H-REVIEW Digest - 10 Apr 2014 to 12 Apr 2014

Dominique Daniel's picture

Review of: 

1. H-Net Review Publication:  Guha on Sunderland, 'Financing the Raj: the
     City of London and Colonial India, 1858-1940'
 2. H-Net Review Publication:  Richardson on Gosse, 'Abolition and Plantation
     Management in Jamaica: 1807-1838'
3. H-Net Review Publication:  Kim on Choy, 'Global Families: A History of
     Asian International Adoption in America'
4. H-Net Review Publication:  Chen on Peckham and  Pomfret, 'Imperial
     Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia'


David Sunderland.  Financing the Raj: the City of London and Colonial
India, 1858-1940.  Woodbridge  Boydell, 2013.  viii + 240 pages.
ISBN 978-1-84383-795-4.

Reviewed by Sumit Guha (The University of Texas at Austin)
Published on H-Empire (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

Guha on Sunderland, _   Financing the Raj: the City of London and
Colonial India, 1858-1940_

David Sunderland's book is a detailed and careful study of the London
operations that underpinned the finances of the Government of India
(GoI) and related enterprises, notably the private-public
partnerships that laid the foundation of India's railway system. It
covers the period from the formal takeover of Indian administration
by the Crown in 1858 to the first years of World War II.

The epoch ending 1914 has long been recognized as the time when
western Europe became a major investor overseas and in the more
backward regions of eastern Europe. The City of London was a key node
in the networks that managed the currency and credit systems through
which this was achieved. David Sunderland focuses on one important
sector: the management of the Government of India's borrowing,
repayment, and remittance operations through almost a century. The
book comprises eleven chapters and an introduction and conclusion.

The first three chapters deal with government loans, successively
covering purpose, locations of issue, purchasers, and demand as well
as yield and repayment. Another chapter looks at other varieties of
debt issued in London. The technicalities of the famously vexed
question of Indian currency and its relation to the pound sterling
are then laid out. Two chapters are devoted to "council bills" or
financial instruments issued by the India Council in London that
generally paid for the various commitments of the Government of India
in London. The Bank of England--an autonomous corporation with deep
ties to the government, managed sterling under the gold exchange
standard for most of Sunderland's period.

The interaction of the originally silver-based Indian rupee with the
Bank of England's gold-based paper issue is carefully explained. To
recapitulate: the silver/gold ratio, after staying at about 14 or
15/1 for centuries began to drop precipitously in the 1860s. The
silver rupees in which the GoI collected its revenues fetched fewer
sovereigns in London. This led to increasing fiscal difficulty for
the GoI and led finally to the fixing of the rupee against the
sterling, or its reduction to a token for gold at a managed parity
from 1898. Special reserve funds were created to manage this and
balances retained in London. The handling of these issues is the
subject of chapter 5 and the last two chapters.

Sunderland has a passionate interest in the details of money
management. Had this book appeared a century ago, it would have
served for an outstanding introduction to the topic for a new civil
servant or aspiring City financier. The contemporary reader might
want to know how, if at all debates of this might bear on
contemporary financial structures: but Sunderland does not address
such questions.

After the details of financial operations he spends some space on
consideration of the actors' motives in taking the decisions that
they did. He is also deeply sympathetic to the small group of
specialists who managed the system for the Government of India. A
rebuttal of their critics seems indeed to be the major
historiographic agenda of this book. But the point is made in florid
metaphor such as ascribing to nameless "previous commentators" the
view that India was an "interloper in the financial jungle ruthlessly
savaged by its citizens, who fed on its entrails for decades" (p. 1).
Even where critics are cited it is often in footnotes that include
several references so that it is difficult to see who exactly made
the point being refuted. The Bank of England is another target: it is
charged with selfishly squeezing the GoI financial managers into
abandoning an optimal strategy so as to improve the bank's position
(chapter 11). It is also charged with exploiting the anti-Semitism of
much of the British press at the time to achieve its ends.

