H-REVIEW Digest - 8 Apr 2014 to 9 Apr 2014

Dominique Daniel's picture

Review of:

1. H-Net Review Publication:  Trew on Corman, 'Narrating the Exit from
  2. H-Net Review Publication:  Minniear on Hazen, 'What Rebels Want: Resources
     and Supply Networks in Wartime'
  3. H-Net Review Publication:  Nguyen on Miller, 'Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem,
     the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam'
  4. H-Net Review Publication:  Conner on Powers, 'Writing the Record: The
     Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism'
  5. H-Net Review Publication:  Simmons on Campany, 'Signs from the Unseen
     Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China'


Steven R. Corman, ed.  Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan.  Tempe Center for Strategic Communication.  i + 157 pages.  $14.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-615-77587-6.

Reviewed by Jason Trew
Published on H-War (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Constructing a Happy Ending for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)

_Narrating the Exit from Afghanistan_ is edited by Steven R. Corman,
the director of the Center for Strategic Communication, which
published the book in 2013. The center was created in 2004 by the
Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. According to its Web
page, t e center is "an interdisciplinary group of scholars at ASU
and partner institutions who are interested in applying knowledge of
human communication to issues of countering ideological support for
terrorism, diplomacy and public diplomacy."[1] Their work is shared
via white papers, presentations, journal articles, and books.

From one perspective, I am wholly unqualified to review a book such
as this; I have neither professional expertise in the field nor
academic credentials that directly address strategic communications.
However, as field grade officers, my cohorts and I are precisely the
ones who are responsible for turning strategic ideas into tactical
successes, either as commanders ourselves or as "Iron Major" staff
officers. Additionally, a significant portion of us have deployed to
the theater and feel some measure of ownership in the success of
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations there. So
it is from the latter perspective that I eagerly began to read this

Many of us have been exposed, at least briefly, to the idea of
Strategic Communications (SC). According to the 2010 _Commander's
Handbook for Strategic Communication and Communication Strategy_, "SC
generally is accepted as 'Focused United States Government (USG)
efforts to understand and engage key audiences in order to create,
strengthen or preserve conditions favorable for the advancement of
USG interests, policies, and objectives through the use of
coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products
synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power.'
Further and more specifically, effective SC requires synchronization
of crucial themes, messages, images, and actions with other nonlethal
and lethal operations."[2]

SC is taught at the Air Force's Air Command and Staff College ("ACSC"
is a year-long course in operational art and science designed for
mid-level officers), which I attended as a student and where I am
currently an academic instructor and operations officer. Presumably,
it is also part of the curriculum at the other services' equivalent
schools although I do not know to what depth or in what manner. At
ACSC, however, it was presented as both a leadership competency and
an element of joint operations.

ACSC was my first exposure to the concept of SC within a military
context. I was receptive to its premise because I believe war is
fundamentally an issue of human behavior and the way ideas are
communicated can influence how people think, feel, and behave. I was
probably more receptive to those ideas than others in my class
because the Air Force has an organizational culture rooted in
technology and science (in contrast, my educational background has
been largely based in the humanities). However, even for those among
us who accepted SC on theory, applying those ideas in a comprehensive
and effective manner seemed like a daunting (and doubtful) practice.

Thus, even though the book made no such claim, I was hoping it would
speak to those of us who are not SC practitioners or theorists but
who are nevertheless interested in how to bridge the notion that
"words matter" to its practical implications in a current theater of
operations. The book's explicit claim is to provide "some important
considerations for the people whose job it is to narrate events going
forward" by providing "historical analogies, ways of narrating such
events, and analyses of the contemporary situation" (p. 7). A
different person wrote each of the six chapters and they appear well
qualified to write on their respective topics. Not all of those
chapters seem to fully contribute to the stated purpose, however. For
example, there is a chapter that compares the current conflict in
Afghanistan with the U.S. war in Vietnam and another that describes
the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Neither gives more than a
brief mention of narratives and both seem too insubstantial to make a
solid case that those past events offer valid historical parallels to

In contrast, the fourth chapter speaks directly to the issue of
narratives. It provides a well-written overview of the Taliban's SC
program, which has "masterfully and consistently spread strong,
simple, and culturally appropriate story lines that appeal to the
deeply religious, cultural, and political sensibilities of tribal
rural Afghans" (pp. 96-97). In addition to employing simple and
coherent messages that resonate with the broad Afghan culture, the
narrative is effectively supported by a wide range of delivery
methods, localized anecdotes, and efforts to improve authenticity (p.
74). The co-authors provide clear and succinct examples for each of
those categories.

The Taliban narrative has weaknesses as well. Unfortunately, the
scale of the chapter seemingly prohibits a larger examination of the
evidence behind this assessment. For instance, the authors see a
"crisis of confidence" in the Taliban's initiatives to improve their
organizational structure and manpower (p. 93). Furthermore,
"unrelenting widespread atrocities committed by Taliban soldiers"
serve as an even greater vulnerability in their SC program (p. 94).
Yet, ISAF itself regularly attempts to refine and improve
organizational issues and has itself conducted operations that led to
civilian deaths.[3] Of course, that includes accidental deaths but
there is also the incident from March 2012 when a U.S. Army soldier
murdered sixteen Afghan civilians near Kandahar. Without more insight
into the same evidence that the authors are using, it is hard for the
reader to accurately compare such events to the Taliban's own
atrocities and confidently say which side contradicts its own
narrative more. Of course, how well the stories are spread is an
important factor and this chapter implies that the Taliban have a
more extensive, agile system for disseminating their messages. Again,
this is in part because they communicate messages across traditional
mediums and because those messages resonate with the collective
memories of Afghan society.

The formation of collective memories is addressed in the fifth
chapter. This enlightening chapter should be first in the book, as it
establishes the framework to analyze historical narratives. According
to the writer, "we habitually reduce highly complex event sequences
to rather simplistic, one-dimensional visions of the past" (p. 103).
Furthermore, these narratives represent social constructions of a
"public memory" (p. 100) and their storylines can be categorized into
four forms. The first three--progression, regression, or some
sequence of the two--assume that history is linear. In contrast, the
fourth takes a cyclical perspective of historical events as repeating
patterns. Although it seems counter to current Western paradigms,
this final view is in fact humanity's traditional perspective. The
structure establishes the context of how individual stories relate to
one another, even when the story is not yet complete. Therefore,
narratives confer clarity, meaning, legitimacy, and even prophecy to
their audiences.

