by many of them cannot be repaid, and their families sink deeper into poverty. Overall, though, there is little to fault and much to praise in this ambitious book. I would not be surprised if some future scholars of Asian migration single out this book as having served to first whet their interest in the subject. This book is described on the back cover as a 'magisterial survey and it is indeed that—a sweeping comprehensive well written account of migration in Asia since The author's thesis that migration has been at the centre of Asian history and not a peripheral or exceptional process is compelling and the argument is effectively made.
The book is to be highly recommended to students of both Asian history but also those of migration. The historian's perspective of recognising recurring and consistent themes, processes and connections across generations sheds important light on the contemporary highly dynamic migration situation in the region and this study is required reading for scholars of present day migration in the region.
A strength of the book is the identification of a number of themes which run through the years spanned by the study. One of the most important of these is the fact that circularity, sojourning and reciprocity are dominant in Asian mobility patterns over the years. Although many accounts of population movement confine themselves to considering only permanent displacement and settlement migration, Amrith's conceptualisation page 3 is more complex and while concentrating on longer distance movement it takes full account of non-permanent mobility.
Much of the myth of Asian immobility has its roots in the neglect of circular migration, both historically and in the current era. Another, among many themes which struck this reviewer, was the recognition that environment and environmental change both sudden disaster events and slow onset has been a consistent driver of mobility in the region over many years. The current clamour over climate change and its potential impending impacts on migration in the region assume that such forces are new yet it is demonstrated here that environment has long been an important underlying cause of both permanent and non-permanent migration.
The book is organised around four distinct periods which the author skilfully demonstrates are both distinctively different but linked by continuities in mobility patterns and processes. The first period, , began with Asia's first great mobility revolution and reached a peak in the s which was not matched until the s.
The period of Depression, War and decolonisation saw significant reductions in economic mobility but an increase in forced migration including refugees. The years were an era of substantial internal migration with the establishment of. Incidentally, the author's insistence that much of the distinction between internal and international migration is misplaced is refreshing.
To this reader it is the chapters which deal with the pre era which are the strongest. One is struck by the sheer scale of some of the historical shifts of population of India and China, both internally and their migration to Southeast Asia and the Pacific. India and China are dominant in the historical narrative, as would be expected, but the author weaves their experience together in such a way as to develop strong and consistent patterns and processes.
However, other Asian countries are not neglected. These chapters demonstrate clearly how important elements of contemporary migration in Asia have historical antecedents—the role of the migration industry, efforts by government to restrict forms of movement, the role of the haj, the role of networks, contract labour migration, migrant associations, student migration, mega cities as multicultural foci of migration etc.
These insights are of importance as we seek to understand the complexities of contemporary migration. Given the expansive canvas over which this book extends, it seems carping to draw attention to omissions but to this reader the fact that the study confines itself to migration within Asia is a limitation, albeit a very understandable one.
Migration linkages between Asian countries with Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere are not only highly significant today when Asian countries are the main sources of migrants to most OECD countries. The historical migration linking Asia to the rest of the world has also been significant.
The least satisfying part of the book to this reader was that dealing with the post period. While the author has certainly drawn attention to the key moments, both those which build on established corridors and new forms of movement, I felt there were a few gaps.
There is little about undocumented migration yet it is of major significance. Related to this there is little discussion of the increasing engagement of governments on migration beyond the discussion on the Philippines. The fact that the policing model of migration still dominates in the region when there is a need to have a management model which accepts that migration is an inevitable structural part of the economics of the region.
There is nothing on the emerging. The shift in China away from focusing on return migration to instead encouraging the diaspora to remain overseas but engage actively with China. There is only a little on remittances. There is no discussion of the increasing academic and policy focus on the 'migration and development' issue, especially the belief that in a congenial policy context migration can have beneficial effects on origin countries. There is also no discussion of public perceptions and media representatives of migration and migrants in Asia which are often negative and stereotyping and scapegoating is prevalent.
The discussion on poverty and migration is limited. Yet it is a difficult task to encapsulate the post period in 42 pages given Asia's scale and complexity and the massive social, economic and demographic change that has swept over the region in the last few decades. I did find it a little surprising that there is no mention that I could find on one of the largest global migration flows—from Bangladesh to India.
These comments should not detract from the conclusion that this is an excellent study. To the non-historian reader it is redolent with insights into the current migration situation. The author has shown an admirable capacity to synthesise a wealth of information into a coherent, compelling and important story.
This is the first draft of a promising book manuscript. That it is no more than that must be blamed on both author and publisher. Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia addresses the theme of migration across and within the continent of Asia in the period Survey pieces, and especially book-length ones, are far harder to write than monographs, and it takes a brave academic indeed to attempt one of so broad a scope as this. However much a reader might admire the ambition and politics of the attempt, its execution is shoddy.