Finally, large economic issues are addressed almost in passing--for
example, the question of "home charges" or the sterling commitments
of the Government of India strongly agitated Indian nationalists at
the time and is echoed by nationalist historians to the present. The
efficient remittance of funds to meet these payments was also the
backdrop to much of the activity covered in Sunderland's book. He
lists the main items in the home charges account and then declares
them less burdensome to India than any available alternative at the
time. This may indeed be true, especially if one compares them to the
cost and efficiency of post-Independence transactions by the
Government of India in its various foreign expenditures. Certainly,
hiring the services of the Royal Navy for £100,000 per annum was an
excellent bargain. One would also be hard put to argue that the
successor governments of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, or Myanmar have
exceeded India Office standards in either probity or prudence. But
that case is not made: rather the argument is proven ex cathedra by
citing the nonspecialist Angus Maddison and Theodore Morrison, a
British official deeply involved in the defense of the regime as it

One would have expected a modern economic historian with all the
tools of modern information technology and all the benefits of
hindsight to have made a more rigorous argument before reaching his
conclusion. Furthermore, matters such as debating the saving
resulting from issuing bills at £250 per million commission or £500
per million would have been engrossing to the India Council at the
time, and also to the financial press. But these seem puny matters
after the various cataclysms of the twentieth century. The world
wars, any single major famine, or the enduring legacy of Partition
and the tit-for-tat policies of the Indian and Pakistani governments
have surely left far deeper scars on the economies of the Indian
subcontinent than any of these issues. In this vein, the impact of
political events in India such as the major agitations of the 1920s
and 1930s on the mood of investors and markets would have been
interesting. There is a brief mention of the India Office using
strategic "leaks" to ensure successful loan placements and worrying
about "news management" (pp. 38-39, 60-61). Did Indian nationalists
based in Britain and the United States seek to influence any of these
processes? After all the precursors of the Russian revolutionaries of
1917 had in 1905 declared that they would repudiate Tsarist foreign
debt if they came to power, and the communist government duly did
so.[1] It is likely that potential buyers of GoI debt would have
known of this precedent. What do we know of what Indian buyers of
India bonds thought at the time?

This is not to say that David Sunderland should have written a
different book: but still a slightly wider comparative perspective
might have made this a work with wider academic appeal.


[1]. The USSR finally paid £82 million, or 63 percent of original
nominal value to settle British claims in 1986; French creditors
waited seventy years to receive three billion francs, or 42 percent.
See Michael Waibel, _Sovereign Defaults before International Courts
and Tribunals _(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 39-40.

Citation: Sumit Guha. Review of Sunderland, David, _Financing the
Raj: the City of London and Colonial India, 1858-1940_. H-Empire,
H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=41407

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


Dave St Aubyn Gosse.  Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica:
1807-1838.  Jamaica  University Of West Indies Press, 2012.  248 pp.
$30.00 (paper), ISBN 978-976-640-269-3.

Reviewed by Dionna Richardson (The University of Akron)
Published on H-Empire (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Charles V. Reed

Bad Management: The Many Costs of Ignorance and Oversight

Dave St Aubyn Gosse's central goal throughout _Abolition and
Plantation Management _is to assign responsibility for the economic
decline of Jamaican sugar plantations in the early nineteenth
century. For Gosse, blame is certainly spread across many involved
parties (absentee owners, colonial government), but the lion's share
belonged to residential managers and was a direct result of their
racist and sexist attitudes as well as their shortsightedness and
ignorance of global economic trends.

_Abolition and Plantation Management_ is primarily an economic
history, and the author utilizes several case studies and relies on
the acquisition of statistical data and quantitative presentation of
that data in the form of several tables through the monograph. He
chooses Jamaica as the focus of the study because it was the largest
British West Indian sugar colony and nearly half of all the enslaved
Africans in the West Indies resided on Jamaica. He explains that his
sources were a "random" sampling, as opposed to being representative,
because he selected plantations based on the availability of crop
reports and correspondence between managers. This random sampling
supports his arguments well, and however random the selection process
was, Gosse's presentation of data reflects extensive archival
research as he engaged the materials of several plantations, housed
in both Jamaica and the United Kingdom, and was able to extract
copious amount of information from which to construct several
interesting arguments.

