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May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) is a celebration of the culture, traditions, and history of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.


Berghahn is happy to present several series and a selection of books on studies of Asia-Pacific cultures, societies, and histories.


ASAO Studies in Pacific Anthropology Series

The Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania (ASAO) is an international organization dedicated to studies of Pacific cultures, societies, and histories. This series publishes monographs and thematic collections on topics of global and comparative significance, grounded in anthropological fieldwork in Pacific locations.


Volume 7 Forthcoming

Death Ritual and the Reproduction of Moral Community in Pacific Modernities
Edited by David Lipset and Eric K. Silverman
Foreword by Shirley Lindenbaum


“This book is notable for its wealth of ethnographic data on mortuary practices in very different parts of a changing Pacific, as well as for the critique running through it that reminds us that Hertz’s model is an idealization—both emic and etic—from which the actual practice departs into varying degrees of ambivalence.” · Roger Lohmann, Trent University

Mortuary Dialogues presents fresh perspectives on death and mourning across the Pacific Islands. Through a set of rich ethnographies, the book examines how funerals and death rituals give rise to discourse and debate about sustaining moral personhood and community amid modernity and its enormous transformations. The book’s key concept, “mortuary dialogue,” describes the different genres of talk and expressive culture through which people struggle to restore individual and collective order in the aftermath of death in the contemporary Pacific.


Volume 6

Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands
Debra McDougall


The civil conflict in Solomon Islands (1998-2003) is often blamed on the failure of the nation-state to encompass culturally diverse and politically fragmented communities. Writing of Ranongga Island, the author tracks engagements with strangers across many realms of life—pre-colonial warfare, Christian conversion, logging and conservation, even post-conflict state building. She describes startling reversals in which strangers become attached to local places, even as kinspeople are estranged from one another and from their homes. Against stereotypes of rural insularity, she argues that a distinctive cosmopolitan openness to others is evident in the rural Solomons in times of war and peace.

Read Introduction: On being a stranger in a hospitable land



Volume 5

Religious Revolution and the Seasonality of Power
Jeffrey Sissons

Within little more than ten years in the early nineteenth century, inhabitants of Tahiti, Hawaii and fifteen other closely related societies destroyed or desecrated all of their temples and most of their god-images. In the aftermath of the explosive event, which Sissons terms the Polynesian Iconoclasm, hundreds of architecturally innovative churches — one the size of two football fields — were constructed. At the same time, Christian leaders introduced oppressive laws and courts, which the youth resisted through seasonal displays of revelry and tattooing. Seeking an answer to why this event occurred in the way that it did, this book introduces and demonstrates an alternative “practice history” that draws on the work of Marshall Sahlins and employs Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, improvisation and practical logic.





Volume 3 New in Paperback! 

Custom and Conflict in East New Britain
Keir Martin


‘Keir Martin has written a fascinating, plainspoken, new ethnography. The Death of the Big Men and the Rise of the Big Shots focuses on contradictions arising from emerging stratification in Papua New Guinea. Specifically, it concerns tensions between urban, middle-class elites and subsistence based villagers among the Tolai people living in and around Matupit Island in East New Britain… Of the overall significance of this compelling ethnography, one might recall that once there was talk of a new Melanesian ethnography (Josephides 1991) and then of a new Melanesian history (Foster 1995). Perhaps, Martin’s book might suggest the start of a new Melanesian sociology.” · American Anthropologist

This study focuses on the subsequent reconstruction and contests over the morality of exchanges that are generative of new forms of social stratification. Such new dynamics of stratification are central to contemporary processes of globalization in the Pacific, and more widely. Through detailed ethnography of the transactions that a displaced people entered into in seeking to rebuild their lives, this book analyses how people re-make sociality in an era of post-colonial neoliberalism without taking either the transformative power of globalization or the resilience of indigenous culture as its starting point. It also contributes to the understanding of the problems of post-disaster reconstruction and development projects.


For a full selection of titles please visit series webpage. 




