Pluses and minuses

from Press News, posted 03/07/2011 - 17:19

 Last week I wrote of the frisson of receiving a new book review in the post: shall our morning coffee be sweetened with praise or will the vented spleen of an irritated reviewer make the coffee undrinkable? Today’s coffee was less sweet but it was far from undrinkable.

Writing in the last year’s volume (no. 98) of the Journal of the Siam Society, Patrick Jory dishes out praise and a little criticism of Johan Fischer’s Proper Islamic Consumption:

Of the thousands of scholarly articles and books and academic seminars that have been devoted to the study of Islam in Southeast Asia in recent years, attention has focused mostly on issues concerning religious revivalism, politics, education, history, law, gender, morality, finance and economics, and of course, extremism and terrorism. It is surprising, therefore, that much less attention has been given to the activity that most Southeast Asian Muslims, like their counterparts in other religions, spend an ever-increasing amount of their time doing today: shopping and consuming. It is this activity that is the subject of Johan Fischer’s original study of Islam and consumerism in Malaysia. …

The focus of Fischer’s study is a number of Malay middle-class families living in the suburbs of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. The anthropology of suburbia in Southeast Asia lags far behind the anthropology of village society, so Fischer’s attention to suburban life in Malaysia is another novel and welcome feature of the book. …

This book intends to make a theoretical contribution to the scholarly literature on consumption in Asia. Some readers will be distracted by the liberal use of theoretical jargon that derives from the outer reaches of cultural studies. A more readable book could indeed have been written shorn of these theoretical excesses. Yet if the reader is willing to plough through occasional paragraphs of admittedly challenging jargon it will be well worth the effort required to gain the many original and important insights that Fischer makes into consumption and religion in Malaysia.

Thanks, Patrick, that is good food for thought. I am almost tempted to add a quip about how properly Islamic it is.


Press news

  • Aug. 9 2019
    Carol Ann Boshier's book 'Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society,1910-1935' has been shortlisted for the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2019. Congratulations!

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