Gosse explains that the combined actions of the planters in their
failure to diversify operations in the midst of changing global
demand for goods as well as their refusal to treat their slaves more
humanely, especially after the abolition of the transatlantic slave
trade in 1807, led to the rapid decline of plantation productivity
and therefore diminished the plantations' economic sustainability. He
illustrates how the planters could not see past racist and sexist
assumptions about Africans, and how they placed blame for the decline
squarely on the backs of the Africans, denying any need for reform on
the part of management. Gosse argues that, after 1807, the planters
either did not understand or refused to acknowledge the rising
difficulty of replenishing their labor force with new and healthy
Africans. This was indicated by their resistance to initiate and
follow ameliorative reforms that called for more humane treatment of
the enslaved Africans. The planters continued as though there would
always be a plentiful supply of new plantation labor.

In chapter 1, Gosse explains that prior to the abolition of the
transatlantic slave trade, planters agreed to amelioration in order
to head off rumors of the impending abolition. He shows, however,
that these agreements were most often no more than empty promises, as
they were rarely put into practice. He offers this argument in direct
challenge to historians who have claimed there was a measure of
success in ameliorative reforms, based on the number of legislative
documents historians have come across. The relative number of laws
passed, Gosse argues, are meaningless in investigating the
on-the-ground operations of the plantation when the laws were clearly
never actually followed.  He continues in chapter 2 to explain that
one of the central problems with plantation management was its
unwieldiness and confusing hierarchy. Since many absentee owners
living in Britain were not the original owners but rather had
inherited the plantations, many of them had never even been to the
islands and had no concept of the realities of the West Indian
plantations. They relied on residential managers, attorneys,
overseers, and clerks living in Jamaica to report back and advise
them, with their focus always on the bottom line and profitability
and having little concern for anything else. This disconnect, along
with a confusing hierarchy and an unclear assignment of
responsibility, led to a game of pointing fingers and deflecting
blame as profitability began to decline.

Chapters 4 and 5 are the most informative and interesting parts of
the book because Gosse interrogates the role of racist and sexist
stereotypes in the actions of plantation management. Chapter 4
examines the various types of labor available to managers and their
reluctance to pay Africans for task labor and their oversight of the
entrepreneurial spirit of the Africans. He argues this was to the
detriment of the plantations because racist assumptions about
Africans as lazy or unable to contribute to planation productivity
limited the supply of knowledgeable labor and made it very difficult
to diversify their operations into other ventures. Chapter 5 presents
a quantitative analysis of health and reproduction with specific
focus on managers' beliefs about African women. Gosse shows how they
blamed high infant mortality rates on the backwardness of African
women, but argues that was unfair to the women, because it was the
fault of the plantation that children were not able to bond with
their mothers and not afforded adequate nutrition and clothing. Most
interesting in his presentation of statistical data is that the weak
and sickly were often young Africans, not older slaves, as the
management had often tried to argue. Gosse asserts that the trend of
sickly youth who should have been the strong, primary workers of the
planation is indicative of poor managerial decisions regarding the
health and well-being of the work force.

While these chapters present some interesting information regarding
racist and sexist stereotypes and how they played out in plantation
management, one would have liked to see Gosse take it even further.
With the wealth of information that the correspondence between
managers surely provided, it would have been very interesting for
Gosse to utilize these sources to analyze how racism and sexism
affected everyday life on the plantation. Gosse largely presents acts
of racism and sexism as statistics on a table, removing the human
element from such acts. There is very little offered from the
perspective of the slaves and, at times, the heavy economic and
quantitative focus seems as though it is leading the reader to
consider the slaves as commodities rather than human beings. While
they were certainly viewed this way from the perspective of the
management, it would be a fruitful and important project to use these
same sources in a way which revealed more about the struggles for
power (amongst management and between management and labor), as well
as the resistance and/or accommodation of the slaves themselves to
these managerial actions.

In all, this is an economic history of Jamaican plantations that
seeks to interrogate the role of management in economic decline. To
that end, it is successful and informative. This is not, however, a
book for scholars without background in economic and social history,
as the presentation of data via statistics and tables can be a bit
overwhelming, and the limited use of gender, race, and power as
categories of analysis in a study on treatment of West Indian slaves
may be difficult for some cultural historians to accept.

Citation: Dionna Richardson. Review of Gosse, Dave St Aubyn,
_Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica: 1807-1838_.
H-Empire, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=41401

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


Catherine Ceniza Choy.  Global Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America.  Nation of Newcomers: Immigrant
History as American History Series. New York  New York University
Press, 2013.  xv + 229 pp.  $75.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8147-1722-6;
$23.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4798-9217-4.