The sixth and final chapter makes good use of this background
information to point out that the Afghan experience with foreign
militaries easily appears to be a repeating cycle of invasion,
governmental reform, retreat, and the eventual failure of that
contrived government. Therefore, ISAF's narrative of progress faces
an uphill battle for "validity." Drawing on ideas from communication
theorist Walter Fisher, the final chapter describes what makes a good
or "valid" narrative. The first element is the plausibility of the
story, or its "coherence." The second element is how well the
narrative conforms to what the audience knows about the world--a vast
corpus of data points that are informed by both direct experiences
and the stories they believe. The chapter uses this concept of
validity and another criterion of how well the narrative fits the
structure (or the "narrative arc") to assess the two competing
narratives in OEF. The author concludes that, while ISAF may have
started off with a strong message (at least for its internal
audiences) the narrative has since lost validity. Therefore, "serious
and immediate efforts should be made to repair the narrative of the
war so far" since "the narrative cannot have a fitting end if the
beginning and middle are incoherent and lack fidelity" (p. 140).
Overall, the assessment that occurs in the last chapter is a useful
exercise but a more robust critique would have fit well into the
book's purpose. Speaking of which, it generally does fulfill its
stated objective of giving ISAF's SC planners some issues to
consider, and they should read this book.

Overall, however, the book is somewhat disappointing. It did
reinforce the impression that the message matters but made me
suspicious about our ability to control the message in a deliberate
manner. The first chapter raises this possibility directly by
admitting that "a coherent narrative about U.S. goals may be
impossible" due to dynamic complexities that create a "shifting
narrative landscape" (p. 5). Furthermore, "in complex systems like
narratives the effects of specific actions are not always
predictable, and unintended consequences are common" (p. 119).
Additionally, the book repeatedly mentions the cautionary tale of the
Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was operationally
successful despite a common narrative that tells a different story.
Lastly, it states that narratives must account for "multiple
pre-existing (and conflicting) stories already in circulation" (p.

Yet, that precaution does not get to the heart of the issue, I think.
As I reflect on this book and this topic, I am beginning to become
wary of using the term "stories" because it can imply a lack of
depth. The thesaurus substantiates this point: "lie," "legend," and
"rumor" are all synonyms for "story." Instead, narratives exist
within hierarchies and consequently must fit within a larger master
narrative that is deeply rooted within the culture in order to be
effective. The chapter on the Taliban's messaging efforts does a
great job of demonstrating this point by comparing it to ISAF's
failure to craft and deliver a credible narrative that effectively
competes with the enemy's message. For example, whereas the 2001 Bonn
Conference directed a centralized governmental structure that most
Afghans are unfamiliar with, the Taliban have "promoted the enduring
desire among Afghans to preserve long-standing traditions of local
governance and tribal justice systems" (p. 81). Whereas the
U.S.-backed government in Kabul is "ineffective, complex, inefficient
and corrupt," the Taliban offer a more efficient and localized
alternative, sharia law, which also reinforces their promotion of
Islam as a common religious identity amongst Afghans(p. 80). Finally,
the Taliban employ mythology, poetry, and imagery from traditional
Afghan culture. It is that cultural foundation that gives their
message so much power: culture's function is to encode and
communicate what a group of people have come to believe is useful and
accurate. Thus, if a deep understanding of culture is required to
form an effective narrative that resonates with the audience, I
wonder if it is possible to craft such a narrative that matches two
wildly divergent groups. Is it possible for the narrative to be
"strategically ambiguous," as Goodall recommended on the opening
page, and yet still have fidelity? Are our pluralistic sensibilities
a strategic disadvantage or could citizens of ISAF nations permit
their militaries to endorse messages based on the traditional tribal
values of pride, honor, and revenge? Finally, even if all of these
issues could be resolved in favor of ISAF, can the exit be narrated
in a way that our forces have been unable to do thus far? If the
narratives are constantly being revised and reinterpreted, does SC
ever truly stop? Who would continue the efforts after the dissolution
of ISAF? Should the operations drive the narrative, as SC is
currently practiced, or should the narrative--informed by commander's
intent--be the foundation for operational design?[4] These are the
types of "important considerations" I hope someone is trying to
answer, both for future wars and for the war in Afghanistan. Without
insight into these issues, the story may never reach a happy ending.


[1]. Center for Strategic Communication, http://csc.asu.edu/.

[2]._ Commander's Handbook for Strategic Communication and
Communication Strategy _(Suffolk, VA : U.S. Joint Forces Command,
Joint Warfighting Center, 2010), x.

[3]. Jan Harvey, "NATO acknowledges Afghan civilian deaths, to
retrain troops," Reuters (November 29, 2011),

[4]. This is precisely the question posed by Thomas Elkjer Nissen in
a 2012 article titled, "Narrative Led Operations: Put the Narrative
First," _Small Wars Journal_ (October 17, 2012),

Citation: Jason Trew. Review of Corman, Steven R., ed., _Narrating
the Exit from Afghanistan_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=39524

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States



Jennifer M. Hazen.  What Rebels Want: Resources and Supply Networks in Wartime.  Ithaca  Cornell University Press, 2013.  xiv + 194 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8014-5166-9.

Reviewed by Steven Minniear
Published on H-War (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

Jennifer Hazen's _What Rebels Want: Resources and Supply Networks in
Wartime _is an interesting work, worth reading in these very
interesting times. Many policymakers and others are wondering what so
many different rebel groups want and what to do with them. While
focused on early twenty-first-century West African civil wars, the
author has some telling insights that suggest reexamining some common
foreign policy approaches to civil wars.