Asia-Pacific Studies: Past and Present Series

The forces of globalization in the Asia-Pacific—the most economically dynamic region of the world—are bringing about profound social, political and cultural changes in everyday lives, affecting the world both within and beyond the region. New social and cultural formations, such as the rise of the middle classes, the spread of new mass-media and virtual technologies, and the burden of environmental pressures, present challenges to global social theories. Meanwhile, the past casts a lingering shadow, with historical conflicts adding fuel to current tensions over a wide range of issues. This book series provides an outlet for cutting-edge academic research on the politics, histories, societies, and cultures of individual countries in the Asia-Pacific together with overviews of major regional trends and developments.


Volume 6

Social Assessment Policy and Praxis and its Emergence in China
Edited by Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson
Social assessment for projects in China is an important emerging field. This collection of essays — from authors whose formative work has influenced the policies that shape practice in development-affected communities — locates recent Chinese experience of the development of social assessment practices (including in displacement and resettlement) in a historical and comparative perspective. Contributors — social scientists employed by international development banks, national government agencies, and sub-contracting groups — examine projects from a practitioner’s perspective. Real-life experiences are presented as case-specific praxis, theoretically informed insight, and pragmatic lessons-learned, grounded in the history of this field of development practice. They reflect on work where economic determinism reigns supreme, yet project failure or success often hinges upon sociopolitical and cultural factors.



Volume 5 New in Paperback

Spaces, Places and Structures
Carolin Funck and Malcolm Cooper


The volume’s scope suggests how daunting the editors’ task was, and they do a credible job, addressing issues ranging from governmental policy to heritage tourism to the possibilities of virtual tourism in the 21st century.  This is a good introduction to the subject… what the authors do accomplish is significant, particularly for comparative tourism studies…Highly recommended.  ·  Choice

The changing patterns of Japanese tourism and the views of the Japanese tourist since the Meiji Restoration, in 1868, are given an in-depth historical, geographical, economic and social analysis in this book. As well as providing a case study for the purpose of investigating the changing face of global tourism from the 19th to the 21st Century, this account of Japanese tourism explores both domestic social relations and international geographical, political and economic relations, especially in the northeast Asian context.



For a full list of titles please visit series webpage




Pacific Perspectives: Studies of the European Society for Oceanists Series

Oceania is of enduring contemporary significance in global trajectories of history, politics, economy and ecology, and has remained influential for diverse approaches to studying and understanding human life worlds. The books published in this series explore Oceanic values and imaginations, documenting the unique position of the Pacific region – its cultural and linguistic diversity, its ecological and geographical distinctness, and always fascinating experiments with social formations. This series thus conveys the political, economic and moral alternatives that Oceania offers the contemporary world.


Volume 5

New Forms of Value and Personhood in a Papua New Guinea Community
Anders Emil Rasmussen


“In the Absence of the Gift masterfully integrates a number of issues and practices—remittances, marketing and debt, community development projects, and collective activities like canoe-building—that might at first glance appear unrelated. Rasmussen embraces them all under the rubric of ‘seeing’ and making relations, and he illustrates how new social concepts like ‘debt’ or ‘community’ continue to operate within traditional understandings of obligation, generosity, and selfishness. At the same time, he highlights new possibilities of individual personhood and of collective identity that are currently under construction, the outcomes of which are given neither by ‘traditional’ culture nor by ‘modern’ global culture.” · Anthropology Review Database

Nearly half the people born on the remote Mbuke Islands become teachers, businessmen, or bureaucrats in urban centers, while those who stay at home ask migrant relatives “What about me?” This detailed ethnography sheds light on remittance motivations and documents how terms like “community” can be useful in places otherwise permeated by kinship. As the state withdraws, Mbuke people explore what social ends might be reached through involvement with the cash economy.

Read Introduction


Volume 4

Edited by Christina Toren and Simonne Pauwels


“…there are excellent accounts of culturally specific renderings of biological relatedness across the cultures described here… Overall, we are offered ethnographically rich insights into contemporary kinship as grounded in longstanding traditions and persisting in the face of tremendous forces of change.” · Anthropology Book Forum

Unaisi Nabobo-Baba observed that for the various peoples of the Pacific, kinship is generally understood as “knowledge that counts.” It is with this observation that this volume begins, and it continues with a straightforward objective to provide case studies of Pacific kinship. In doing so, contributors share an understanding of kinship as a lived and living dimension of contemporary human lives, in an area where deep historical links provide for close and useful comparison. The ethnographic focus is on transformation and continuity over time in Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa with the addition of three instructive cases from Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, and Taiwan. The book ends with an account of how kinship is constituted in day-to-day ritual and ritualized behavior.