Reviewed by Eleana Kim (University of Rochester)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach

Learning from the Lesser-Known Histories of Transnational Adoption

Transnational adoption has received considerable attention from
social scientists and cultural studies scholars over the past decade,
a marked shift from an earlier period in which studies of adoption
were primarily the purview of social work scholars and child
psychologists who spoke more directly to adoption practitioners and
focused narrowly on questions of individual adjustment and outcomes.
For this reason, when historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and
cultural studies scholars began looking critically at the decades-old
phenomenon as a transnational process embedded in global power
relations--through adoption agency archives, ethnographies of
adoptive families, adoptees, and the cultural production of members
of the adoption triad (birth mothers, adoptive parents, and
adoptees)--Richard Weil's 1984 characterization of transnational
adoption as the "quiet migration" became widely cited, even as it
became increasingly anachronistic.[1]

By the late 1990s, adoptions from China were on a meteoric rise and
mainstream media coverage of elite urban "multicultural families"
frequently featured profiles of Chinese daughters who studied
Mandarin while taking up Irish step dancing or who had bat mitzvahs
with dumpling and moon cake hors d'oeuvres. These children displayed
the most hopeful aspects of globalization and multiculturalism, and
exemplified middle-class, white America's liberal and postracial
embrace of alternative family forms. Yet long before the highly
"visible and vocal" adoptions from China at the turn of the
millennium were other adoptions from Asia, starting with mixed-race
children from Japan and South Korea, followed by refugee children
from Hong Kong, and economic orphans from South Korea.[2] A major
shift in the new millennium was the fact that adoptees from overseas
were encouraged to embrace their heritage in ways associated with
being deeply _American_, no longer subject to the assimilationist
principles of the previous generations, when newspaper reporters more
often than not touted the "all-American" qualities of children whose
rapid assimilation and adaptability entailed the forgetting of their
foreign origins.

Journalistic and scholarly accounts mostly downplayed the racial
difference of Asian adoptees in favor of celebrating nuclear family
kinship and the rescue of children from abandonment or destitution.
The turn of the millennium celebration of soft multiculturalism
highlighted the cultural origins of adopted children yet failed to
acknowledge the ongoing salience of racialized difference and the
power relations it encodes in U.S. social life. In response, Asian
American adult adoptees began inserting their voices and stories into
the various public spheres, asserting that the colorblind love that
many of them received left them ill-equipped to face entrenched
racializations and racisms in their everyday lives, especially as
they entered adulthood. Recent scholarship in the humanities and
social sciences has accordingly centered on the racial politics of
Asian adoptions, and Catherine Ceniza Choy's book, _Global Families:
A History of Asian International Adoption in America,_ contributes to
this literature by offering a historical perspective that argues that
race "is fundamental to understanding ... early Asian international
adoption history as well as the lived experiences of Asian American
adoptees" (p. 10).

Adoption of children from overseas has mirrored shifts in U.S.
cultural politics of race and immigration, from assimilation to
multiculturalism, and also that of U.S. Empire during and after the
Cold War. The first waves of children came from Germany, Greece,
Italy, and Japan after World War II. Then the hot wars and proxy wars
in Asia and Latin America led to adoption of children from South
Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, and other Latin American nations.
Socialist reproductive policies and welfare shortfalls in
postsocialist nations led to large waves of children from China and
the former Soviet Union. Chinese adopted daughters were victims of
the People's Republic of China's infamous "one-child policy," which
led to the mass abandonment of girls (usually second daughters) from
state-run orphanages. Children from Russia and the former Soviet
republics also entered into adoption flows due to the collapse of
state-welfare programs following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Romania presaged some of these developments in 1990, when the
horrific images of children crammed into state-run orphanages were
broadcast on _20/20_, fueling widespread moral outrage that led many
Americans to the country to save these children, the tragic outcome
of Nicolae Ceauşescu's brutal pronatalist policies.

