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Women's movements in Asia : Feminisms and Transnational Activism : [book review] Chan, Jennifer Jun 30, 2011

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339 Book Reviews provides a comparative framework to understand the gatekeeping function of legal education. The chapter correctly points out that the Japanese reforms introducing a new system of graduate legal education drew on two incongruous models: the law school system relied on market logic and allowed many schools to open, but entry into the legal profession remained subject to a state-established quota. This fundamental contradiction is at the heart of many criticisms of the new system. Beyond Japan, the volume covers other jurisdictions in varying levels of depth. The country chapters do not have a common structure, and vary in their focus. The Cambodia chapter, for example, is a comprehensive historical overview, while the chapter on Vietnam is more in the nature of an evaluation report from a donor-funded project and the Singapore chapter focused on establishing a particular educational institution. The Korea, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong chapters are all quite thorough and analytic, and the Indonesia chapter focuses a bit more narrowly on the long tradition of Islamic legal education. Some chapters seek to situate legal education into broader global dynamics, while others are content to stay at a descriptive or even personal level. This is probably a case where fewer chapters would have produced a tighter volume. The expansive coverage is perhaps appropriate, however, given the genesis of the volume as a tribute to Professor Malcolm David Hamilton “Mal” Smith, a beloved teacher of Japanese law in both Australia and Japan, who passed away prematurely in 2006. Chapter 2 is a personal and intellectual biography of Professor Smith, and makes it clear that he was a force for bringing people together across different contexts. For those who, like this reviewer, never met Professor Smith, the warmth of his approach shines through the tributes of his students and colleagues. University of Chicago Law School, Illinois, USA toM GinSbuRG WOMEN’S MOVEMENTS IN ASIA: Feminisms and Transnational Activism. Edited by Mina Roces and Louise Edwards. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. x, 276 pp. US$170.00, cloth. ISBN 978-0-415-48702-3. Is there such a thing as Asian feminisms? This is the overarching question posed by the two editors to 14 contributors in this latest volume on women’s movements in Asia. Structured in 12 individual country-focus chapters following a comprehensive introduction, this book is an ambitious endeavour that covers not only the history of women’s movements in Asia, but deals with the contentious issues of the definition of feminism, positions of Asian feminisms vis-à-vis Western feminisms, the diversity within national and Asian women’s movements, and regional and transnational linkages. Drawing upon a number of disciplines including history, anthropology, women’s studies Pacific Affairs: Volume 84, No. 2 – June 2011 340 and Asian studies, this comprehensive collaborative work covers 12 countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, China, Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Korea, Cambodia and India. Though each chapter carries a significant national/local flavour, some of the recurrent themes include the historical development of women’s movements, political contexts, diversity within the movements and regional and transnational connections and challenges. The strength of this edited volume is the breadth and diversity of women’s issues raised in each national context. The reader has the opportunity to learn about the rise of Islamic feminism in Indonesia and Pakistan and, at the same time, the struggles of Chinese feminists trying to put their agenda outside of the PRC Communist framework. Specific emphasis is also put on the many different forms of connections between local and national women’s movements to regional and transnational developments. Hence, we follow the impact of the 1975 International Women’s Year on the development of national machineries on women’s affairs in several Asian countries. The same can be said about the influence of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Conference. While this volume represents a significant contribution to feminist scholarship and Asian studies, its ambitious scope and agenda leave behind quite a few tricky questions/issues. By covering the history of women’s movements over the twentieth century in each country, the discussion by contributors tends to focus more on the chronological development in corresponding specific local socio-political contexts rather than in-depth process-tracing of particular issues (such as violence against women or trafficking) linking the local to the transnational as the editors have proposed to do. Perhaps more than an issue of trade-off (how much space in each country analysis should be devoted to local developments compared to local- transnational linkages), there is a more fundamental problem in posing the question: Is there such a thing as Asian feminisms? Despite some minimal discussion of Asian connections (for example, the China chapter considers how Chinese feminists were greatly influenced by their stay in Japan), there is very little conceptual exploration of what “Asian” feminisms mean. Nor is there sufficient empirical attention paid to the many different forms of feminist collaboration across Asia, such as women’s movements against US military bases in Asia or the military sexual slavery (“comfort women”) issue in Japan/Asia. Analyses of women’s movements in individual countries in Asia, however well done, do not add up to a book on the nature, viability, and challenges of Asian feminisms. This, in my opinion, is a separate research project that can be built on the work presented in this groundbreaking volume. The broad temporal and geographical scope of this volume also means that some issues receive more conceptual priority than others. For example, I find Madhok’s nuanced analysis of the rights discourse in India 341 Book Reviews lacking in other country discussions. Given the predominance of a rights framework in the transnational women’s movements scene, this volume could have been a fascinating platform for a cross-cultural/-country dialogue on feminism, human rights, imperialism and neoconservatism. In sum, this volume is a significant contribution to many fields including women’s studies, and Asian history and civil society. It is a thoroughly researched, well written, and highly readable piece of feminist scholarship. The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada JennifeR cHan


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