Monthly Archives: October 2008

Why Oh’s Home Run Record Stands

In the third of a three-part series in the Japan Times on the remarkable baseball career of Sadaharu Oh, Robert Whiting reveals another reason why nobody in Japan has been able to break Oh’s record of 55 home runs in one season.

The one big black mark on Sadaharu Oh’s reputation was, of course, the unsportsmanlike behavior of the pitchers on his team whenever foreign batsmen threatened his single season home run record of 55.

The phenomenon had first surfaced in 1985, when American Randy Bass playing for the Hanshin Tigers, who went into the last game of the season — against the Oh-managed Giants at Korakuen Stadium — with 54 home runs.

Bass was walked intentionally four times on four straight pitches and would have been walked a fifth, had he not reached out and poked a pitch far outside the plate into the outfield.

Oh denied ordering his pitchers to walk Bass, but Keith Comstock, an American pitcher for Yomiuri reported afterward that a certain Giants coach imposed a fine of $1,000 for every strike Giants pitchers threw to Bass….

A replay of the Bass episode came during the 2001 season. American Tuffy Rhodes, playing for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, threatened Oh’s record.

With several games left in the season, Rhodes hit the 55 mark. But during a late season weekend series in Fukuoka, pitchers on the Hawks refused to throw strikes to Rhodes and catcher Kenji Johjima could be seen grinning during the walks.

Again Oh denied any involvement in their actions and Hawks battery coach Yoshiharu Wakana admitted the pitchers had acted on his orders.

“It would be distasteful to see a foreign player break Oh’s record,” he told reporters….

A second replay occurred in 2002, when Venezuelan Alex Cabrera also hit 55 home runs, tying Oh (and Rhodes) with five games left to play in the season. Oh commanded his pitchers not to repeat their behavior of the previous year, but, not surprisingly, most of them ignored him. There was more condemnation from the public, but, curiously, not from Oh, who simply shrugged and said, “If you’re going to break the record, you should do it by more than one. Do it by a lot.”

Such behavior led an ESPN critic to call Oh’s record “one of the phoniest in baseball.”

In Oh’s defense, there was probably nothing he could have done to prevent his pitchers from acting as they did. Feelings about “gaijin” aside, it was (and still is) common practice for teams to take such action to protect a teammate’s record or title….

Still, amid all the fuss about protectionism in baseball, it is noteworthy that no one in the Japanese game ever sees fit to mention the fact that Oh hit most of his home runs using rock hard, custom-made compressed bats.

A batter using a compressed bat, it was said, could propel a ball farther than he can with an ordinary bat. Compressed bats were illegal in the MLB when Oh was playing in Japan, and were outlawed by the NPB in 1982 after Oh retired, but well before Bass, Rhodes and Cabrera had Japan visas stamped into their passports.

One of the enduring ironies, of course, is that Oh was born a Japanese citizen in Taiwan in 1940, but became a citizen of the Republic of China after Japan lost the war in 1945. His name is variously rendered as 王貞治, Wang Chenchih, Wáng Zhēnzhì, or Ō Sadaharu.

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Japanese Temple Moves to South Carolina

Thursday’s International Herald Tribune has a story about a Japanese temple that migrated from Nagoya to South Carolina.

The former Buddhist temple sits opposite a waterfall on the campus of Furman University, with vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains when the trees are bare….

Believed to be the only temple moved from Japan to the U.S., the so-called Place of Peace was shipped in 2,400 pieces and reassembled by 13 specialized temple artisans from Japan.

After three years of fundraising and 2 1/2 months of construction, the building is serving as a classroom and a centerpiece of an Asian studies program that graduated 60 students last spring — three times the number it did five years ago.

Shaner’s ties to a Japanese family that moved to Greenville in the 1960s helped bring the temple to campus. TNS Mills, which stood for Tsuzuki New Spinning, supplied spools of thread to the textile mills that were the heart of Greenville’s economy. Sister and brother Yuri and Seiji Tsuzuki — chairman of what is now Wellstone Mills — grew up in Greenville, but the family maintained its home in Japan.

The temple was built on Tsuzuki land in Nagoya in 1984 as the family’s private worship place.

When they sold to developers, the siblings in November 2004 proposed a way to save the temple from destruction: Offer it to Furman. The family has a long-standing friendship with Shaner, a world-renowned aikido instructor and sensei, or teacher, to Yuri and Seiji Tsuzuki’s mother, Chigusa, who died in 1995.