Although children are adopted internationally to nations across
Western Europe, the United States has long been the country that
receives the most number of children in the world. And although
children from Africa and Latin America are also adopted by Americans,
it is safe to say that international adoption in the United States
and elsewhere has been nearly equated with adoptions of East Asian
children, with significant and dramatic waves of children from South
Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and China arriving ever since the
mid-1950s.[3] Especially as numbers of white babies available for
domestic adoption have declined since the 1970s, and as open
adoptions have empowered birth mothers to make the final decision in
the adoptive placements of their children, prospective adoptive
parents have looked to other countries, being more willing to adopt
Asian children who are, as sociologist Sara Dorow discovered,
considered to be racially flexible and more redeemable than black
children in the U.S. foster care system.[4]

All of these flows, whether from Asia or elsewhere, have required the
cooperation and coordination of multiple parties and individuals.
This is the history that Choy's book offers. Her main archive is that
of the U.S. arm of the International Social Service (ISS-USA), the
administrative body that oversaw adoption placements to the United
States since World War II, and that served other social work
functions, such as assisting in international marriages, divorces,
and custody battles. ISS embodied a liberal and secular philosophy in
its approach to adoption, in contrast to more religiously motivated
actors like Harry Holt, with whom ISS had an antagonistic
relationship. (Holt was an evangelical Christian whose work in
postwar South Korea helped to make it known as the "land of orphans,"
and whose international adoption agency has placed more children from
overseas than any other in the world.) The social workers and
administrators at ISS continually questioned their role in other
nations, whether adoption was truly in the best needs of children,
and how to encourage indigenous social welfare programs to mitigate
dependency on adoption overseas. Choy finds these conversations and
self-critical musings in the ISS archive, and this evidence suggests
that liberal views of adoption, which might be associated with our
contemporary moment, were in fact being actively discussed in the
first decades of international adoption, in the 1950s and 60s.

ISS was at the vanguard of what later became known as "transracial
adoption," which is more commonly associated with adoptions of black
children by white parents. Yet the first "transracial" adoptions in
the United States were those of internationally adopted children from
Asia, at first "mixed-race" children born to women in Japan and Korea
and fathered by U.S. or UN soldiers. They were the object of
considerable consternation in Japan and Korea, where they were
outcasts with little hope of being socially accepted. This ostracism,
however, was used to highlight American largesse and also to paper
over a major liability during the Cold War, namely, America's
virulent racism and segregationist policies in the pre-civil rights
era. Mixed-race children were portrayed as tragic victims of
Asian-style racism (depicted as worse than that of the United States)
who deserved to be rescued because adoption was equally an expression
of American antiracist values and an embodiment of Americans' moral
responsibility to containing Communism in Asia.[5] Yet these children
cannot be understood apart from the historical circumstances that
produced them--a racially stratified U.S. society and military, whose
soldiers reproduced those inequalities and prejudices in the nations
where they served. As Choy rightly emphasizes, the abjection of
mixed-race children was not attributable to the backwardness and
inhumanity of Japan and Korea, but to the fact that "Japanese,
Korean, _and _American prejudices contributed to the social ostracism
of mixed-race children in Japan and Korea" (p. 22, emphasis in

The story of mixed-race children during the Cold War is by now well
documented, but the adoption of non-mixed-race children is often
thought to have begun with South Korea, after the first wave of "GI
babies" from South Korea began to ebb in the mid-1960s.[6] A
lesser-known history is that of the adoptions of Chinese refugee
children from Hong Kong, which reached its peak between 1958 and
1963, when Chinese children outnumbered placements from Japan and
Korea. Escaping from the Chinese Communist revolution, families from
the mainland barely survived in refugee slums in Hong Kong, where
starvation and overcrowding were severe. Children were abandoned or
orphaned, and also actively relinquished by parents unable to feed or
educate them.

As Choy describes in chapter 2, although ISS sought to place these
children with Chinese American families, racial matching was not
their primary concern. Some were orphans, and many others were sent
for adoption by their birth parents to "known" families, either
extended kin or acquaintances. A strong belief in economic
opportunity motivated parents to relinquish their children in ways
that would be echoed by Korean birth parents in the subsequent
decades, yet these arrangements resemble strategic forms of
transnational fosterage rather than adoption. Modern adoption
practice in the United States advocated nuclear family arrangements
in which birth kin was replaced with adoptive kin and exclusive,
as-if genealogical relations were created in the best interests of
the child, yet in these instances, as Choy shows, ISS social workers
were highly sensitive to the needs of older children to maintain
connections with birth family in order to better adjust to their new
lives.[7] Indeed, these examples suggest that at the height of
"closed adoption" practices in domestic adoption, during the
mid-century postwar period, some transnational adoptions were much
more similar to the "open adoptions" of today, which respect the
child's need to know about their origins and the child's rights to
maintaining connections to existing birth families.

