The Pacific Basin: An Introduction, co-edited with Michael Weiner (Routledge, 2017). Available on Amazon here.
This new textbook provides an interdisciplinary and comparative overview of the emerging Pacific world. Interest in the Pacific Basin has increased markedly in recent years, driven largely by the rise of China as a global rival to the United States and Asian development more generally. Growth in eastern Asia as well as the western Americas has led the Pacific Basin to evolve as a dynamic economic zone. The Pacific Basin: An Introduction is a key textbook for undergraduate courses on the Pacific Basin, the Pacific Rim, International Studies, Geography, World History, and Globalization.
Explaining the Genetic Footprints of Catholic and Protestant Colonizers (Palgrave, 2015). Available on Amazon here.
European colonizers initiated liaisons with local women and created mixed communities, but they did so at different rates and understood it in different ways. Observers have long noted the Portuguese proclivity to mix, while Spanish and French colonizers literally spawned mestizo and métis populations. Meanwhile, British, American, German, and Dutch colonizers worked to separate races and limit contact with the colonized. Less noted is the fact that these patterns track closely with faith. Why did Catholic colonizers leave behind a significant genetic footprint, while Protestant colonizers did not? This study provides regional comparisons to demonstrate that this phenomenon was global and enduring. It then moves to provide a preliminary explanation. Varied degrees of “miscegenation” must be understood in terms of faith, political capacity, and especially changing concepts of nation and race. For various reasons, nation and race took hold in Protestant communities first, while Catholicism served as a partial brake on these new forms of exclusive identity.
Civilian Strategy in Civil War: Insights from Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines (Palgrave, 2014). Available on Amazon here.
Civilians are typically characterized as the victims of war. While they are indeed victims, focusing solely on their victimization obscures the ways in which civilians navigate bloody conflicts. What options are available to civilians in times of war? Echoing Hirschman, I propose that civilians possess three broad options: flight, support, and voice. This schema provides a memorable, useful approach to understanding how civilians may respond to war. These strategies not only help civilians survive, they can even influence the course of a given conflict. This book is based on multi-site ethnographic research in three Southeast Asian conflicts: Aceh Indonesia, Patani Thailand, and Mindanao Philippines. I conducted open-ended rural interviews with over 300 persons, mostly village chiefs and religious leaders. The civilian perspective sheds new light on cases which have previously been understood in terms of states, rebel movements, and civil society. The flight, support, voice schema allows for new insights into the decisions made by those who choose not to fight. While I by no means disregard security considerations in driving behaviour, socio-cultural factors play surprisingly important roles in shaping civilian strategies.
Reviewed by Damien Kingsbury in Pacific Affairs 89:2 (2016)
Neither Wolf, Nor Lamb: Embracing Civil Society in the Aceh Conflict (Bangkok: Forum-Asia, 2004).
Written for a Southeast Asian NGO in 2004, this book provides a comprehensive assessment of human rights in the Aceh conflict. It suggests that, although the Indonesian military has been responsible for the lion’s share of human rights abuses in the Aceh conflict, human rights groups too often turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by the Free Aceh Movement. Written well before the conflict was resolved in 2005, the book serves as an extensive literature review and demands greater neutrality among NGOs.
“Rethinking Territorial Autonomy,” Regional Studies (2017)
Territorial autonomy represents an important tool to manage tensions involving territorially concentrated ethnic minorities. However, we tend to overlook dynamics within autonomous areas, which tend to centralize power with the local ethnic majority and enable localized nation-building. All autonomous regions feature their own minorities, groups that tend to resist autonomous governments. These phenomena are explored in Aceh, Québec, and Scotland, showing different ways that regional majorities engage with their “second-order” minorities. This paper suggests a need to rethink territorial autonomy, considering territorial or non-territorial autonomy for minorities, minority legal rights, or localized multiculturalism.