But the school had to move quickly. The temple had to be off the family’s property by January 2005.

“The reason why this is so rare, had this temple ever served a lay community and had an assigned priest, then you would never, ever, ever move it from Japan,” Shaner said. “It would be like bad karma.”

The temple was disassembled and shipped overseas in four 40-foot containers, with each piece labeled and its beams secured by wood braces to prevent warping. It sat in the Tsuzukis’ storage in Gaffney, South Carolina, as the school raised $400,0000 for the temple’s reconstruction and maintenance.

I would bet that a good bit of that money was raised from people who had already been donating to support Southern Baptist missionaries in Japan. This is a nice turnabout. A Japanese temple overlooking the Blue Ridge certainly appeals to me.

via Japundit

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Insider vs. Outlier Stereotypes in Pohnpei

From Michael D. Lieber’s chapter “Lamarckian Definitions of Identity on Kapingamarangi and Pohnpei” in Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, edited by Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Poyer (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1990), pp. 88-90:

Pohnpeians [main-islanders] describing other ethnic groups focus on observable patterns of activity or predilections for particular arenas of activity. They describe Kapinga [Polynesian outliers], for example, as good fishermen and craftsmen and as strong, hard workers. But they also think of Kapinga as lacking in ambition and foresight, as unable to plan ahead. From a Pohnpeian perspective, this is a reasonably accurate description. Other than a few men who are active in feasting, even titled Kapinga avoid participation in feasts on Pohnpei, a participation that presupposes careful planning and allocation of one’s time and resources over a period of years. Pohnpeians also point out that very few Kapinga have prepared themselves for administrative or teaching jobs.

Pohnpeians see Pingelapese [Micronesian outliers] as messy, clannish, devout and active in church affairs, and both shrewd and very aggressive. Examples of their clannishness are their preference for en bloc voting whenever a Pingelapese runs for public office against a non-Pingelapese and their purported tendency to route administrative jobs to other Pingelapese whenever they are in a position to do so. What Pohnpeians appear to mean by aggressiveness is the often-mentioned Pingelapese preference for achieving middle-echelon administrative jobs, the vigor with which they pursue those positions, and their consequent prominence in those positions on Pohnpei.

Mokilese [Micronesian outliers] are described by most Pohnpeian informants as ambitious, skilled, and crafty. What is so intriguing about this description is the use of aggressive for Pingelapese and ambitious for Mokilese. When I asked for examples, informants pointed to the prominence of Mokilese in upper echelons of colonial administration—particularly in the former Congress of Micronesia and the present Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia—and in highly skilled technical jobs over which they have a virtual monopoly, such as machinists and mechanics. They are considered very subtle and charming while being very manipulative, particularly in political contexts.

If one takes all of these stereotypes together, they do in fact describe something about the larger Pohnpei social order. Kapinga, to the extent that they are visible at all, are people of the marketplace. They are the suppliers of fish and the purveyors of handicrafts and are otherwise not very visible. Pingelapese have been prominent in church affairs on Pohnpei and in middle-level administration in various agencies, including the hospital and the education department. Mokilese are in fact prominent in upper-echelon administration, especially in Congress. For example, during elections for the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, Mokilese men were candidates for 60 percent of the seats allotted to Pohnpei State. Pohnpeians are prominent at all these levels. From their point of view, that is to be expected, for Pohnpeians consider Pohnpei to be very much their island. Their ethnic descriptions identify whom they believe to be their competitors for control over affairs on the island, and they allude to the contexts of competition. In each case, descriptions focus on the issue of control in the colonial arena. Pingelapese and Mokilese people have been and still are active in the feasting and title system, some having very high titles. Yet no Pohnpeian ever mentioned this in discussions about them. When asked why Kapinga, Pingelapese, and Mokilese are the way they are, Pohnpeian informants responded with answers such as, “They do what their parents did,” or “They grow up with the tiahk ‘customs’ of their island.”

Kapinga descriptions of other island groups put no emphasis on political position and greater emphasis on skills and interpersonal proclivities than do Pohnpeian descriptions. Pingelapese are considered dirty and “careless” in their personal habits, easily angered, clannish, vengeful, very enterprising, and very religious. They are considered powerful curers and sorcerers, good organizers of businesses, and hard workers for their families and friends. Kapinga never pointed to Pingelapese administrative positions in their descriptions.