This book should appeal to readers interested in a number of
different fields: conflict analysis, conflict resolution, foreign
policy evaluation, and West African area studies. Its value varies
for each of those fields, with the chief value being for those
interested in West Africa. This book has a broader applicability for
those seeking a deeper understanding of civil wars and how to deal
with rebel groups. It proposes explanations of how rebel groups
choose to continue fighting or seek to negotiate, constraints on
rebel groups' options in obtaining their goals, the role of resources
(primarily arms, ammunition, troops, other supplies, and how to fund
those resources) and some cautions on the role and efficacy of
negotiations in resolving (not just temporarily pausing) conflicts.
It also presents an approach to predicting how rebel groups might
respond in certain situations, especially regarding pausing fighting
and negotiating.

The book's layout and progression is in line with a standard academic
approach. In the first two chapters there is a thorough review of the
literature on civil war-type conflict resolution and the linkages
between resources and rebel success and/or failure. It discusses the
role of support systems and challenges some common academic
assumptions that civil wars are always (insupportably) costly, that
continuing to fight is always an option, that resources are easily
accessible, and that resources are fungible. The second chapter goes
on to discuss how civil wars are "common, costly, and long" and
deserving of attempts at resolution (p. 15). It states as a premise
that rebel groups' options are based on their capacity to continue
fighting and that the capacity is based on access to resources.

The final three chapters go on to describe, explain and validate that
premise. The author does a good job of stating her argument, using
the situations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Côte d'Ivoire as
detailed case studies. The case studies also provide interesting
arguments that "blood diamonds" or seized natural resources are not
as important as the popular press or many academics argue. The author
also appropriately highlights the pillage and plunder aspect of
resource seizing that occurs during civil wars. The author argues
that her conclusions are relevant to other locations and times, but
probably with less direct application.

The work has some shortcomings. In treating rebel groups as black
boxes it underestimates the effects of military effectiveness and
well-harnessed ideology. Throughout history some rebel leaders and
troops have learned and adapted more effectively than others. Some
rebel groups are better, or become better as troops and make more
effective use of the weapons and experiences. They are better
fighters, at least at times, than their counterparts. The fortunes
and lessons of battle do matter and they can be well used or ignored.
The work also underestimates the effect of ideology, if effectively
harnessed. History again reveals many situations where ideology
allowed some rebels to maintain cohesion and capability to the point
where it made a difference on the battlefield, and at the negotiating
table. This work ignores these lessons and therefore somewhat
overestimates the impact of resources being available or not.

Readers should be warned that this is not an easy book to read.
Repeatedly, the author states her premises and arguments by saying
"the argument is" or "the book's premise is." Just as often she makes
reasonable but numbingly obvious statements that knowledgeable
readers already know. For example: "A group planning a coup will
require fewer resources than a group planning a liberation war, and
these resources will be different from those needed by a group aiming
to make an area difficult to govern" (p. 52).

These caveats aside, the book would be suitable for upper-level
undergraduate political science classes. It would be of value to some
West African area studies and foreign policy graduate classes. If
they had the time, and the patience, to read it, country or regional
area staffers in government and international organizations would
benefit from the book's cautionary comments on the efficacy of
imposed negotiations.

Citation: Steven Minniear. Review of Hazen, Jennifer M., _What Rebels
Want: Resources and Supply Networks in Wartime_. H-War, H-Net
Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=39481

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States



Edward Garvey Miller.  Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam.  Cambridge  Harvard University Press, 2013.  432 pp.  $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-07298-5.

Reviewed by Hai Nguyen (Texas Tech University)
Published on H-War (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey

War and the Politics of Nation Building

Five decades have passed since Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of
South Vietnam, was assassinated in the military coup endorsed by the
United States government, yet his political life still inspires the
history and memory of the Vietnam conflict. Diem is most frequently
seen by both American and postcolonial Vietnamese scholars as a U.S.
puppet and his government as an American creation during the Cold
War. Diem has also been described as a product of such traditions as
Catholicism and Confucianism, representing the Western construct of
Orientalism in the process of building an anticommunist regime in the
Southeast Asia.

Refuting these arguments, in _Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United
States, and the Fate of South Vietnam_, Dartmouth professor Edward
Miller offers a new interpretation of the man and his relationship
with the United States through the lens of Vietnamese political
culture. Perhaps the author's most brilliant contribution to
understanding the U.S.-Diem alliance is a sophisticated analysis of
how and why "nation-building ideas and agendas played central roles
in the formation, evolution, and eventual undoing of Washington's
relationship with Diem" (p. 12). The author asserts that the South
Vietnam leader was a modernizer with his own visions of a new nation
that diverged from the U.S. designs. Although working within a joint
effort to contain communism, the United States and Diem often
disagreed, and Miller describes how "the _politics of nation
building_ [Miller's italics] shaped its entire history, from its
creation to its demise" (p. 17). These conflicts, Miller says, arose
not from a clash of civilizations, but from "clashes between
different kinds of civilizing missions" (p. 17). His book, in
illuminating this evolution from political and moral levels, adds
context to U.S. foreign relations and modern Vietnamese history, and
distinguishes it from the interplay between the key personalities.
The result is an in-depth study examining divergent perceptions and
motivations as they affected political ideology, military strategy,
the religious crisis, and rural socioeconomic programs. Eventually,
this strife contributed not simply to collapsing the fledgling
alliance in 1963 but also to changing the course of the war.

