EuroSEAS Book Prizes 2017

EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2017
30 book were nominated this year and the jury consisted of Ariel Heryanto from Monash University, Mandy Sadan from SOAS and last time winner of the prize, and Henk Schulte Nordholt from KITLV.

Shortlisted were three books: 

1) A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture. Colonial networks, Nature and Technoscience  by Jiat- Hwee Chang (Routledge, 2016) which offers a new approach to colonial architecture and the genesis of an imperial technoscience.
2) Spain, China and Japan in Manila 1571-1644. Local Comparisons and Global Connections by Birgit Tremml- Werner (Amsterdam University Press, 2015), an innovative book on the early global history of the Spanish Manila.
3) Nothing Ever Dies. Vietnam and the Memory of War, by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Harvard University Press, 2016), an in depth analysis of memories of war, the framing of victimhood, complicity and the necessity to overcome a simplified dichotomy between perpetrators and victims.

The winner of the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize is Spain, China and Japan in Manila 1571-1644. Local Comparisons and Global Connections by Birgit Tremml-Werner. Her book offers a new perspective on the connected histories of Spain, China and Japan immediately following the establishment of Manila in 1571 as the Spanish capital of the Philippines. She analyses not only the economic interactions between the three main actors but also the social and cultural exchanges between them. In doing so the book concentrates on language, communication, knowledge gathering and processes of representations which unfolded within multiethnic neighborhoods which made Manilla initially into an open environment. In order to investigate these spaces of exchange the author displays an impressive command of languages, archival knowledge and a deep familiarity with relevant theories. As a result she is able to sketch the complex interplay between early modern commerce and cross cultural encounters against the backdrop of developments in Spain, China and Japan which eventually determined the ending of this period in 1641. This is, in short an innovative study based on great scholarship.  

EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize 2017
The 2017 EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize has been won by Pamela McElwee’s Forests Are Gold: Trees, People, and Environmental Rule in Vietnam (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016), a book that pulls together colonial history, ecology, and local and national perspectives to show that policy interventions that are labelled “environmental” are often only incidentally about the natural world. Drawing on more than a decade of research, including extensive ethnographic fieldwork, research in French and Vietnamese archives and libraries, and environmental science, McElwee has produced a solid ethnographic case study of what she terms “environmental rule” in Vietnam. Forests Are Gold is an original and valuable contribution that articulates in detail the social changes related to both deforestation and reforestation, and shines an informed light on a poorly understood and under-appreciated phenomenon. 

The other shortlisted books were as follows:

Azza Basarudin’s Humanizing the Sacred: Sisters in Islam and the Struggle for Gender Justice in Malaysia (University of Washington Press, 2016) conveys the lived experience of Islam as both a gendered reality and as an impressive brand of religious feminism, one that literally disrupts the patriarchy’s monopoly over textual interpretations of Islam. Basarudin’s highly accessible work highlights the passionate activism of the Malaysian NGO ‘Sisters in Islam’, as its members draw upon Islam to promote universal human rights and to challenge, both politically and theologically, religious laws and state policies that adversely affect the freedoms and rights of women. Rather than an essentialized account of female precaritry in a quasi-theocratic state, Basarudin’s carefully considered and intimate ethnography provides much needed nuance and balance in portraying Muslim women’s religiosity as a powerful resource for positive social and political change in Malaysia. 

Astrid Noren-Nilsson’s Cambodia's Second Kingdom: Nation, Imagination, and Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell Southeast Asia Program 2016) is a thought-provoking book about Cambodia’s politics that is highly original in its approach, and grounded in some remarkable research, including numerous interviews with prominent figures. Noren-Nilsson explores notions of monarchy and politics that resonate well beyond the Cambodian case. Highlights include a wonderful chapter on prime minister Hun Sen’s appropriation of the Sdech Kan narrative to identify himself with a sixteenth-century commoner who briefly occupied the Khmer throne; as well as an extended discussion of the rise and fall of the royalist political party FUNCINPEC, which won the 1993 post-UNTAC election but within two decades had been practically wiped out by Hun Sen’s CPP. Cambodia’s Second Kingdom throws new analytical light on Cambodian politics and is essential reading for all serious students of the country.