Choy's analysis of the ISS-USA archive is organized around a notion
of "global family making," which she defines as "a process involving
the decisions made and actions taken by people who create and sustain
a family by consciously crossing national and often racial borders."
She contrasts this "bottom up" approach which focuses on "nonstate
actors" to a state-centered, or "top-down," approach (p. 9). Indeed,
with the materials at hand, Choy is able to draw out how social
workers and ISS officials worked through different cases and issues
related to adoptions from Asia. Given the presentist notions that
often accompany public discourses about adoption, Choy's book in some
ways attempts to show that an earlier history of adoptions rehearsed
many of the same questions that are familiar to observers today:
whether racial difference between children and parents is detrimental
to a child's wellbeing; how to encourage indigenous solutions to
child welfare and to discourage dependency on foreign adoptions by
sending nations; and whether American exceptionalism is also a form
of racist imperialism that depicts other nations as barbaric in their
treatment of children. The individuals who worked for the ISS in New
York City and at the branch offices in Asia were particularly
sensitive to these questions, negotiating on a daily basis the needs
of individual children and broader political and policy contexts in
ways that were compassionate and well considered. Choy implicitly
suggests that these voices from the archive can offer perspective on
contemporary adoptions, particularly given the highly polarized
debates that transnational adoption often provokes, between advocates
and critics, those who view it as altruistic humanitarianism beyond
reproach and those who view it as the ultimate expression of
egocentric white privilege and Western cultural imperialism.

Part of the problem with creating a binary between state/top-down and
nonstate/bottom-up, however, becomes apparent when thinking about
ISS's function in international adoptions from Asia or other nations.
For one thing, ISS's very role was to mediate with adoption systems
in other countries, which are usually state-run. Indeed, one of the
most compelling aspects of transnational adoption is the ways that it
brings together state-level geopolitics with the intimate scales of
self, family, and kinship. There seems to be little reason to
reinforce a false binary between state/nonstate when what adoption
does is precisely to bring the "human story comprised of the efforts
of many seemingly ordinary people" with processes of state-making and
state institutions (p. 9). It is not so much that only one side of
the story has been told to the negligence of the other, but that the
relations and interpenetration of "state" and "nonstate" is at the
heart of transnational adoption.[8] Perhaps it is because Choy
focuses exclusively on the U.S. side, where independent organizations
like ISS and other private agencies were the main drivers of
adoption, but it is not just the sending side for which the "state"
is salient, but in the United States as well, given that adoption
placements were subject to individual state welfare bureaus, and at
the federal level, ISS played a pivotal role in writing the special
immigration legislation that first permitted "eligible orphans" to
enter the country as "immediate relatives" of adopting American

Overall, Choy's book is a welcome contribution to understandings of
race during the Cold War, the shape of humanitarian adoptions, and
the racialized aspects of adoptive kinship, and adoptee experience,
all topics covered in five substantive chapters. Throughout the book,
the author is adept at using the archive to historically relativize
contemporary views of adoption, in terms of race and humanitarianism.
Choy examines the responsibilities of social workers and ISS as
mediators of family values and cultural norms, as gatekeepers to
children, and as producers and bearers of proper social work
protocols. This attention to particularity offers some interesting
and important points, but the book as a whole does more to fill in
the existing historical record than it does to offer a strong
argument or theoretical approach.

Choy carefully carves out a space of historical particularity that
does not attempt to make broad theoretical claims or to weigh in on
what has become highly polarized discourse about adoption. In this
respect, Choy departs from the most recent scholarly work, which has
cast a very critical eye on the history and practices of
transnational adoption, using it as a lens onto Cold War geopolitics,
racialized inequality, and humanitarian imperialism, among others.[9]
Choy acknowledges these works, but focuses on fine-grained complexity
in the archive, revealing underreported stories, such as the
adoptions of refugee children from Hong Kong, and stories of Jane
Russell, Hollywood celebrity, adoptive parent, and adoption advocate,
as well as Major League Baseball player Jim Bouton, who adopted a boy
from Korea in the 1960s. Aside from these celebrities, the majority
of voices in the book are from social workers on the ground, in
homes, consulting with adoptive parents and seeking to negotiate the
slippery definitions of children's best interests across national
borders, and economic, cultural, linguistic, and racial differences.