Mokilese, according to Kapinga, are good at fishing, working, learning mechanical skills (such as boat building), and organizing. Several Kapinga referred to Mokilese as being very personable, but said that one never knows if a Mokilese is really one’s friend. In discussing Mokilese organizing abilities, Kapinga informants pointed to their work in reorganizing the Kolonia Protestant church in 1980. While Kapinga recognize the prominence of Mokilese in Congress, they appear not to think of that fact as particularly definitive of Mokilese.

What strikes Kapinga as being distinctive about Pohnpeians is their haughtiness (putting themselves before others), their capacity for being extremely generous, and their unpredictable displays of almost gratuitous hostility. The charge of haughtiness has to do with the condescension with which Pohnpeians often treat Kapinga and with the ways that Kapinga see higher and lower ranking people interact. Kapinga cite numerous examples of Pohnpeian generosity, both on the part of chiefs and of ordinary people, particularly during World War II, when Kapinga had to leave Porakied and seek shelter in U and Kiti. At the same time, Kapinga fear Pohnpeians as sorcerers. They cite several deaths over the past few years that they attribute to sorcery by Pohnpeians who were supposedly friends of the deceased.

I asked about one other group, the Nukuoro [Polynesian outliers], with whom the Kapinga have long had close relations of reciprocity and intermarriage. While Kapinga gave detailed descriptions, Pohnpeians ventured no opinions whatever, saying only that they did not know anything about them. One can predict that Nukuoro do not form a politically or socially visible group on Pohnpei, and this is in fact the case.

We see that three Pohnpeian ethnic stereotypes (and one category empty of content) concentrate attention on the place that each ethnic group holds in the larger colonial arena of commercial and administrative control over persons, resources, and policies. Each stereotype is referable to the particular sorts of contexts in which members of each out-island enclave exercise political and economic control in the colonial administrative domain. Kapinga concentrate their attention on those observable patterns of interaction that are relevant to face-to-face dyadic interaction, such as visiting, friendship, hospitality, and reciprocity. Generosity, fairness, and trustworthiness are attended to, while political position in the larger order is not.

A similar divergence of reference points seems to show up in urban elitist vs. small-town egalitarian patterns of stereotyping each Other in the U.S. and other larger societies.

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Near Unsan, Korea, October 1950

From: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam (Hyperion, 2007), p. 13:

For experienced officers making the trek as the temperature dropped alarmingly, and the terrain became more mountainous and forbidding, there was an eerie quality to the advance. Years later, General Paik Sun Yup, commander of the South Korean First Division (and considered by the Americans the best of the Korean commanders), remembered his own uneasiness as they moved forward without resistance. There was a sense of almost total isolation, as if they were too alone. At first, Paik, a veteran officer who had once fought with the Japanese Army, could not pinpoint what bothered him. Then it struck him: the absolute absence of people, the overwhelming silence that surrounded his troops. In the past, there had always been lots of refugees streaming south. Now the road was empty, as if something important were taking place, just beyond his view and his knowledge. Besides, it was getting colder all the time. Every day the temperature seemed to drop another few degrees.

Certain key intelligence officers were nervous as well. They kept getting small bits of information, from a variety of sources, that made them believe that the Chinese had already entered North Korean territory by late October—and in strength. Colonel Percy Thompson, G-2 (or intelligence officer) for First Corps, under which the [U.S. First] Cav operated, and considered one of the ablest intelligence officers in Korea, was very pessimistic. He was quite sure of the Chinese presence, and he tried to warn his superiors. Unfortunately he found himself fighting a sense of euphoria that had permeated some of the upper ranks of the Cav and originated in Tokyo. Thompson had directly warned Colonel Hal Edson, commander of the Eighth Regiment of the First Cavalry Division, that he believed there was a formidable Chinese presence in the area, but Edson and others treated his warnings, he later noted, “with disbelief and indifference.” In the days that followed, his daughter Barbara Thompson Eisenhower (married to Dwight Eisenhower’s son John) remembered a dramatic change in the tone of her father’s letters from Korea. It was as if he were writing to say farewell. “He was absolutely sure they were going to be overrun, and he was going to be killed.” she later remembered.