The author opens with a survey of Diem's background in politics,
including his relationships with the other Vietnamese
anticolonialists before and after 1945. Inheriting the sturdy
nationalism and Catholic faith of his father, Ngo Dinh Kha, Diem
became a strong-willed patriot, struggling for the rights of his
fatherland. Opposing French policy, resigning as interior minister
under the emperor Bao Dai's French protectorate Nguyen dynasty,
idolizing Phan Boi Chau and his knowledge of Confucianism,
sympathizing with Prince Cuong De's Committee of National
Reconstruction, organizing the National Union Bloc to mobilize all
noncommunist nationalist parties, he eventually ignored his family's
animosity to the communists and was willing to serve in Ho Chi Minh's
government. Diem thus proved that he was "a dedicated defender of the
Vietnamese nation" (p. 27). His strong anti-French stance made him a
resplendent symbol of revolutionary nationalist certitude as he
dedicated his life to building an independent and anticommunist
nation. Miller, by demythologizing the prevailing prejudice against
Diem, states that he was "neither plucked from obscurity nor
installed in office by the United States in 1954. Rather, he was a
prominent and active figure in Indochinese politics who successfully
engineered his own appointment as premier of the SVN" (pp. 20- 21).
The author notes the popular theories during the 1960s that Diem
became the South Vietnamese premier with the backing of U.S.
Catholics and Francis Cardinal Spellman, or by secret maneuver of CIA
and State of Department officials such as John Foster Dulles, but
also "the lack of documentary evidence to support them" (p. 52). For
example, Miller  argues, declassified State Department records
suggest that "Dulles and other senior Eisenhower administration
officials were at most only 'vaguely aware' of Diem prior to May
1954" (p. 52). Indeed, Diem was selected as the chief of state by
Emperor Bao Dai as "the man best suited for the job. [B]ecause of his
intransigence and his fanaticism, he could be counted on to resist
communism. Yes, he was truly the right man for the situation" (p.
53). During the post-Geneva period Diem, ignoring the U.S. strategy
of conciliation and reform, attacked and quelled his rivals without
any compromise. He remedied the "political chaos," ruling the
Vietnamese National Army and the other rival religious militia
forces, stripping them of power and implementing his state-building
program. Miller's scholarship on this period not only contributes to
a new understanding of Diem, but also challenges historians to
reconceptualize the history of the Diem-American relationship from
the beginning.

Diem considered himself both a sword and a shield against real
threats to the political system of South Vietnam. The chief factors
of this system--independence, national interest, and moral duty--were
to be merged to create democratic institutions and civil life in the
heart of nation. Intimately connected with Catholic and Confucian
traditions, Diem and his family were participants rather than
observers; therefore he, characteristically, brought his own twist to
the terms, transforming the emotional power of religion into a
distinct political doctrine, according to Miller. However, differing
from most students of the conflict, Miller pioneers a new account of
Diem's nationalism. In Miller's eyes, Diem was neither traditional
theoretician nor reactionary colonial mandarin. Diem was a shrewd
politician and a proponent of "democratic" rule on his own terms. His
new direction for the nation, according to Miller, was "an ambitious
attempt to synthesize certain contemporary ideas and discourse about
Catholic Christianity, Confucianism, and Vietnamese national
identity" (p. 21).

Miller's use of Vietnamese culture to explain Diem's
religio-political thoughts shows how his understanding of democracy
derived from indigenous Vietnamese democratic tradition rather than
from Western theories. Melding the "moral norms" of the Confucian
social philosophy with the doctrine of personalism of the Catholic
philosopher Emmanuel Mounier, including self-improvement,
communitarism, and humanism, Diem believed "democracy is primarily a
state of mind, a way of living that respects the human person, both
with regard to ourselves and with regard to others." Instead of
connecting democratic reform to civil liberties, Miller argues, Diem
demonstrated it as "a process of collective social improvement" (p.
139). The leader of the First Republic attempted to modernize and
connect these principles to the contemporary nation-building program,
saying, "we are not going back to a sterile copy of the mandarin past
but we are going to adapt the best of our heritage to the modern
situation" (p. 138). Still, Diem's worldview clashed with the
Americans'. As Miller concludes, "Diem sought to define democracy as
a social ethos based on a certain sense of moral duty. This
definition was a far cry from the standard meaning of democracy
favored by postwar American theorists, most of whom thought of
democracy as a form of political pluralism" (p. 137).

This divergence roiled the U.S.-Vietnamese alliance as it attempted
to implement one of the most important nation-building agendas:
socioeconomic development in the South Vietnamese countryside. The
keystone of the rural transformation was to solve overpopulation
through resettlement. This solution, the author states, was to
redistribute people rather than land. Miller explores how by moving
the rural poor, whom Diem considered a "real proletariat," to new
communities in previously unpopulated areas, Diem aimed not only to
"provide land to the landless but also to advance his broader
economic, security, and ideological objectives" (p.160). Nationwide,
Diem promoted self-sufficiency in "a distinctly Diemist version of
community development" in order to "mobilize the active participation
and contribution of the people to the public projects of the
government" (p.164). Although Diem succeeded with rural projects such
as the Cai San settlement in the Mekong Delta, U.S. officials and
experts deplored his tactics. For the Americans, the central part of
land reform is to provide land for the landless, creating conditions
and opportunity for the new settlers to design and carry out their
own local improvement projects, rather than exploiting their labor
for the sake of government.

Miller masterfully analyzes the primary contradiction in the two
American nation-building theories: high modernism that focused on
large-scale technical and scientific progress and low modernism that
promoted social revolution via small-scale, groups, and communities.
Neither school was suitable in South Vietnam because the United
States could not Westernize the Vietnamese way of life. For example,
Diem's younger brother Nhu declared that industrialization and other
economic change would be carried out in South Vietnam only after "we
irrevocably depart from the traditional society as far as our
thinking, our organization and our technique are concerned" (p. 237).
For land development, despite agreeing with the Americans that his
government ought to provide land and material aid to settlers, Diem
remained consistent in his belief that "these material benefits were
less important than the ethos of mutual obligation and
'self-sufficiency' and he continued pursuing his rural development
without American assistance" (p. 177). Miller points out that the
divide in the alliance over agrarian reform program pushed relations
between Washington and Saigon toward a new nadir.