“Civilian Strategy across Southeast Asia,” Journal of Peacebuilding and Development 12:3 (2017); 98-103
The countries of Southeast Asia have long been known for their diverse, hospitable, sometimes unruly inhabitants. How have ordinary people in Southeast Asia responded to civil wars? This briefing provides an overview of civilian strategy in three secessionist conflicts: Aceh (Indonesia), Patani (Thailand), and Mindanao (Philippines). It shows that Southeast Asian civilians have resisted armed groups, but have also utilized flight, support, and combined strategies in response to war. This menu of civilian strategy documents diverse forms of civilian action, emphasizing that civilians are hardly inert, passive actors in secessionist conflicts.
“Under a Rebel Flag: Social Resistance under Insurgent Rule in Aceh,” Journal of Resistance Studies 3:1 (2017); 181-209
Resistance is difficult in the best of times and is especially challenging in authoritarian settings. How does social resistance play out in violent armed conflicts, an extreme authoritarian context? Focusing on two key structural factors, this article suggests that while threat is amplified, political opportunity is also considerable, making wartime social resistance high-stakes but not uncommon. This article explores social resistance against popular rebel forces during the recent secessionist conflict in Aceh, Indonesia. It examines four forms of resistance, varying in their visibility and degree of opposition: Engagement, internal, everyday, and defiance. While we must not exaggerate the potential for voice, Aceh’s civilians were able to resist rebel rulers in several ways. This shows that social resistance can blossom even in the most difficult circumstances.
“Dangerous Fieldwork in Southeast Asia,” Comparative Democratization Newsletter 15 (Fall 2017); 21-24
Fieldwork can be exhilarating, especially in conflict areas. It is particularly important for young scholars; although senior professors might have an edge in terms of networks, knowledge, and languages, younger scholars are often willing to go off the beaten path, providing a rare competitive advantage. Although conflict zones are hardly anarchic—there remain social systems and norms that one can navigate—they are clearly unsafe. This brief vignette is not intended to encourage dangerous fieldwork, but for those that have already decided to visit conflict zones in Southeast Asia, I hope it can help ensure a safer, more productive experience.
“Ummah or Tribe? Islamic Practice, Political Ethnocentrism, and Political Attitudes in Indonesia,” Asian Journal of Political Science 25:1 (2017) (with Nathan W. Allen); 45-67
Existing research has uncovered a link between religion and political ethnocentrism. Religious individuals are relatively inclined to both support policies that benefit their own ethnic group and support political competitors seeking to represent their ethnic group. These findings are broadly consistent with a large body of literature that examines the relationship between religion and ethnic prejudice. To date, empirical research has concentrated overwhelmingly on the linkage between political ethnocentrism and Western Christian beliefs and practices. There is, however, reason to believe that Islamic practice may produce more universalistic beliefs and attitudes. This paper examines the relationship between religious participation and political ethnocentrism in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country. Using survey data collected during the lead up to the 2009 national elections, the paper examines the relationship between religious practice and expressed preference for co-ethnic political leadership. The paper finds that a respondent’s self-reported level of religious activity strongly correlates with stated preference for co-ethnic leadership. Findings from the paper bolster confidence that the relationship between religious participation and ethnocentrism holds outside of the Western Christian context.
“Coffee: An Indian Ocean Perspective,” International Journal of Area Studies 11:2 (2016); 61-81
Studies of coffee are dominated by emphases on Latin American production and American consumption. This paper challenges the Atlantic Ocean perspective, demanding an equal emphasis on the Indian Ocean world of Eastern Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. A geographical approach to historical as well as contemporary patterns of coffee production and consumption provides an opportunity to rethink the nature of coffee as a global commodity. The Indian Ocean world has a much deeper history of coffee, and in recent decades, has witnessed a resurgence in production. The nature of this production is distinct, providing an opportunity to rethink dependency theories. Coffee in the Indian Ocean world is more likely to be produced by smallholders, countries are less likely to be economically dependent, farmers are more likely to harvest polycultures, and countries represent both consumers and producers. A balanced emphasis of Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds allows us to better understand coffee production and consumption, together telling a more balanced, global story of an important commodity.
