2015 ICAS Book Prize – Social Sciences
The ICAS Book Prize (IBP) has been established by the International Convention of Asia Scholars in 2004. It aims to create an international focus for publications on Asia while increasing their worldwide visibility. The biennial ICAS Book Prize is awarded for outstanding English-language works in the field of Asian Studies.
Wild Man from Borneo: A Cultural History of the Orangutan
Robert Cribb, Helen Gilbert, and Helen Tiffin
ICAS Book Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Shortlisted Title
ICAS Book Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the non-Specialist Reader Accolade
Wild Man from Borneo offers the first comprehensive history of the human-orangutan encounter. Arguably the most humanlike of all the great apes, particularly in intelligence and behavior, the orangutan has been cherished, used, and abused ever since it was first brought to the attention of Europeans in the seventeenth century. The red ape has engaged the interest of scientists, philosophers, artists, and the public at large in a bewildering array of guises that have by no means been exclusively zoological or ecological. One reason for such a long-term engagement with a being found only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra is that, like its fellow great apes, the orangutan stands on that most uncomfortable dividing line between human and animal, existing, for us, on what has been called “the dangerous edge of the garden of nature.”
Beginning with the scientific discovery of the red ape more than three hundred years ago, this work goes on to examine the ways in which its human attributes have been both recognized and denied in science, philosophy, travel literature, popular science, literature, theatre, museums, and film. The authors offer a provocative analysis of the origin of the name “orangutan,” trace how the ape has been recruited to arguments on topics as diverse as slavery and rape, and outline the history of attempts to save the animal from extinction. Today, while human populations increase exponentially, that of the orangutan is in dangerous decline. The remaining “wild men of Borneo” are under increasing threat from mining interests, logging, human population expansion, and the widespread destruction of forests. The authors hope that this history will, by adding to our knowledge of this fascinating being, assist in some small way in their preservation.
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The Khmer Lands of Vietnam: Environment, Cosmology and Sovereignty
ICAS Book Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Shortlisted Title
The indigenous people of Southern Vietnam, known as the Khmer Krom, occupy territory over which Vietnam and Cambodia have competing claims. Regarded with ambivalence and suspicion by nationalists in both countries, these in-between people have their own claims on the place where they live and a unique perspective on history and sovereignty in their heavily contested homelands. To cope with wars, environmental re-engineering and nation-building, the Khmer Krom have selectively engaged with the outside world in addition to drawing upon local resources and self-help networks.
This groundbreaking book reveals the sophisticated ecological repertoire deployed by the Khmer Krom to deal with a complex river delta, and charts their diverse adaptations to a changing environment. In addition, it provides an ethnographically grounded exposition of Khmer mythic thought that shows how the Khmer Krom position themselves within a landscape imbued with life-sustaining potential, magical sovereign power and cosmological significance. Offering a new environmental history of the Mekong River delta this book is the first to explore Southern Vietnam through the eyes of its indigenous Khmer residents.
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Mobilizing Gay Singapore: Rights & Resistance in an Authoritarian State
Lynette J. Chua
ICAS Book Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Ground-Breaking Matter Accolade
From private meetings in living rooms in the 1990s to the emergence of annual rallies and decriminalization campaigns in the past six years, Singapore’s gay rights activists have sought equality and justice in a state that does not recognise their rights to seek protection of their civil and political liberties. In her groundbreaking book, Mobilizing Gay Singapore, Lynette Chua tells the history of the gay rights movement in Singapore and asks what a social movement looks like under these circumstances. She examines the movement’s emergence, development, strategies, and tactics, as well as the roles of law and rights in social processes.
Chua uses in-depth interviews with gay activists, observations of the movement’s activities, movement documents, government statements, and media reports. She shows how activists deploy “pragmatic resistance” to gain visibility and support, and tackle political norms that suppress dissent, while avoiding direct confrontations with the state.
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The Art of Sukumar Bose: Reflections on South and Southeast Asia
Venka Purushothaman (Editor)
ICAS Book Prize 2015 ‘Social Sciences’ – Best Art Book Accolade
To commemorate the centenary of artist Sukumar Bose (1912–1986), this book attempts to take an incisive look at the artist, his works and the context of his art production in South and Southeast Asia. Bose’s art varied from the traditional to the decorative and ornamental, with a hint of the Oriental flavour. His work demonstrated traces of the Bengal School styles of Abanindranath Tagore and AR Chugtai. Be it figurative, landscape or abstract, Bose’s art synthesized the decorative elements of Indo-Persian miniatures with Chinese and Japanese techniques. In this context, his vision and passion were inspired by traditional art forms, including Ajanta, Rajput and Mughal miniatures. His incisive observations of life, people and cultures, during colonial and postcolonial India and his later sojourn into Southeast Asia, emerge as both a contested yet seamless narrative of history and hope in his art. This book is the first of its kind to document and give a critical overview of Sukumar Bose.
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