It helps to come to Islands & Cultures—a collection of essays focusing largely if not exclusively, as goes the subtitle, on “sustainability”—with at least some background on Polynesia, not because such background is necessary to follow the arguments in the various papers, but because otherwise one will be spending a great deal of time on the Internet chasing down one interesting reference after another.
When the Taliban took over Kabul in the summer of 2021, I—like many people around the world—kept asking such questions as: How did it all come about? What do we know about Afghanistan other than from a geopolitically inflected perspective mostly dominated by the US interests?
Anyone who has gone even slightly off the beaten track in Southeast Asia is likely to have come across “sea people”, which go by various names: Orang Laut, Sama Bajau, Chao Le, “Sea Gypsies”. These are the people covered in Sea Nomads of Southeast Asia From the Past to the Present, a recently-published collection of (very) academic essays.
Most urban populations in the world are far removed from the unfolding and the consequences of global warming. Therefore, their reflections on global warming tend to revolve around corporate greed, economic policies and the nature of expectations people have from development. In her book, Caring for Glaciers: Land, Animals, and Humanity in the Himalayas, Karine Gagné turns to the community of elderly farmers and herders in Ladakh to understand how they make sense of the melting of the glaciers, a phenomenon directly visible to the people living there. She finds that their responses to questions about the melting of the glaciers invariably involve the words “One day the Pakistanis came …”.
Society consists of more than just people; many studies of society, indeed, focus on people’s interaction with material things. Fewer delve into the relationships between people and animals.
Well-researched and easy to follow, Patcharin Lapanum’s Love, Money and Obligation: Transnational Marriage in a Northeastern Thai Village is a powerful reminder of how interconnected the world has become—and how love can emerge between the most disparate of individuals.