The book is written for a general audience and will be of interest
for scholars of adoption history and politics, and American social
work history, as well as historians and scholars of Asian migration
to the United States, American studies, and Asian American history.
For readers of H-Diplo network, the focus on nonstate actors in this
book offers a worthy counterpoint that may fill in the historical
details missing from more policy-oriented studies.


[1]. Richard Weil, "International Adoptions: The Quiet Migration,"
_International Migration Review _18 (1984): 276-293.

[2]. Toby Alice Volkman, "Embodying Chinese Culture: Transnational
Adoption in North America," in _Cultures of Transnational Adoption_,
ed. Volkman (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 81-116.

[3]. One popular culture reference to adoption suggests how close
this association had become by the early 2000s. In the television
series _The Sopranos_, when Christopher Moltisanti's long-time
girlfriend, Adriana, tells him that she may not be able to have
children of her own, Christopher despairs of having the "Moltisanti
name" end with him. Adriana implores, "We could adopt," to which he
cries, "Yeah, that's great--some kid with chinky eyes called
Moltisanti! He'd get his ass kicked every day!"

[4]. Sara Dorow, _Transnational Adoption: A Cultural Economy of Race,
Gender, and Kinship_ (New York: New York University Press, 2006),
chap. 1.

[5]. Christina Klein, _Cold War Orientalism:_ _Asia in the Middlebrow
Imagination, 1945-1961_ (Berkeley: University of California Press,

[6]. For an in-depth history of mixed-race children from South Korea,
see Arissa Oh, "Into the Arms of America: The Korean Roots of
International Adoption" (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2008).

[7]. See also Judith S. Modell, _Kinship with Strangers: Adoption and
Interpretations of Kinship in American Culture_ (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1994).

[8]. Some of these studies include Tobias Hübinette, _Comforting an
Orphaned Nation: Representations of International Adoption and
Adopted Koreans in Korean Popular Culture_ (Seoul: Jimoondang, 2006);
Eleana Kim, _Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the
Politics of Belonging_ (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), Klein,
_Cold War Orientalism_; Dorow, _Transnational Adoption_; and Barbara
Yngvesson, _Belonging in an Adopted World_ (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2010).

[9]. In addition to the sources previously mentioned, see Laura
Briggs, _Somebody's Children: The Politics of Transracial and
Transnational Adoption_ (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012);
Claudia Castañeda, _Figurations: Child, Bodies, Worlds _(Durham:
Duke University Press, 2002); and Karen Dubinsky, _Babies without
Borders: Adoption and Migration across the Americas_ (New York: New
York University Press).

Citation: Eleana Kim. Review of Choy, Catherine Ceniza, _Global
Families: A History of Asian International Adoption in America_.
H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=40757

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


Robert Peckham, David M. Pomfret, eds.  Imperial Contagions:
Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia.  Hong Kong  Hong
Kong University Press, 2013.  xi + 307 pp.  $65.00 (cloth), ISBN
978-988-8139-12-5; $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-988-8139-52-1.

Reviewed by Kai Chen (East Asian Institute)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2014)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach

_Imperial Contagions _is a timely edited volume by Robert Peckham and
David M. Pomfret with chapters by brilliant contributors from
multiple fields (such as cultural geography and history of medicine).
The quality of the arguments make this edited volume thought
provoking. From different points of views, the contributors examine
the examples of British and French colonies in Asia (e.g., India,
Indochina, Hong Kong, and Singapore) from the mid-nineteenth to the
twentieth centuries, with a special focus on the 1890s and the first
decades of the twentieth century. During this period, the policy
practice of colonial medicine shifted from "enclavist" approaches
(serving colonial regimes and armies) to "public health" approaches
(emphasizing prevention and treatment of contagions facing all
stakeholders). Furthermore, the authors reveal the inequalities found
in colonial societies and explore the tensions and interconnections
between colonial medicine and policy practice, which played essential
roles in shaping governance of the colonies.