Maintenance of internal security strategy was another preoccupation
of Diem and his government. When not confronting attempted military
coups in Saigon, Diem focused primarily on counterinsurgency in the
rural areas to contain the infiltration and development of
communists. Miller offers that the U.S-South Vietnamese military
relationship not was totally dominated by the American advisors. For
example, Michigan State University Group (MSUG) police experts
considered the Republic of Vietnam Civil Guard as a civilian police
force. To the contrary, the U.S. Military Advisory Assistance Group
(MAAG) conceived it a paramilitary force, functioning as a kind of
auxiliary internal army. For Diem, the Guard was "a hybrid force that
would combine certain police powers (including surveillance,
detention, and counterintelligence duties) with elaborate military
capabilities" (p. 192). Complaining that U.S. prescriptions neither
fit his vision nor appreciated the unique security situation in South
Vietnam, Diem continued seeing the Guard as a core element of
counterguerrilla warfare in the rural areas. As an experienced
mandarin, Diem knew better than anyone that the rule of countryside
had to be combined with political, military, social, and economic
resolution. He established the Civic Action program as the basic
foundation of communitarism, self-sufficiency, and community
development. However, in reality the Ngo brothers' approach was
different from the American formula, particularly in the strategic
hamlet program. For the U.S. experts, "the universal appeal of
democratic values and practices was the key concept on which the
success of the program--and the outcome of the war--would hinge" (p.
242). Conversely, Diem "never embraced liberal notions of democracy
as a pluralist contest among rival leaders, groups, or ideas," Miller
argues. "Instead, he saw it as a means to enlist the South Vietnamese
peoples en masse in the struggle against the RVN's enemies, and as a
way to promote his communitarian vision of social transformation."
Miller cannot but admit that the strategic hamlet program, even with
its shortcomings, "appeared to be part of a remarkable turnaround in
the government's fortunes in its war against the NLF," hopefully
paving the way for winning the war (p. 244). The Ap Bac failure in
January 1963 could not extinguish the Ngos' optimism about the war,
even as Nhu ordered the RVN Civic Action Ministry to prepare for the
"recocupation" of North Vietnam. Eventually, the Ngo government
wanted to escape U.S. domination by suggesting that South Vietnam
"received military equipment and other material aid but did not
accept any U.S. advice about its internal affairs" (p. 255).

The fate of the Ngo regime was sealed by the Buddhist Crisis in 1963.
Most striking in Miller's explanation for this religious-political
crisis is his inclusion of historical background, such as a reform
movement known as the Buddhist revival that began during the1910s and
1920s. The author presents a fascinating but challenging statement
that the Diem-era Buddhist movement was "not concerned only ... about
discrimination and religious freedom. They also deeply worried about
the Diem government's nation-building agenda and especially about the
personalist revolution, which they had come to see as a threat to
their plans to revitalize Vietnamese Buddhism" (p .262). In Miller's
view, the Vietnamese Buddhists participated in revolution, national
liberation, and modernity as a contribution to the nation-building
process. Clashes between the Diem government and Buddhist movement
culminated in a war against development. Diem, to the last minute of
his life, believed that he would solve internal crises "from a
position of strength" (p. 310). However, he could never "reestablish
order," as he stubbornly responded to the U.S. ambassador Henry Cabot
Lodge, because he and Nhu were murdered by their own generals. Miller
concludes that "the problems did not derive merely from the Ngo
brothers' abstruse and confusing pronouncements about the merits of
the personalist revolution. They were also rooted in specific,
practical disagreements between the Ngos and the Americans over the
meaning of key concepts such as democracy, community, security, and
social change" (p. 325). Diem and his U.S. counterparts' shortcomings
in this regard, Miller suggests, were "unwillingness to accommodate
South Vietnam's myriad and diverse revolutionary aspirations" (p.

Building the book through a thorough synthesis of military,
political, religious, foreign relation, and social histories,
_Misalliance: Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South
Vietnam_ succeeds admirably in shedding new light on Diem and his
nation-building programs. Future studies of such contentious issues
must acknowledge Miller's persuasive argument that such
misapprehensions shaped the rise and fall of the U.S.-Diem alliance
and the fate of South Vietnam.

Citation: Hai Nguyen. Review of Miller, Edward Garvey, _Misalliance:
Ngo Dinh Diem, the United States, and the Fate of South Vietnam_.
H-War, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=38993

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States



Devon Powers.  Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism.  American Popular Music Series. Amherst  University of Massachusetts Press, 2013.  xi + 160 pp.  $22.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-62534-012-2; $80.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-62534-011-5.

Reviewed by Thomas Conner (Universtiy of California--San Diego)
Published on H-1960s (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Zachary Lechner

Pop's Public Intellectuals and Their Problems

In the introduction to his book _Performing Rites_ (1996), Simon
Frith describes a lively dinner with friends, full of boisterous
conversation that inevitably turned to pop music--likes, dislikes,
latest finds, the usual. He ultimately aligns the scene with his
overall assessment of the virtues of this particular kind of
communication: "Part of the pleasure of popular culture is talking
about it; part of its meaning is this talk, talk which is run through
with value judgments."[1] Such talk has been one of the chief
examinations of Frith's academic career--how such talk, specifically
of lowly popular culture, is welcomed or shunned, facilitated or
forsworn by those inside the academy. Sure, _now_ there is an
International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and
scholarly publishers are slinging titles about singers from Woody
Guthrie to Morrissey,[2] but in a previous, post-Theodor W.
Adorno/pre-Frith era, such allowances, embraces, sell-outs (whatever
you wish to call it) were largely unthinkable. It is within that past
that Devon Powers claims to have found the rootstock not only of rock
criticism itself--which she argues was the professionalization of the
very inexorable, value-laden conversation described by Frith--but
also of a de rigueur brand of public intellectualism.

In _Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock
Criticism_, Powers explores cultural journalism during the mid-1960s
at New York City's alt-weekly newspaper the _Village Voice_ "in an
effort to make popular music criticism more connected to, and
meaningful within, American intellectual history and life." She
explains that the paper's presentation of "pop intellectuals" within
its influential pages constituted an overall argument that "mass
culture, previously considered a wasteland," was worthy of "serious
conversation and invested study" (p. 124). As critics at the _Voice_
engaged with pop music as a means to discuss larger social issues,
"they behaved as public intellectuals," and, Powers argues, deserve
to be included in any analysis and/or celebration of such figures (p.
3). But Powers's thesis goes well beyond a long-overdue defense of
the many scholarly merits of pop criticism and its practitioners.
What makes this book most worth reading, particularly for a
university audience, is that she attempts her own critical evaluation
of the "false divide between journalism and academia, 'true'
criticism and 'mere' reviewing," which, she claims, "at best
selectively understands the manifestations and potentialities of
criticism" and, at worst, "has resulted in a surprising yet
long-lasting dearth of scholarly inquiry into journalistic criticism
of all kinds" (p. 11).