Thompson had good reason to be uneasy. His early intelligence reads were quite accurate: the Chinese were already in country, waiting patiently in the mountains of Northern Korea for the ROKs and perhaps other UN units to extend their already strained logistical lines ever farther north. They had not intended to hit an American unit that early in the campaign. They wanted the Americans to be even farther north when they struck; and they knew the difficulty of the march north made their own job easier.

I distinctly remember seeing the First Cavalry shoulder insignia during my second grade year in elementary school at Camp Botanical Garden army base in Kyoto, Japan, in 1956-57, the last year before the base closed, the site reverted to its prior function, and the foreign missionaries had to start their own school.

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Wordcatcher Tales: Hokahoka, Hougan, Hiiki

A seasonal Japanese matsutake (松茸 ‘pine ear’ mushroom) tasting menu at a restaurant named Yoshitsune (義経) turned up a couple of new vocabulary items that caught my fancy.

ほかほか hokahoka ‘warmth, heat’ – The menu for the fall seasonal special announced 目の前で松茸釜飯がほかほかで炊き上がります me no mae de matsutake kamameshi ga hokahoka de takiagarimasu ‘the matsutake (flavored) rice-pot cooks up warmly before your eyes’. And indeed it did. The fragrantly flavored rice finished cooking in each individual-sized cauldron perched above a can of sterno as we oohed and aahed our way through the courses leading up to the pièce de résistance.

The ideophone hokahoka does not behave grammatically like an adjective, despite its normal English translation into an adjective. It seems better to think of it as a noun, as in the postpositional phrase hokahoka de ‘from the heat’. As a noun modifier, hokahoka needs a genitive (or nominalizing) no after it—not the na that follows “adjectival nominals” like the hen of hen na gaijin ‘strange foreigner’. So a piping-hot sweet potato can be described as hokahoka no satsuma imo. And you can convey that you feel a hokahoka sense of warmth by adding the “light verb” to the ‘heat’: hokahoka suru ‘do/be hokahoka’. Let the mnemonic be ‘do the hokahoka’!

Another ideophone with a very similar form and a very similar meaning is pokapoka ‘pleasant warmth, toasty warmth, warming (weather)’.

判官贔屓 hougan/hangan biiki ‘favoring the underdog’ – Our restaurant was named after Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a famous warrior of the Minamoto (= Genji) clan whose martial feats played a key role in defeating the Taira (= Heike) clan in the Genpei War. The Genpei War (1180–85) has often been compared to the equally treachery-ridden English War of the Roses (1455–85) between the noble houses of Lancaster and York, but the latter led to a gradual centralization of authority in England, while the former led to a dispersal of power in Japan that eventually culminated in a long period of civil war before Oda Nobunaga unified the country and paved the way for the centralizing Tokugawa Shogunate (1603–1868).

Despite his many heroic feats, Yoshitsune eventually sided with the Emperor Go-Shirakawa (After-Shirakawa, i.e., Shirakawa II) against his own elder brother Yoritomo, who went on to found the Kamakura Shogunate. When Yoshitsune’s forces lost, he was forced to commit suicide—a pattern that went on to become all too familiar in Japanese history. But his fame lives on, as does his Imperial Court name 判官 hougan/hangan in the expression 判官贔屓 hougan/hangan biiki ‘favoring Hougan (= Yoshitsune)’, a phrase Hatena Keyword defines as 弱いものに、弱いからと言う理由で、えこひいきしてしまうこと yowai mono ni, yowai kara to yuu riyuu de, ekohiiki shiteshimau koto ‘the act of favoring the weaker party just because it is weaker’.

The kanji for the compound ekohiiki, written in hiragana above, are 依怙贔屓, etymologically ‘relying-strength’. An impartial or fair person is an ekohiiki no nai hito ‘favoritism-lacking person’. The tendency to favor one who loses, like Yoshitsune/Hougan, with dignity and honor intact has long been deeply embedded in Japanese culture. Witness the undying popularity of stories about the 47 ronin and Saigo Takamori.