“Zones of Control and Civilian Strategy in the Aceh Conflict,” Civil Wars 17:3 (2015)
How do civilians respond to and shape civil war? Dominant approaches emphasize territorial control, while rival sociological explanations understand civilian behaviour as rooted in justice, pleasure, and social norms. This paper assesses these divergent sensibilities by examining rebel-controlled areas from Aceh, Indonesia. Many civilians provided the rebels with symbolic support, information, and provisions, support which deepened over time as the rebels established control. By disaggregating ‘civilians’ into social groups, a more complex story appears. Only some civilian groups supported the dominant armed group, suggesting that control and sociological approaches can be complementary in explaining civilian behaviour.
“Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Second-Order Minorities in the Aceh Conflict,” Asian Ethnicity 16:2 (2015); 152-165
Secessionist movements are often motivated by a sense of exclusion, abuse, and assimilation at the hands of host states. But in waging armed struggles and constructing ethnic nationalisms, they may replicate such grievances against their own minorities. This paper seeks to provide a deeper understanding of how ‘second-order minorities’ respond to secessionist ethno-nationalism. Based on ethnographic research in Aceh, Indonesia, this paper looks to how Javanese, Malay, Alas, and Gayo communities responded to Acehnese secessionism. Aceh’s minorities did not support GAM rebels, opting to flee or resist rebellion. In explaining their reaction, I suggest that the same ethno-nationalist project which united many Acehnese in the secessionist struggle served to repel non-Acehnese communities, leading to ethno-nationalist revivals among Aceh’s minorities and continued tensions in the post-conflict era.
“Second-Order Minorities in Asian Secessionist Conflicts,” Asian Ethnicity 16:2 (2015); 123-135 (Guest Editor)
This article provides some conceptual foundations for a special issue of Asian Ethnicity concerned with what we call ‘second-order minorities’. If secessionist conflicts involve minorities resisting abusive, assimilationist states, leading rebel groups to embark on their own nation-building efforts, how does this affect the minorities of aspiring secessionist nations? How do the minorities of secessionist groups respond to secessionism? Despite many insightful studies of secessionism and rebel ethno-nationalism, scholars have yet to explore the ways that local minorities navigate secessionist conflicts. We suggest that the relationship between secessionists and second-order minorities depends on three key factors: whether minorities are territorially concentrated or dispersed, indigenous or migrant, and nation majorities or small national minorities. These characteristics provide us some idea of the types of violence and counter-mobilization we might see among second-order minorities faced with secessionist violence. This article then previews the subsequent studies of Xinjiang, Aceh, Mindanao, and Sri Lanka, cases which capture some of the core challenges faced by second-order minorities, who face twin violent nation-building efforts from state and rebel forces.
“Strife of the Soil? Unsettling Transmigrant Conflicts in Indonesia,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 46:1 (2015) (with Isabelle Côté); 60-85
Challenging conventional wisdom, this paper argues that Indonesia—long home to extensive transmigration programmes and a range of conflicts—has not witnessed transmigrant conflicts. The vast majority of Indonesian transmigrants settled in parts of Sumatra which have remained peaceful. In some conflicts, the role of transmigration has been exaggerated. In others, violent conflicts involved spontaneous migrants rather than state-led transmigrants. We conclude with a discussion of two potential outliers, where violence has been directed towards transmigrants, but from disaster-affected regions. This paper demands a more nuanced understanding of how distinct forms of internal migration can lead to violence.
“Area Studies, Asian Studies, and the Pacific Basin,” Geographical Review 105:1 (2015); 105-119
Area Studies tend to approach the world in terms of the peoples, places, and events of specific communities, as opposed to discipline-driven studies which may treat proper nouns solely as variables. This strength withstanding, this paper looks to some criticisms of Area Studies, namely that they may reify ‘areas’ as objective places, overlooking their constructed nature and undermining our ability to grasp cross-regional phenomena. I argue that, for scholars and students, it is useful to play with scale from time to time. I outline three ways that scholars have done so: inter-area studies (border crossings), trans-area studies (creating new areas that straddle traditional ones, see Braudel 1995, Scott 2009), and what I call meta-area studies, in which we locate traditional areas as parts of broader regions. The paper considers one such meta-area, the Pacific Basin, as a way to help situate Southeast Asia and help Southeast Asian Studies respond to a changing world.