Powers is a former full-time music critic. So is Frith. So am I. Each
of us somehow has managed to steer our careers onto campuses--Powers
is teaching at Drexel University, Frith is Tovey Chair of Music at
the University of Edinburgh, and earlier this year I left my post as
pop music critic at the _Chicago_ _Sun-Times_ to pursue a
communication PhD at the University of California-San Diego. After
twenty years in newspapers as a music critic and editor, I can speak
(and have spoken) at length to the ever-changing degrees of
permeability along this boundary between the gutter and the ivory
tower. I will muzzle that lecture for now; my own professional
experience largely is noteworthy here as, frankly, a b.s.-detector.
As a semi-seasoned veteran of the very newsroom-to-venue reporting
experience that Powers is trying to summarize and evaluate, I
recognize in her competent analyses and worthwhile insights a
refreshing wisdom otherwise lacking in so many other commentaries on
this seemingly low profession. Public intellectualism--taking theory
for a trot outside the academy walls--is crucial to an open society,
though the importance of the reverse--bringing a clear understanding
and explanation of actual practice inside the university gates--is
too often neglected. Powers's skill with the latter significantly
boosts her stature as an important emerging theoretician.

Powers rests her study on a claim that the _Village Voice_ was
"decidedly different" from other publications in its ability to
nurture a new breed of cultural critic, if not an entirely new style
of thinking (p. 16).[3] Gerrymandering such a focused place and a
space for study seems a very dissertation-y thing to do, and _Writing
the Record_ is indeed a handsomely renovated PhD thesis, complete
with a readily identifiable lit review chapter. (Chapter 2, "Pop," is
an excellent and succinct summary of twentieth-century communication
research, from the Progressive Era through Paul Lazarsfeld's
administrative versus Adorno's critical approaches, with proper
emphasis on the latter's paranoia about mass culture and the
"centuries-old deliberations about the social worth of popular
entertainment" [p. 44].) But her historical case is solid. The
newspaper's writer-driven climate and leftward leanings, the building
steam of narrative forms within the New Journalism, New York City in
the early '60s as an epicenter of not only folk and jazz music but
also initial and sometimes fumbling attempts at public criticism of
them-- all of this contributed to the _Voice_'s advantageous position
from which to observe the transition of rock and roll ("guitar-based
music that grew directly out of rhythm and blues during the late
1940s and early 1950s") into rock (which "emerged in the mid-1960s
and was primarily the province of white performers") (p. 139). The
self-consciousness of the newer popular art form demanded the same of
its commentators, which in turn required a new language for its
expression. Rock became something everyone heard and everyone talked
about, but not everyone _truly_ appreciated. It is not that low
culture was being elevated on high, rather that the terms of
discussing high culture were being brought low. As Powers explains
it, "the traditional lines that demarcated high and low culture had
begun to dissolve, but the ability to exercise good taste had not";
in addition, the very means with which to communicate the taste
making "warrants remark for its specifically _undemocratic_ tone: the
culture might be accessible, but the terms on which to appreciate it
were not" (p. 55, original emphasis).

The two main "protagonists" of Powers's study are _Voice_ music
critics Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau (p. 19). It is
important to note that _Writing the Record_ leans heavily on
Goldstein, with serious focus on Christgau's work not arriving until
the last twenty pages of the book. This proportion is both laudable
and unfortunate. It is laudable because Goldstein was a superlative
music critic, and any championing of his, alas, small body of work is
welcome and worthwhile if only for the aesthetic joy to be had from
reading his writing. Goldstein, as Powers notes, pioneered certain
hallmarks of pop music criticism, namely, trying out a subjective and
Gonzo approach to the reporting, installing generational criticism as
part of the formula, and "warning against the infiltration of base
commercialism at every turn" (p. 71). More than that, though,
Powers's third chapter, "Hype," delves deep underneath the surface
effects of its title subject and uncovers the dilemma every rock
critic has felt upon discovery that they are--no matter how we have
convinced ourselves that we are using our critical powers only for
good--to varying degrees complicit in the music industry's hype
machine. The source of Goldstein's original optimism, and eventually
his disillusionment, was a steadfast belief in "the agency of the
audience community over any outside structure that might corral it"
(p. 89). The word "community" is key for Goldstein and throughout
this chapter, including this poignant observation, which should be
tacked above the entrance to pop cultural studies departments across
the land: "Much of the scholarship on popular music and
commercialization relies on simplified understandings of how rock
commercialized in the 1960s, and overemphasizes the role of economics
while not paying enough attention to the idea of community" (p. 78).

The short shrift given to the later arrival but longer _Voice_ tenure
of Christgau (1969-72 and 1974-2006; Goldstein was there from 1966 to
1969), however, while understandable to maintain a manageable
temporal focus to her study, denies Powers adequate opportunity to
underline the crucial contrast between the divergent approaches of
the two critics. The analysis of Christgau's early work at the
_Voice--_hasty, by comparison to that of Goldstein's, and for some
reason focusing only on the introductions to Christgau's
record-review columns and never on the bodies of the critical texts
themselves--understates the eventual triumph of Christgau and his
service-journalism approach to pop criticism. (Late in December 2013,
Christgau flew his particular critical banner, writing in a film
review, "On the surface level, which is the most important
level."[4]) Powers mentions, only in passing, that "it was Christgau
who solidified the reputation of the post-'60s _Voice_ as the
preeminent music writers' paper and a launching pad for up-and-coming
scribes" (p. 123). Lord knows, I am not advocating for any further
veneration of the self-described Dean of American Rock Critics--I
have heard quite enough--but the eventual bloom of the _Voice_'s
critical formula into an entire nationwide industry of pop music
criticism, which Powers mentions and to which she alludes, is left
dangling here as a ripe target for further study.

Amid this dense but speedy examination of Christgau's professional
genesis, Powers begins concluding her overall arguments by discussing
the loss of a popular monoculture (itself a weak substitute for the
idea of a real community, which Powers notes earlier is too often
overlooked) as it relates to a critic's--especially a newspaper
critic's--alleged general audience. I say "alleged" here because
despite all available readership surveys and, now, direct feedback
via the Internet (in both audience messages and online viewership
metrics), a critic rarely has a clear idea who his or her audience
is. This uncertainty leads to the question all critics mutter to
themselves, at all experience levels: Does any of this matter, and to
whom? "Mattering," Powers's final chapter, points out that "certain
kinds of work rarely have to justify that they matter" but that rock
criticism is definitely one (p. 125). She mostly considers "the
mattering" in terms of the critic to him- or herself and/or his or
her audience; I can assure you that the argument about mattering is a
constant requirement within the newsroom, as well, as editors and
managers throughout the decades consistently question the payroll's
return on investment in music criticism. Questions of mattering
become more important as the style of cultural criticism that Powers
claims was forged and normalized by _Voice_ critics now finds itself
not necessarily marginalized but definitely compartmentalized on
blogs--less public than "counterpublic," which Powers defines as "a
style of publicity that mounts a strategic defense against the vulgar
populism that equates reach with importance" (p. 133)--something of a
yang to Jürgen Habermas's original yin within his famed sphere.