The book is badly written and badly arranged; fragments of a story appear, only to disappear swiftly again, and when and if they do. A major problem is that of delineating premises of selection and treatment. People move, and have always moved, the book tells us; borders and nation-states came later.
Then why 'Asia'? And why 'migration'? There are 'many Asias' Asia was 'a particularly dense space of interaction'— and an intra-Asian 'intensity' of interaction was greater than outside Asia For an academic book, this is one that is incredibly sparsely footnoted, which is a problem if we are to believe that it can be used as an introductory work into larger literatures.
Some quotes have no page number references, which is incredibly tardy. There are practically no primary sources used at all; and the book uses Large Numbers to illustrate a number of problems without providing a context in which to situate the numbers. Where there are footnotes, these seem like an arbitrary set of readings that have happened to come the way of the researcher, with a predominance of rather lightweight works from Cambridge University in England.
Where would we look, for instance, for a creative engagement with the work of, say James Scott, who appears in the footnotes almost as an afterthought 24, , but whose larger arguments on non-state spaces are not discussed?
Or Willem van Schendel on borders and borderlands, from which Scott borrows his term for these spaces? The 'note on further reading' simply indicates the writer's own very narrow set of engagements, or at least a book written in a great hurry. A reasonably obvious set of history text-books. Bayly's Birth of the Modern World with a sprinkling of journal articles added e. It would take a great effort indeed for the book to recover from its muddy beginnings.
What follows is a partial salvage operation, which would have been better performed by the no doubt illustrious reviewers of Cambridge University Press, or by the illustrious authors of the blurbs on the back cover. The book identifies four factors as relating to the increase of movement that was Asia's 'mobility revolution'.
EN988: The Literature of the Asian Disapora
At the heart of every diaspora, as Avtah Brah has argued, lies the image of a journey. These journeys and the stories they have engendered—of departures and arrivals, of allegiances across space and time, of cultural renegotiation and change—are the focal point of this module. The module invites us to think across cultures about the literature of Asian peoples in the English-speaking world. Examining fiction produced by and about Asians living in Britain, North America, and the Caribbean, and within Asia, it probes the similarities and differences in the experience of migration as understood by different Asian groups, as well as by members of the same ethnicity inhabiting different regions. We will approach these texts through several interlocking themes, which include the legacy and interpretation of history; conflict and war; memory and nostalgia; food; and the place of English in diasporic experiences. Set texts will be complemented by readings in Asian and Asian American Studies and postcolonial and globalization theory. These readings will be provided in the form of a course reader or pdfs.
As Sunil Amrith states in the introduction to his book, it is a history of migration in modern Asia, written for anyone coming to the subject for the first time, and with students particularly in mind. It should therefore not be judged on any criterion other than that of providing a good, reliable and interesting introduction to the subject. In this respect, it serves its purpose well. Indeed, those coming to Asian migration studies for the first time, and many who have been involved in this area of knowledge for longer, will find much that enthrals in this account of the broad sweep of Asian migration history—from the mass movements of labourers and others during the colonial period in Asia to the complex mix of contract labour migrants, flows of professional and technical workers and students and refugee movements of recent decades. I believe the key contribution of the book is in furthering the process of redressing the Eurocentric emphasis on the migration flows from Europe to the New World and to a more limited extent the flows of slaves that accompanied this movement over the past two centuries, by highlighting the vast movements of mainly Chinese and Indians to other parts of Asia since around As pointed out in the book, both flows arose from a shared set of initial stimuli. But Chinese migration was much more autonomous of the colonial state.
Recently, scholars have distinguished between different kinds of diaspora, based on its causes such as colonialism , trade or labor migrations, or by the kind of social coherence within the diaspora community and its ties to the ancestral lands. Some diaspora communities maintain strong political ties with their homeland. Other qualities that may be typical of many diasporas are thoughts of return, keeping ties back home country of origin relationships with other communities in the diaspora, and lack of full integration into the host countries. Diasporas often maintain ties to the country of their historical affiliation and influence the policies of the country where they are located. In , according to the United Nations with Its use began to develop from this original sense when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek;  the first mention of a diaspora created as a result of exile is found in the Septuagint , first in. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online , the first known recorded usage of the word diaspora in the English language was in referring "extensive diaspora work as it is termed of evangelizing among the National Protestant Churches on the continent".
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Amrith Karen M. Teoh Migration and Diaspora in Modern Asia. By Sunil S. New York: Cambridge University Press, In narrating years of migration in Asia, Sunil Amrith reflects the broad, fluid, and boundary-crossing spirit that animates the subjects about whom he writes.
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