Read Introduction: Kinship in the Pacific as Knowledge that Counts


Volume 3

Movement, Place-Making and Multiple Identifications
Edited by Elfriede Hermann, Wolfgang Kempf and Toon van Meijl


“This interesting book contributes to notions of identity in the context of displacement or migration. Specifically, it engages with the dynamics and uncertainties that arise with movement away from home and the inevitable encounters between different cultural contexts that occur through such movement… I was captivated by the meticulousness with which some of these essays were written, and appreciate the micro-scale in which anthropological research operates.” · Asian and Pacific Migration Journal

Ethnographic case studies explore what it means to “belong” in Oceania, as contributors consider ongoing formations of place, self and community in connection with travelling, internal and international migration. The chapters apply the multi-dimensional concepts of movement, place-making and cultural identifications to explain contemporary life in Oceanic societies. The volume closes by suggesting that constructions of multiple belongings—and, with these, the relevant forms of mobility, place-making and identifications—are being recontextualized and modified by emerging discourses of climate change and sea-level rise.


Volume 1 Forthcoming in Paperback

A.M. Hocart and W.H.R. Rivers in Island Melanesia, 1908
Edited by Edvard Hviding and Cato Berg


“Edvard Hviding and Cato Berg’s new edited collection on the neglected Melanesian expedition on 1908 is timely and important.” · Anthropology Review Database

In 1908, Arthur Maurice Hocart and William Halse Rivers Rivers conducted fieldwork in the Solomon Islands and elsewhere in Island Melanesia that served as the turning point in the development of modern anthropology. The work of these two anthropological pioneers on the small island of Simbo brought about the development of participant observation as a methodological hallmark of social anthropology. This would have implications for Rivers’ later work in psychiatry and psychology, and Hocart’s work as a comparativist, for which both would largely be remembered despite the novelty of that independent fieldwork on remote Pacific islands in the early years of the 20th Century. Contributors to this volume—who have all carried out fieldwork in those Melanesian locations where Hocart and Rivers worked—give a critical examination of the research that took place in 1908, situating those efforts in the broadest possible contexts of colonial history, imperialism, the history of ideas and scholarly practice within and beyond anthropology.


For a full list of titles please visit series webpage. 




Also see:


The Interaction of Criminal Law and Customary Law in Papua New Guinea
Shaun Larcom


Papua New Guinea’s two most powerful legal orders — customary law and state law —undermine one another in criminal matters. This phenomenon, called legal dissonance, partly explains the low level of personal security found in many parts of the country. This book demonstrates that a lack of coordination in the punishing of wrong behavior is both problematic for legal orders themselves and for those who are subject to such legal phenomena Legal dissonance can lead to behavior being simultaneously promoted by one legal order and punished by the other, leading to injustice, and, perhaps more importantly, undermining the ability of both legal orders to deter wrongdoing.

Read Introduction: Papua New Guinea, Legal Pluralism, and Law and Economics




Embodiment and Experience among the Orang Rimba of Sumatra
Ramsey Elkholy
Foreword by Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen


“This is the perfect introduction to phenomenological anthropology, brilliantly combining theoretical insight with ethnographic analysis.” · Gillian Evans, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester

For the Orang Rimba of Sumatra – and tropical foragers in general – life in the forest engenders a kind of “connectedness” that is contingent not only on harmonious relations between people, but also between people and the non-human environment, including those supernatural agencies of the forest that people depend on for their spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Exploring this world, anthropologist Ramsey Elkholy treats embodied action and perception as the basis of shared experience and shows how various forms of embodied experience constitute the very foundations of human culture. In a unique methodological contribution, Elkholy adopts a set of body-centered approaches that reflect and capture the day-to-day, moment-to-moment ways in which people engage with the world. Being and Becoming is an important contribution to phenomenological anthropology, hunter-gatherer studies, and to Southeast Asian ethnography more generally.