In addition to the introduction by Cecilia Chu  and the afterword by
Priscilla Wald, this edited volume features ten chapters, organized
into three thematic parts. Part 1 (chapters 1-3) explores the
tensions between colonial medicine and policy practice in colonial
Hong Kong, Singapore, and India. Part 2 (chapters 4-6) addresses the
challenges facing colonial authorities in policy practice related to
colonial medicine. Part 3 (chapters 7-10) highlights the fear of
contagion as the initial rationale behind colonial authorities'
policy practice, which ironically promoted the contagions they tried
to control.

This volume evinces a nuanced and complex grasp of three points in
the studies of colonial history and public health in Asia. First, the
contributors argue that colonial authorities' fear of contagion is
closely related to the politics of sanitation in the colonies. As the
authors conclude, the shift from "enclavist" approaches to "public
health" approaches was never simply imposed on colonies in a
straightforward manner. In chapter 2, Jiat-Hwee Chang explores the
case of colonial Singapore, which was one of the wealthiest colonies.
According to Chang, instead of improving the sanitary conditions of
the colonies, colonial authorities adopted "fragmented and spluttered
urbanism" to separate colonial communities with native communities
(p. 58). Richard Harris and Robert Lewis argue that colonial
authorities "insulated themselves by setting themselves apart" (p.
73). In the case of Calcutta and Bombay, colonial authorities showed
their fear of contagions. After a serious contagion occurred in the
1890s, colonial authorities in Calcutta and Bombay conducted censuses
in 1901 in order to examine their strategies of separating Europeans
from native people.

Second, the volume examines the failures of colonial powers to
effectively deal with contagion. As the contributors suggest,
colonial medicine should be interpreted as a flaw, rather than a
colonial tool. Historically, colonial authorities sought to control
the spread of contagions and to maintain sanitary conditions in the
colonies. However, colonial medicine only played a limited role
within the colonial system. In chapter 7, Sunil S. Amrith stresses
the case of Indian migration to Southeast Asia. Due to colonial
authorities' fear of contagions, many Indian migrants were moved to
emigration camps and plantations in Southeast Asia, which were "home
to lethal contagions" (p. 157). As a result, Indian migrants suffered
extremely high rates of mortality. In French Indochina, due to
decisions made by French authorities, the local population "never
ha[d] full access to state quinine" (p. 211). In addition, as Pomfret
describes, in the colonies, European women and children, who "were
often defined in terms of vulnerability,"  also occupied liminal
positions in their motherland (p. 81).

Finally, the collection introduces the importance of multiple
stakeholders in colonial contagion control. The contributors question
the perception that colonial authorities shared similar ideologies
with other stakeholders. Instead, they show that that there were
competing ideologies among stakeholders. In other words, the
situations facing colonial medicine were much more contested than
people typically acknowledge. For example, European residents, native
peoples, colonial doctors, and other stakeholders "sought to
rationalize their priorities as those served society's best
interests" (p. 18). In Hong Kong, as Chu argues, multiple forces
shaped colonial medicine and policy practice to some extent. For
instance, the anticolonialism and nationalism movement in the Indian
interwar period (1918-39) had an impact on colonial medicine and
relevant policy practices. In addition, Ruth Richardson focuses on
colonial doctors represented by Henry Vandyke Carter, who studied
"the diseases of the local poor," and had "little interest in
developing a large private practice among the colonial/imperial
elite." In contrast with colonial authorities, Carter "was
significantly ahead of his time" (p. 177). Ironically, the
contributors verify that truth always rests with the minority (e.g.,

In short, _Imperial Contagions _not only makes important theoretical
and empirical contributions to the literature of colonial history and
public health in Asia, but also broadens general readers'
comprehension of colonial medicine and the relevant policy practice
in British and French colonies. Ultimately, it will be of great value
to scholars, students, and activists interested in international
studies and colonial history.

Citation: Kai Chen. Review of Peckham, Robert; Pomfret, David M.,
eds., _Imperial Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of
Planning in Asia_. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. April, 2014.
URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=39994

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
Categories: H-Net Reviews