In 1876, Englishman Henry Wickham smuggled rubber tree seeds out of the Amazon ultimately dooming Brazil’s rubber boom. The stolen seeds were successfully germinated, leading to the British establishing rubber plantations in Malaya that broke Brazil’s monopoly and sent the states of Amazonas and Pará into rapid decline. The Opera House in Manaus, capital of Amazonas, is a melancholy reminder of the luxury rubber profits once afforded. Much as rubber seeds once were, genetically-engineered (or modified, ie GM) corn seeds have become valuable enough in the 21st century that some will resort to anything to get them. 

It somehow always feels in season to ponder when the Chinese Communist Party will have to grapple with a real challenge to its rule, and to cogitate over whether democratic governance is in China’s future. In Democracy in China: The Coming Crisis, Jiwei Ci, a philosophy professor at the University of Hong Kong, constructs an elaborate but cogent argument about how the CCP will only overcome its illegitimacy, along with other tears in the national fabric, by choosing to usher in political democracy, a change that Ci declares is “of dire necessity rather than moral luxury.”

For those of us who live in Hong Kong, the past six-eight months have been a roller-coaster. The (it is almost now universally accepted) ill-advised extradition bill—the proximate cause of the discontent that has roiled the city—has been withdrawn, but too late to stem the tide of protest, which took on a momentum of its own and which has been a matter of almost daily conversation, argument, newspaper commentary and, for no small number, involvement.

The Philippine economy has, relative to both its history and many other parts of the world, seen something of a recent boom. Yet although the poverty rate has plunged by about a third in the three years to 2018, Filipinos leaving their country for a future abroad still abound. Longtime New York Times reporter Jason DeParle explores global migration through a tightly-woven biography of a Filipino migrant family in A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century.

The Subject(s) of Human Rights: Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique, Cathy J Schlund-Vials (ed), Guy Beauregard (ed), Hsiu-chuan Lee (ed) (Temple University Press, December 2019)
The Subject(s) of Human Rights: Crises, Violations, and Asian/American Critique, Cathy J Schlund-Vials (ed), Guy Beauregard (ed), Hsiu-chuan Lee (ed) (Temple University Press, December 2019)

Human rights violations have always been part of Asian American studies. From Chinese immigration restrictions, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, yellow peril characterizations, and recent acts of deportation and Islamophobia, Asian Americans have consistently functioned as subordinated “subjects” of human rights violations. The Subject(s) of Human Rights brings together scholars from North America and Asia to recalibrate these human rights concerns from both sides of the Pacific.