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India’s Diverse Diasporas

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), pp. 233-235:

The cultivation of sugar-cane in colonies such as Mauritius and the Natal province of South Africa, in Trinidad, Guyana and Surinam in the Caribbean and Fiji in the Pacific Ocean created settlements of Indian labourers as many stayed on as free labourers after their contracts had expired. In some of these places the Indians emerged as the majority of the population, but with few exceptions they did not rise above the position of labourers. Therefore the diaspora in the ex-sugar colonies is not much of an economic asset to India. Mauritius is an exception to this rule. It has shown encouraging signs of economic growth and its Indian majority dominates the politics of the island but has maintained equitable relations with the other ethnic groups. Mauritius has become a major offshore banking centre for investors who channel their investments in India through the island. This has led to the strange phenomenon whereby tiny Mauritius ranks high among the nations investing in India. Being well aware of the benefits of good relations with Mauritius, India is even prepared to protect the maritime economic zone of the island with the help of its navy….

The era of decolonization did not provide much scope for re-migration from the diaspora to India. Nor did the erstwhile colonial powers invite people of Indian origin to settle in their home countries. There were only two striking exceptions to this rule. The Netherlands became the target of a mass exodus of Indians from Surinam after that colony gained independence in 1975. This was due to the fact that the Dutch had granted citizenship to the people of Surinam and since the Indians did not get along with the Afro-American majority, they left for the Netherlands before their right of citizenship could be revoked. A similar exodus of Indians from Uganda to Great Britain had taken place after Idi Amin had established his tyrannical rule in 1971. The Indians of Uganda were not the offspring of indentured servants but had followed the Uganda railroad. The workers who built that railroad had also come from India, but almost all of them had returned to their homes in the Punjab. The subsequent immigrants from India were for the most part literate Gujaratis who manned the administrative posts of the railway or set up shops in the hinterland which had been opened up by the railway. When these people were persecuted by Idi Amin and shifted to Great Britain they did very well there as a result of their business acumen. This group of the Indian diaspora is of considerable importance for India. But, of course, the Indians who came from East Africa are only part of the Indian diaspora in Great Britain, which also consists of Indian professionals and businessmen who migrated from India to the ex-imperial country in search of greener pastures.

Another post-colonial migration which had some similarity to the export of Indian manpower in colonial times was the recruitment of Indian labour by the countries along the Persian Gulf when those countries earned millions of petro-dollars. This recruitment benefited all South Asian countries. Most of them sent unskilled labourers to the Gulf; India had the lion’s share of skilled administrative jobs. For quite some time the ample remittances of these skilled personnel filled the gap in India’s balance of payments which was usually affected by a negative balance of trade. When the first Gulf War of 1991 disrupted this profitable connection, India was hit very hard, the more so as the disaster was sudden and unexpected. When Indira Gandhi was asked in 1981 whether she could envision an Indian exodus from the Gulf similar to that from East Africa precipitated by Idi Amin, she jauntily replied: ‘The Arabs need US.’ Her successors also took this for granted and were rudely awakened by the Gulf War.

The Indian diaspora in the countries along the Persian Gulf was very different from that everywhere else. First of all it was of very recent origin. This diaspora had no second or third generation members born in the country of residence. Moreover, the Indians who came to the Gulf did not intend to settle there for any length of time. There were many educated people from Kerala among them who simply wanted to earn enough money to build a house back home. Busy construction work in the villages of Kerala provided striking evidence of this trend in the 1980s. Under such conditions there was hardly any incentive to establish Indian community centres in the Gulf countries. The Indian diaspora was not concentrated in anyone place and its members fluctuated. Nevertheless, this was the diaspora which was most important for India, due to the economic effect of its remittances. Other Indian diasporas would be less inclined to send money to India as they would rather invest it where they lived. The occasional support of poor relatives in India did not give rise to substantial remittances.

Today’s Wall Street Journal weighs in on one of the barriers to the expansion of India’s diaspora in the U.S., where “the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin which was founded in 1984 has 42,000 members” (Rothermund, p. 235):

The Chandrayaan-I blasted off about dawn from the Satish Dhawan Space Center. It is expected to reach lunar orbit by November 8. The probe, whose principal goal is to “conduct mineralogical and chemical mapping of the lunar service,” carries five scientific payloads from India and others from NASA and the European Space Agency. With this achievement, India joins the U.S., Japan, Europe, Russia and China in the lunar club.

India deserves congratulations for the Chandrayaan-I, which attests further to that nation’s remarkable strides as an economic and scientific power. That said, we cannot fail to draw attention to how this event bears on the continuing lunacy of Congress in limiting visa quotas for highly skilled immigrants.