“Shrouded: Islam, War, and Holy War in Southeast Asia,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 53:1 (2014) (with Ian Zatkin-Osburn); 187-201
The relationship between Islam and armed conflict has been the focus of lively debates, especially in recent years. While many terrorism experts find Holy War wherever they look, others deny the potential of faith to motivate violent resistance. No conflict is entirely motivated by faith, nor is any conflict entirely without it, and the degrees of religious motivation have important consequences for conflict dynamics. How does one gauge the religiosity of a given conflict? We distinguish between two dominant approaches to the study of Holy War—citing scripture and citing militant leaders. While each makes valuable contributions to understanding armed conflict, neither helps us to understand the degree to which a given struggle is understood by Muslim communities to be sacred. Based on rural fieldwork in three Southeast Asian secessionist conflicts, this paper seeks to move forward by providing a series of empirical indicators to help determine the religiosity of a given conflict: the religious credentials of rebel leaders, recruitment networks, public discourse, and burial practices. Burial practices for fallen rebels provide especially novel insights into how conflicts are understood by local religious officials and Muslim communities. Grounded, micro-level empirical indicators offer a window into understanding how armed conflicts are carried out and how they are perceived by civilians.
Rejoinder by Isak Svennsson, “Conceptualizing the Religious Dimensions of Armed Conflicts: A Response to ‘Shrouded: Islam, War, and Holy War in Southeast Asia’,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 55:1 (2016); pp. 185-189.
Response by Shane Joshua Barter and Ian Zatkin-Osburn, “Measuring Religion in War: A Response,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 55:1 (2016); pp. 190-193.
“State Proxy or Security Dilemma? Understanding Anti-Rebel Militias in Civil War,” Asian Security 9:2 (2013); 75-92
Militias are responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses in civil wars. This said, they vary tremendously, and some may serve as a source of security against abusive rebel groups. What distinguishes predatory anti-rebel militias from those which are more or less popular? While previous studies focus on the relationship between militias and states, this paper demands equal attention to the militia / rebel relationship. While militias in East Timor were largely predatory, formed at the behest of state forces to attack rebel supporters, militias in Aceh were more diverse, and some formed among ethnic minorities against rebel attacks. I propose that militias created where the state dominates are likely to be predatory, while those resisting powerful rebels are more likely to be defensive, popular organizations.
“Unarmed Forces: Civilian Strategy in Violent Conflicts,” Peace & Change 37:4 (2012); 544-571
What options are available to civilians faced with war? While civilians tend to be portrayed as helpless victims—and sometimes are—we know that they are not inert. Borrowing from Albert Hirschman, I propose that civilian strategies can be understood in terms of flight to safer areas, voice to or against armed groups, support for armed groups, and combinations of these three strategies. This paper introduces a simple, intuitive schema for understanding civilian strategy and illustrates it with examples drawn from several armed conflicts. It shows not only do civilians make decisions which enable them to survive bloody conflicts, their strategies may even influence armed groups and the course of a given war.
“Strong State, Smothered Society: Explaining the Forms of Violence in Thailand’s Deep South,” Terrorism and Political Violence 23:2 (2011); 213-232
Why have militants in southern Thailand utilized anonymous and at times indiscriminate terrorist violence against civilians? This paper gauges three explanations: resource wealth, weak states, and strong states. I argue that terrorist violence against civilians in southern Thailand is partially sustained and largely structured by the considerable institutional strength of the Thai state. This helps sustain the conflict by providing an additional grievance and it structures the form of violence by forcing militants underground and severing their links to civilians. A potential response would be to trim state agencies and scale back the presence of the state in Patani.
“The Free Aceh Elections? The 2009 Legislative Contests in Aceh,” Indonesia 91 (2011); 113-130
The 2009 Indonesian Legislative Elections were a significant test for Aceh’s peace and political autonomy, a moment of democratic transition for the troubled province. This article takes a deep look at the 2009 Elections in Aceh, suggesting that while the former rebels scored impressive support, the contests were not simply stories of Partai Aceh (PA) dominance. Firstly, PA success in local elections was confined to districts along the northeast coast. Around Banda, on the west coast, and in the Southeast, PA won bare pluralities, while in the ethnically heterogeneous districts of the interior and southwest, PA fared poorly, losing to national parties. Secondly, the PA victory has overshadowed the equivalent levels of support won by President Yudhoyono’s Partai Demokrat in Aceh’s national ballot. All told, Aceh’s Elections provide a powerful lesson in terms of regional autonomy and post-conflict elections: the former rebels and incumbent national leaders simultaneously won strong mandates, showing that the rewards of peace need not be zero-sum.