It is in this final discussion of importance and impact that Powers's
book is especially valuable within universities at this particular
historical moment. Mattering might be "of strong interest to
academics, not only for study but also as relatives to our own
practice as (counter)public intellectuals" (p. 133). The joke, you
see, is on me. I bailed from one industry suffering from a failed
business model and a massive identity crisis, only to find myself in
an academy on the threshold of facing several of these same issues.
It seems every time I turn around or open a journal, there is another
fellow egghead yammering about the importance of returning to our
occasional visibility as public intellectuals, with various
prescriptions on how to do so.[5] Agreed, yes, let's do it,
straightaway! But why these discussions now? Could it be that the
economy has us rattled; that falling enrollments have us defensive;
or that the deafening alarms about Massive Online Open Courses
(MOOCs) suddenly have us feeling the need to straighten our ties, run
a comb through our hair, and step up to remind the exoteric world of
the value of the esoteric? Mattering, indeed--and Powers's whole
point here seems to be that academics could do a lot worse than
looking to journalistic critics for lessons in negotiating this
existential angst. "I contend that the best way to unfurl the knotty
problems of public intellectualism," she writes, "is not to avoid the
term, but to see it for what it is: the most recent iteration of
intellectuals' ongoing crises of identity, but one which I reclaim as
acutely important given the challenges that face journalism,
academia, and other knowledge-centric professions" (p. 12).


[1]. Simon Frith, _Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music_
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 4.

[2]. Will Kaufman, _Woody Guthrie, American Radical_ (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 2011); and Gavin Hopps, _Morrissey: The
Pageant of His Bleeding Heart_ (New York: Continuum, 2009).

[3]. Essentially, this is a discussion of knowledge production and
development, and what Powers ultimately is describing is the
formation of a "thought collective," run through with a distinct
"thought style," as laid out in the pre-Thomas Kuhn framework of
Ludwik Fleck's _Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact_
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).

[4]. Robert Christgau, "The Lost World of 'Llewyn Davis': Christgau
on the Coen Brothers," _Rollingstone.com_, December 4, 2013,

[5]. For one perspective from my field, see Ernest J. Wilson III,
"Communication Scholars Need to Communicate," _Inside Higher Ed_,
July 29, 2013,
Wilson is the dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and
Journalism at the University of Southern California.

Citation: Thomas Conner. Review of Powers, Devon, _Writing the
Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism_. H-1960s,
H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=40279

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States



Robert Ford Campany.  Signs from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval China.  Honolulu  University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2012.  xix + 300 pp.  $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8248-3602-3.

Reviewed by Richard V. Simmons (Rutgers University)
Published on H-Asia (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Sumit Guha

Buddhist Miracle Tales

This volume is an exemplary translation and penetrating study of a
fifth-century Chinese collection of Buddhist miracle tales originally
compiled by a scholar-official, Wáng Yán 王琰, who was also a
strong believer and proponent of Buddhism in the era when it was
first beginning to make its way into Chinese society and the daily
life of the population. The collection, _Records of Signs from the
Unseen Realm_ (_Míngxiáng jì_ 冥祥記), has been lost as a
discrete text, but was preserved in citations of the text in early
collectanea. Robert Ford Campany has translated the 129 surviving
stories from the text, including a surviving preface by the original
compiler, and gathered them together here in this single volume. The
product of his efforts facilitates identification of common themes
and shared motifs in the stories that Campany can then mine for what
they reveal about the Buddhism and society of their times. This is an
annotated translation; and Campany provides extensive scholarly notes
discussing details of the stories, the history behind them, and their
Buddhist background and milieu, without getting mired in the tedium
of a detailed collation of all the various surviving textual versions
(though still clearly documenting sources). In addition to the
translations and the footnotes themselves, Campany has provided
commentary after most of the stories as well as a detailed and
thoughtful exploration of the history and background of the text in a
substantial introductory discussion. The appendices to the volume
include a list of "Fragments and Questionable Items," and a highly
useful "List of Major Motifs" that provides a list of the stories
where each of the identified motifs are found.

Wáng Yán, the author of the original collection, was born in the
mid-fifth century to an undistinguished family in a busy commercial
seafaring locale in the far southwest within what is now northeast
Vietnam. Before he was ten his family had returned with him to the
southern capital of Jiànkāng. In the ensuing decades of his life in
the lower Yangtze valley region Wáng Yán developed an important and
influential connection with at least one Buddhist monk and cultivated
a profound belief in Guānyīn (rendered as "Sound Observer" by
Campany). Following a trip up the river through the Yangtze gorges,
Wáng Yán returned in 479 to find the Sòng (420-79) ruling house
displaced by the Southern Qí dynasty (479-502). This was fairly
fortuitous for Wáng Yán as he had connections in the ruling Xiāo
clan of the Southern Qí that he was able to draw on for his
livelihood in subsequent years. In his interactions with the ruling
clan and the circle of literati around them, Wáng Yán also
apparently participated in debate over the efficacy and validity of
Buddhism, arguing strongly for the pro-Buddhist side. Wáng Yán
compiled _Míngxiáng jì_ between 485 and 493, years when this
debate was likely in full swing.