Paperback Original

Doing Good in Indigenous Australia
Emma Kowal


Trapped in the Gap is an academic work that makes no concessions to the lay reader, and for that reason is unlikely to be read by any but the most committed of them, which is a pity, because the points it raises are central to the dilemma that white Australia tries and fails to negotiate again and again in its encounters with remote Aboriginal Australia.” · The Monthly

In Australia, a ‘tribe’ of white, middle-class, progressive professionals is actively working to improve the lives of Indigenous people. This book explores what happens when well-meaning people, supported by the state, attempt to help without harming. ‘White anti-racists’ find themselves trapped by endless ambiguities, contradictions, and double binds — a microcosm of the broader dilemmas of postcolonial societies. These dilemmas are fueled by tension between the twin desires of equality and difference: to make Indigenous people statistically the same as non-Indigenous people (to ‘close the gap’) while simultaneously maintaining their ‘cultural’ distinctiveness. This tension lies at the heart of failed development efforts in Indigenous communities, ethnic minority populations and the global South. This book explains why doing good is so hard, and how it could be done differently.

Read Introduction


New in Paperback

Tracing Welfare Reform in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Canada
Catherine Kingfisher


“Kingfisher’s book is a theoretically productive account of how welfare reform policies develop and travel…from the world of policy elites to the daily lives of poor single mothers… An important strength of Kingfisher’s book is the range of data she uses from locations that are less discussed in the literature on policy and especially in the literature on welfare reform.” · PoLAR

Drawing on two analytic frameworks of the contemporary anthropology of policy—translation and assemblage—Kingfisher situates policy as an artifact and architect of cultural meaning, as well as a site of power struggles. All points of engagement with policy are approached as sites of policy production that serve to transform it as well as reproduce it. As such, A Policy Travelogue provides an antidote to theorizations of policy as a-cultural, rational, and straightforwardly technical.

Read Introduction:  Tracing policy: translation and assemblage



‘Afrinesian’ Perspectives on Networks, Relationality, and Exchange
Edited by Knut Christian Myhre


Questions regarding the origins, mobility, and effects of analytical concepts continue to emerge as anthropology endeavors to describe similarities and differences in social life around the world. Cutting and Connecting rethinks this comparative enterprise by calling in a conceptual debt that theoretical innovations from Melanesian anthropology owe to network analysis originally developed in African contexts. On this basis, the contributors adopt and employ concepts from recent studies of Melanesia to analyze contemporary life on the African continent and to explore how this exchange influences the borrowed anthropological perspectives. By focusing on ways in which networks are cut and connections are made, these empirical investigations show how particular relationships are created in today’s Africa. In addition, the volume aims for an approach that recasts relationships between theory and place and concepts and ethnography, in a manner that destabilizes the distinction between fieldwork and writing.

Read Introduction: Cutting and Connecting: ‘Afrinesian’ Perspectives on Networks, Relationality, and Exchange




Visit our webpage for a full list of titles on Asia-Pacific 



Featured Articles from Berghahn Journals

The Historiography of Asian Aeromobilities: Power, Agency, and the Limitations of the “Western” Gaze
Marielle Stigum Gleiss and Weiqiang Lin


Orchestrating multilateralism: Cases of EU and East-Asian inter-regional engagement
Thomas Henökl and Michael Reiterer


When Roads Cannot Be Used: The Use of Trained Elephants for Emergency Logistics, Off-Road Conveyance, and Political Revolt in South and Southeast Asia
Jacob Shell


When “Nature” Strikes: A Sociology of Climate Change and Disaster Vulnerabilities in Asia
Md Saidul Islam and Si Hui Lim


Mobility on the Move: Rickshaws in Asia
M. William Steele


Textbooks, Identity Politics, and Lines of Conflict in South Asia
Muhammad Ayaz Naseem and Georg Stöber


Emergence of New Welfare States in East Asia? Domestic Social Changes and the Impact of “Welfare Internationalism” in South Korea and Taiwan (1945–2012)
Kim Won Sub and Shih-Jiunn Shi


Explorations in Ethnoelephantology: Social, Historical, and Ecological Intersections between Asian Elephants and Humans
Piers Locke


The practices, policies, and politics of transforming inequality in South Asia: Ethnographies of affirmative action
Alpa Shah and Sara Shneiderman