American universities are filled with foreign students, not least from India, getting degrees in engineering and science. Many dearly wish to stay and work in the U.S. Instead, we basically kick them out after training them, owing to the Congressional limit of 65,000 H-1B visas, which are used up the day they are released in March.

Would calling this the “pre-emptive export of jobs overseas” make it any less attractive to economic protectionists?

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Siassi: A Culture of Maritime Trade in PNG

From Alice Pomponio’s “Seagulls Don’t Fly into the Bush: Cultural Identity and the Negotiations of Development on Mandok Island, Papua New Guinea” in Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, edited by Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Poyer (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1990), pp. 51-52:

For the Siassi Islanders, trade implies sailing. Knowledge of the sea, winds, and stars is crucial to overseas sailing in the precarious Vitiaz and Dampier straits. In pre-European times men who were renowned sailors and good navigators were therefore highly regarded. Along with maritime knowledge, such a man would also possess the magical incantations to control the weather, wind, and seas, and in some cases, the sorcery by which to control or destroy his rivals. A traditional leader would combine as many elements as possible to expand his wisdom and enhance his renown. However, merely having the talent or the personality to lead is not enough: one must demonstrate that power continually. Before pacification and missionization, demonstrating prowess entailed aggressive overseas trade, navigation and sailing skills, competitive feasting, sorcery, multilingualism, and social networking to establish and maintain trade alliances. Definitions of manhood stressed creative abilities, mental shrewdness, knowledge concerning economic investment/return ratios, and manipulation of social relationships. Finally, all of these displays and trading exploits must be carried out with the aplomb of a “man of wisdom.”

Out of this constant travel and trade emerged a big-man status system oriented not toward the accumulation of land and wealth in a sedentary environment, but toward manipulation and management of others’ products through mobility and trade—that is, the control and redistribution of wealth. I call this kind of system “middleman culture.” Though recognizably Melanesian, it is distinct from the more familiar patterns of entrepreneurship studied to date in Melanesia in three crucial respects: (1) the relative lack of land or utilization of land resources (horticulture and pig husbandry) as a basis for the local economy; (2) the emphasis on trade as a primary, rather than secondary, feature of the subsistence economy, and as a standard for evaluating entrepreneurial talents and achievements; and (3) a social and distributive system that militates against the accumulation of significant amounts of wealth and favors instead the control and manipulation of goods, food, and people.

Siassi big-men are not “men of anger” or warriors. They are craftsmen, clever investors, and men of knowledge. They succeed not by overpowering their adversaries physically, but by outsmarting them—not by production, but by clever manipulation. Through generations of trading they have transformed a landless society of maverick immigrants into a patterned system of seagoing salesmen, trading their own and others’ products for a profit. This profit is then recycled into their own system of exchanges, politics, and prestige.

This sounds rather more benign than the cultures of maritime raiding that have also plagued the coasts and islands of so many parts of the globe, including PNG before the imposition of a pax Germanica in New Guinea and a pax Britannica in Papua.

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Lamarckian Identities in PNG

From James B. Watson’s chapter “Other people do other things: Lamarckian identities in Kainantu Subdistrict, Papua New Guinea” in Cultural Identity and Ethnicity in the Pacific, edited by Jocelyn Linnekin and Lin Poyer (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1990), pp. 17, 26:

The aboriginal peoples of Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands are organized in autonomous polities, some with as few as one or two hundred members. Many if not most of these local peoples experience episodes of radical revision in their membership. Most groups are formed in a highly fluid sociopolitical field, intermittently marked by relocations, realignments, and the patriation of alien immigrants who have been expelled by hostile neighbors from their own lands elsewhere. Restless or disgruntled insiders split off to form new groups; refugee outsiders are recruited from time to time to reinforce the ranks of those remaining. To the literal-minded genealogist, the long-term kinship and continuity of each such group seem confused, even compromised.

A truncated local sense of history nevertheless contains the frequent events of fission and fusion. In spite of ongoing exchanges of personnel, a common and ostensibly continuous local identity immerses not only long-established elements of the community but, in time, the descendants of recent immigrants….