Exploring Wáng's motives, Campany determines that "the primary
karmic reason for Wang Yan's composition of the text was his personal
relationship with his votive image of Sound Observer, and that his
primary stated aim in writing was to persuade readers to become
devout Buddhists like himself" (p. 12). The stories that Wáng
gathered are narratives recounting the personal experiences of people
that can serve as documentary evidence of Buddhist claims "about the
unseen world, the soul's survival of physical death, karma, rebirth,
the efficacy of devotional acts, and the perils of slandering the
Dharma or violating the sanctity of Buddhist images and sutras" (p.
12). Among the earliest of Chinese stories to use experiential
accounts as persuasive attestation for their message (p. 43), the
narratives in this collection thus serve as products of the
"collective mentality and collective memory" of their time and place,
providing the modern scholar with evidence about religious attitudes
and practices that were common in fifth-century Chinese society (p.

Campany finds that the overwhelming majority of the stories fall into
a set of identifiable narrative frames (pp. 44-46), such as rescue by
the Bodhisattva Sound Observer, observations of the afterlife by
those who have returned from the dead, wonders performed by monks and
nuns with special spiritual powers, and punishments received by those
who assault the Buddha. The different kinds of storylines revolve
around various religious themes and motifs (pp. 49-62 and appendix
2), including devotion to Sound Observer, the concept of _gǎnyìng_
"stimulus-response," the _zhāi_ abstinence ceremony, spirit monks,
the sacredness of sutras and the power of their recitation, the
authenticity of Buddhist practices, rebirth, and vegetarianism.

Reading through the 129 anecdotes and translator's commentary in this
book, the radical break with many long-standing popular Chinese
religious traditions that Buddhism required in Wáng Yán's day, and
the tension, or "contestation" as Campany denotes it (pp. 38-43),
between Buddhism and Daoism all become starkly apparent. Story number
5 weaves Buddhist elements into the indigenous view of the
bureaucracy of the afterlife, including ideas about rebirth and how
correct observation of the Dharma can help one prepare for death and
obtain salvation. The short anecdote that is story number 7
illustrates how "karma trumps transcendence-style longevity arts" (p.
87). Story number 17 relates how the correct path of the Buddhist
Dharma prevails over that of the Daoist Way of Pure Water in
successive generations of the Jìn ruling clan. A blunt and strident
argument in favor of vegetarianism is provided in story number 34.
With Campany's guidance, we see in story number 65 how its complex
narrative contests traditional ritual practices, such as animal
sacrifice for local gods and notions of impurity; critiques the
traditional view of "plaints" in the afterlife and the Celestial
Master school of Daoism; and generally extols the virtue of Buddhist
practice and the idea of karma (pp. 179-180). The protagonist of
story number 77 works actively inside the Daoist community, urging
others to convert to Buddhism. An attempt to return to Daoism and
turn fully away from Buddhism by burning Buddhist sutras and images
seriously and vividly backfires in story number 86. Thus as anecdote
and incident are recounted one after the other, and his thick dossier
of evidence takes shape, Wáng Yán's motives and goals in his
promotion of Buddhism all come into strong and dramatic relief.

In this translation and examination of the above-cited anecdotes and
the other stories in the collection, Campany's discussion and
commentaries are highly insightful and shine a focused and
penetrating light on the early practice of Buddhism in China. Campany
also packs a great deal of useful background information in the text.
So this volume of translations can additionally function as a kind of
lucidly illustrated basic reference work on Buddhism in early Chinese
society. The book's annotations in the footnotes reflect the
translator's broad and commanding grasp of the literature and
previous scholarship on the subjects treated. Many an interesting and
useful point is noted therein, along with excellent discussions of
the nuances and background of older idiomatic or specialized

But much of the helpful information in the footnotes is unevenly
indexed, or not indexed and all. This means that it is sometimes
difficult to get at this information any other way than by reading
through the text and carefully perusing the footnotes. Many important
points might be quite difficult to find again if the reader does not
make his or her own note of them. For example, _jīngshè_ 精舍
"oratory" (p. 95, note 158) is listed under the Romanized form in the
index and the English translation is provided as cross-listing; but
_yuānhún_ 冤魂 "wronged cloudsouls" (p. 143, note 389) is indexed
only by the English translation; and _dānyī_ 單衣 "single-layer
gown" (p. 120, note 274) is found only under its Romanized form. At
the same time,_ fúshè_ 福舍 "lodges of the fortunate" (p. 79,
note 89) is only indexed under "lodges"; _xíng zūn xiàng_
行尊像 "carrying an image of the Venerable One" (p. 121, note 280)
is not found in the index in any form; and _gāncǎo_ 甘草
"licorice" (p. 155, note 439) is also not indexed. Though tedious to
be sure, a bit more time and attention in the compilation of the
index would have increased the utility of this volume immensely.

Campany's translations are nicely rendered. They read smoothly and
are quite faithful to the meanings of the originals. This reviewer
uncovered no infelicities. The _pīnyīn_ transcriptions of the
Chinese are also quite accurate. Only a couple of minor errors were
noticed. One is the rendering of the name 自敖 as "Ziao" (p. 158).
This should be transcribed "Zi'ao" (or more precisely, "Zǐ'áo").
First, because the latter is the correct way to separate the two
syllables of this disyllabic name according to the spelling
conventions of the _Hànyǔ_ _pīnyīn_ system; second, because the
former spelling is entirely a possible single syllable historically
in Chinese, as well as in Chinese dialects, and represents a form of
certain syllables now spelled "Jiao," such as焦, which is pronounced
_ziāo_ in Héjiān 河间 and other dialects in Héběi. A second
minor error is on page 168, where "Dān" 單 should be transcribed
"Shàn," for that is how that character is pronounced in names. The
alternate character reading that is given in the text, and noted by
Campany--善, also Shàn--is due to this overlap of pronunciation and
simultaneously serves as a reminder of the correct pronunciation
for單 in this context. Yet these are extremely minor issues and do
not detract from the excellence of the translation in the least.

Overall this volume is a first-rate contribution to the field of
medieval Chinese Buddhist studies. At the same time it is also a fine
example of the value and usefulness of translation of early texts in
their entirety and the importance of such efforts in the scholarship
of the field. Through Campany's impressive effort, the fifth-century
perspective and rhetorical goals of Wáng Yán's original text are
now rendered easily accessible for further study and analysis.

Citation: Richard V. Simmons. Review of Campany, Robert Ford, _Signs
from the Unseen Realm: Buddhist Miracle Tales from Early Medieval
China_. H-Asia, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=37812

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States

Categories: H-Net Reviews