“Ulama, the State, and War: Community Islamic Leaders in the Aceh Conflict,” Contemporary Islam 5:1 (2011); 19-36
In recent years, much has been said of the relationship between the headmasters of Islamic boarding schools (ulama), the state, and war. Hoping to clarify how ulama behave in times of war and why they react as they do, I look to the recent secessionist conflict in Aceh, Indonesia. Based on extensive village fieldwork, I find that in response to the conflict, Aceh’s ulama were divided; some supported the rebels, some supported the state, and some remained neutral. These positions were largely predicted by combatant control, a pragmatic response to conflict dynamics. Sub-regional comparisons, temporal comparisons, and interviews suggest that while many ulama sided with power, they also sided against human rights abuses, a concern for social justice which may be rooted in religious sentiment after all.
“Resources, Religion, & Rebellion: The Sources of Conflict in Aceh,” Small Wars & Insurgencies 19:1 (2008); 39-61
A clear understanding of what creates a conflict is central to building a lasting peace. This paper targets two common misconceptions which cloud analyses of the recent separatist conflict in Aceh. First, the conflict was not about oil. Resource curse theories help explain the creation of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), but cannot explain why the conflict remained limited for several years. The lessons here are that what motivates a conflict varies over time and across groups. Second, despite Acehnese history, identity, and global trends, the conflict was not marked by Islam. Instead, the GAM promoted ethnic nationalism and downplayed religion to sustain the conflict and their control of it. The lesson here is how leaders can shape, but cannot determine the identity of movements. Beyond these two misconceptions, I move towards explaining the causal mechanisms of the Aceh conflict and assessing this model in light of post-Tsunami developments.
“The Rebel State in Society: Accommodation & Governance in the Aceh Conflict,” in Rebel Governance in Civil War, edited by Ana Arjona, Nelson Kasfir, and Zachariah Mampilly (Cambridge University Press, 2015); 226-245
Rebel organizations cannot be understood solely in terms of their coercive capacities. Many seek to displace the state and usurp its functions. How do rebel groups establish systems of governance? Applying Migdal’s state in society approach, I show how rebel governance can evolve through alliances with societal forces. I do so by focusing on the evolution of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Indonesia. GAM came to govern a handful of districts by allying with two groups, rural Islamic teachers (ulama) and urban student activists, whose goals and identities were in many ways at odds with its own. These rebel state / society alliances were mutually beneficial. Ulama and activists gained security and were able to pursue their agendas through GAM, which in turn gained wider support and the capacity to govern the local population. These alliances were also transformative, resulting in significant convergence in terms of the identities and goals of all parties.
“Learning to Lose? Not if UMNO Can Help It,” in Political Transitions in Dominant Party Systems, edited by Joseph Wong & Edward Friedman (Routledge, 2008); 211-230 (with Diane Mauzy)
Elections, ideally free, fair, and competitive, are an important component of democracy. Recently, a number of dominant parties which had seemed so indomitable not long ago have since peacefully surrendered power and turned their attentions to competing against other parties in order to regain electoral power. The central question of this collection, why some governing parties “learn to lose” by accepting democratic alternations of power and others do not, is an enticing and important one. In Malaysia, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has never had its dominance seriously challenged and so has never had to “learn to lose”; indeed it remains unassailable. This paper focuses on four interrelated questions. First, how did UMNO emerge as a dominant party? Second, how has UMNO successfully defied the trend that has seen the decline of many dominant parties? Third, how has UMNO reacted to major crises, allowing it to preserve its dominance? And fourth, are there any grounds to suggest that UMNO’s dominance might be challenged in the near future? Although UMNO’s dominance seems secure today, it is possible that one day this outlier, facing a major electoral or intra-party crisis, will have to decide whether to become more authoritarian to retain power or more democratic by surrendering it.