Over half a dozen languages are spoken in the immediate vicinity of Kainantu, and all the communities I resided in have close social ties to at least one community of alien speech. Often two or three other languages are represented in these linkages. Many communities of the vicinity have incorporated refugees who arrived speaking a language other than that of their hosts. With time, if the refugees remain, their original language may be lost, but probably not without a distinct residue of the sounds, words, attitudes, and cultural practices they brought with them. In some communities in the 1960s there were refugees or their descendants still speaking their original language, … resulting in their designation by the community (from Pidgin) as “hapkas” [half-caste].

What does this mean for language documentation and conservation efforts in the area? To whom does any particular language belong, and for how long?

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India’s Vibrant Vernacular Press

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), pp. 223-224:

The rise of the vernacular press would have pleased Mahatma Gandhi. He disapproved of advertising and printed no ads in his papers. But perhaps he would have relented if he had realized that advertising revenue is the lifeblood of the vernacular press. When Gandhi reorganized the Provincial Congress Committees along linguistic lines in 1920, he did so because he was convinced that people must conduct their political debates in their mother tongue. The thriving vernacular press proves this point. Gandhi would also have been pleased by the national orientation of the vernacular press: none of the papers mentioned back any kind of secessionism. This is also due to the fact that the ‘print capitalists’ who control the papers are very much aware of the benefits of an integrated national market. Another encouraging feature is that none of these papers are ‘party papers’ to the extent of being owned and operated by a political party. The private owners of the papers may sometimes back a particular party, as Ramoji Rao backed the TDP, but such alliances are temporary with the party depending on the ‘print capitalist’, not the other way round. In earlier times parties controlling the government could exercise considerable influence on newspapers by placing advertisements or withholding them. Nowadays revenue from commercial ads is far more important than that derived from government advertising and this has greatly enhanced the freedom of the press.

India’s lively and free press is of great importance to the country’s democracy. It is significant that the first big spurt in growth of the vernacular press was witnessed after Indira Gandhi’s ‘Emergency’ had been terminated in 1977; her attempt at gagging the press by means of her emergency powers led to a pent-up demand for information. Many people became avid readers when they had access to a free press once more. There is, of course, the more subtle method of influencing the press by co-opting journalists: giving them official importance or letting them know that their careers may depend on adopting certain political views fits in with this method. By now journalists earn good salaries and enjoy many perks, so the threat of forfeiting them might influence their views. But the large number of journalists would make it difficult to co-opt all of them: in 1950 there were only about 2,000 in India but by 1993 there were 13,000 officially registered journalists and there may have been many unregistered ones. At present there are probably more than 26,000. As there are no powerful unions for journalists in India Indian journalism has no collective voice; but the large number and the great variety of journalists are in themselves guarantees of the freedom of the press.

Most Indian journalists are urban people who only occasionally show up in the countryside. But they have rural counterparts who are really behind the newspaper revolution which has swept India in recent years. These rural stringers are often graduates engaged in various activities in their locality. They may own some land or a repair shop and also serve as distributors of newspapers, as advertising agents and as part-time correspondents. They usually are not paid by the editors but send in their news items free of charge. If their contributions are printed, this enhances their reputation in the village and helps to increase the circulation of the paper which they distribute. In their own way, these people support the freedom of the press and it is mainly down to them that huge numbers of newspapers are sold in India every day.

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India’s Huge Informal Labor Sector

From India: The Rise of an Asian Giant, by Dietmar Rothermund (Yale U. Press, 2008), pp. 211-213:

The poor in India are a vast reserve army of cheap labour. Organized labour in the ‘formal’ sector of the economy is a comparatively small part of the total labour force. In 2003 the public and private sectors together employed 27 million workers. The private sector is the smaller one with 8.4 million but a greater share of the ‘manufacturing’ category with 4.7 million as against only 1.5 million in the public sector. According to the theory of W. Arthur Lewis, in a ‘dual economy’ (traditional and modern) there is a reserve army of labour in the traditional sector which supplies the modem one with a steady flow of new recruits. But the Indian economy is not a dual one: it consists of two parallel economies. Since the reform of 1991, employment in the formal sector has practically stagnated; there has been only a slight shift from the public to the private sector, the first losing and the latter gaining 1 million employees. These figures would confirm the frequent comments on the phenomenon of jobless growth. But, of course, this refers only to the formal sector; the actual growth takes place in the informal sector. In fact, from 1978 to 2000, the share of the informal sector in the total labour force increased slightly from 91.3 to 92.4 million, although one would have expected a decrease of informal labour in a period of steadily increasing economic growth. The wage differential between the two sectors is enormous. For employees in the public sector, official statistics show an average daily per capita rate of Rs 681. According to the National Sample Survey mentioned earlier, the daily wages for male casual labourers in urban areas are Rs 75 and in rural areas Rs 56; the rates for female labourers are Rs 44 and 36 respectively. The figure for the public sector would, of course, include the high salaries of the Class I officials, but they are a small minority when compared to the legions of humble Class IV officials who do manual work or errands for the higher-ups. Nevertheless, even these humble people are head and shoulders above the casual labourers in the informal sector. Moreover, their jobs are secure and permanent, unlike the ‘informal’ jobs, which are subject to the rule of ‘hire and fire’.

Subjection to the rule of ‘hire and fire’ has increased with the growing casualization of informal labour. New forms of contracting labour have developed which permit the employer to shift the onus of hiring and firing casual labour to agents who are told how many workers are needed at any given time. Casualization has particularly affected women workers who were previously not very active in the labour market but have joined it in recent years in increasing numbers. Concerned social scientists have coined the term ‘feminization of poverty’ in order to characterize this phenomenon.

The ‘informal’ proletarians are not protected by any trade unions, which for good reasons concentrate on the organized sector of the economy. Very few of the recognized trade unions can depend on regular fees paid by their members. Accordingly, union leaders must look for other sources of income. They usually squeeze the employers by threatening to stir up trouble. There is no collective bargaining in India: wages are set by officially appointed tribunals and there are also tribunals which try the cases of individual workers who have been made redundant or have not been paid the wages due to them. Therefore most labour leaders are lawyers who spend their time pleading before those tribunals. The informal proletariat has no contact with such tribunals or lawyers.

The usual staff of a workshop in the informal sector consists of the boss and fewer than ten workers. In small firms which operate as subcontractors for manufacturers, the boss may even be an engineering graduate. Capital investment in such workshops is minimal so very often they band together and help each other out. One has a lathe, the other a drilling machine, etc.; if the piece of work requires both, it is carried from one shop to the other. The ignorant observer may think that this cluster of workshops is a slum, but on closer inspection he will be surprised to see the quality and variety of their products. Bigger firms rely on such subcontractors for two reasons: first of all, they can keep the number of workers and the investment in machines limited; and, secondly, if there is a slack in demand they can cut the orders farmed out to the subcontractors. This explains the phenomenon of jobless growth in the organized sector. The huge number of subcontractors who have the reserve army of labour on their doorstep shield the organized sector against risks but can also respond very quickly to increased demand. There is, however, a growing gap between labour productivity in the organized and in the informal sectors. In 1983 labour in the organized sector was about six times more productive than that in the informal one; by 1999 the differential had increased to nine times. This would also account for the wage differentials between the two sectors.

The wages paid by subcontractors, particularly if they work for manufacturers producing cars or machine tools, have to be higher than the wages of casual labourers mentioned above, but they would still be much lower than those in the organized sector. The qualifications of the informal proletariat working for subcontractors range from those of skilled workers to that of untrained people. The skilled workers in workshops would be the ‘creamy layer’ of the informal proletariat and they would be above the poverty line. But the great majority of the reserve army of informal labour are quite poor, something that would be particularly true of the many landless labourers who are at the beck and call of the landowning peasantry. Earlier systems of permanent attachment of such labour to the households of their employers have long since disintegrated because the employer can always find casual labour and does not need to retain labourers in the off-season. Even at times when the harvest or other seasonal operations suddenly require additional labour, there are nowadays migrant labourers who make themselves available for seasonal employment. Workers from Tamil Nadu will show up in the Punjab or elsewhere at a distance of 1,500 kilometres from their home. Here, too, the informal proletariat shows its usefulness as a reserve army of labour. About 43 per cent of India’s rural population are landless. If one deducts from this about 8 per cent for traders, carters, and so on there would still be 35 per cent of labourers who depend on their daily wages.

Of course, ‘casualization’ is hardly limited to India or to informal sectors of large economies. One report last year estimated that 70% of the faculty in American universities now depend on part-time or limited-term contracts. So, to twist the clause that begins this passage: An oversupply of postgraduate degrees provides a vast reserve army of cheap labour for universities.

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