“Building Filipino Hawai‘i, by Roderick Labrador,” IIAS Newsletter (2017) (with Rayen Rooney)
“The Making of Middle Indonesia: Middle Classes in Kupang Town, 1930s-1980s, by Gerry van Klinken,” Pacific Affairs 90:2 (2017)
“Religious Diversity in Muslim-Majority States in Southeast Asia by Bernhard Platzdasch and Johan Saravanamuttu,” Asian Journal of Social Science (2016) (with Gabrielle Garfunkel)
“The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia, by Solahudin,” Pacific Affairs 88:4 (2015)
“Political Change & Territoriality in Indonesia by Ehito Kimura,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 88:4 (2015)
“Soldiers and Diplomacy in Burma: Understanding the Foreign Relations of the Burmese Praetorian State by Renaud Egreteau and Larry Jagan,” IIAS Newsletter 72 (2015) (with Yuko Nakajima)
“Ghosts of the Past in Southern Thailand, edited by Patrick Jory,” IIAS Newsletter 69 (2014)
“Violence and Vengeance: Religious Conflict and its Aftermath in Eastern Indonesia by Christopher R. Duncan,” Sojourn 29:2 (2014)
“From Colonization to Nation-State: The Political Demography of Indonesia by Riwanto Tirtosudarmo” IIAS Newsletter 67 (2014)
“Regime Change and Ethnic Politics in Indonesia: Dayak Politics of West Kalimantan by Taufiq Tanasaldy,” South East Asia Research 22:3 (2014)
“Ordering Power: Contentious Politics and Authoritarian Leviathans in Southeast Asia by Dan Slater,” The Southeast Review of Asian Studies 35 (2013)
“The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia by James C. Scott,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 44:04 (2011)
“Islam and Nation: Separatist Rebellion in Aceh, Indonesia by Edward Aspinall,” Pacific Affairs 83:2 (2010)
“From Rebellion to Riots: Collective Violence on Indonesian Borneo by Jamie S. Davidson,” South East Asia Research 18:1 (2010)
“Zones of Peace edited by Landon E. Hancock and Christopher Mitchell,” Peace Review 21:4 (2010)
“Realpolitik Ideology: Indonesia’s Use of Military Force by Leonard C. Sebastian,” Pacific Affairs 81:1 (2008)
“Verandah of Violence: Background to the Aceh Problem edited by Anthony Reid,” Pacific Affairs 80:3 (2007)
“Defending the Minorities of Minorities,” The Pearl (Fall 2017)
“Intimate Economies: Sex Tourism in Southeast Asia,” Verge Magazine 4:2 (Spring 2014)
“Strange Bedfellows: The Limits of Partai Aceh Loyalty,” Inside Indonesia 113 (September 2013)
“Minor Threat? Cracking Down on Punks in Aceh, Indonesia,” CAPI Newsletter (Spring 2013)
Featured in “How Holy is This Holy War,” by Kaela O’Brien, Portland State Vanguard (January 2013)
“Islam in Politics, not Political Islam in Indonesian Elections,” Sociology of Islam Newsletter 6 (2011)
“Boxing Day in Cotabato, Mindanao,” Explorations Southeast Asia 9 (2009); pp. 113-114
“A Deeper Look into the Recent Elections in Aceh,” Jakarta Post (28 April 2009)
“Language and the Southern Thai Conflict,” Malaysiakini (17 October 2008)
“Random Acts of Curiosity,” Verge Magazine (2008)
“Notes from Indonesia,” CCHS Human Security Bulletin 9:4 (March 2008)
Featured in “From the Ground Up,” by Tom Peacock, Verge Magazine 4:2 (Spring 2006)
Featured in “Tsunami Response: One Year Later,” by Brian Lin, UBC Reports 52:1 (January 2006)
“Reconstruction and Conflict Resolution in Aceh,” CANCAPS Bulletin (20 August 2005)
“Peace Talks in Post-Tsunami Aceh,” Human Security Bulletin (August 2005)
“Swedish Court’s Acquittal of Hassan and Accountability for Abuses in Aceh,” Jakarta Post (17 July 2004)