Tag Archives: book review

The Triple Package Review: Debunking Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld

In their newly released book, The Triple Package, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld propose that some groups are naturally better than the others due to certain cultural traits they possess. I was on HuffPost Live to discuss the book, and to debunk its central notions, which you can watch here:

If the embed link is not working, you can also watch it here.

Some quick points I’d like to reiterate that are also mentioned in the video:

1. Amazed about the publicity and attention that this book is receiving because it is saying nothing new

Whiteness and white supremacy has been predicated on classifying and ranking racial and cultural groups over history, and demarcating some of these groups as less than the other. And discriminating against the people who are supposedly lower on the totem pole. It’s just the same old racism, repackaged as the triple threat.

2. The Triple Package is ahistorical.

Speaking of history, I think the arguments that Chua and Rubenfeld make are very ahistorical. If hard work is the way to success in this country, then descendants of slaves, and migrant workers should be the richest and most successful people. Why are they locked out of prosperity? Rather, Rubenfield and Chua gloss over the fact that the wealth of some groups has been based on the exploitation, looting, plundering over other racial and ethnic groups – the indigenous people were mostly wiped out, black people were enslaving, and now incarcerating at highest numbers. What’s most problematic is that it provides a justification for racial and cultural discrimination – some groups of people are just not as good as others.

3. Perpetuates the model minority myth, which then justifies anti-black racism

Indian population in the U.S. tends to be higher-income because they mostly migrated as “high-skill” workers, and already had education and class privilege that allowed them to migrate and achieve success in U.S. However, there are over 300 million Indians living in poverty in India. And then there are many Indians who are actually not doing so well in the U.S. How does Chua account for that? She just appears to be perpetuating the model minority myth – which is predicated on anti-black racism. These cultural groups are “making it” in America so why can’t black people do so? That’s the implication of The Triple Package.

4. Dangerously suggests that we have moved beyond racism, which is simply not true

I think success is mostly systemic. It is predicated by affinity and closeness to whiteness, environmental factors such as the neighborhood someone grows up in, and class—the wealth of parents – and social connections that someone has as a result of their class and race.

For more critiques of the book, check out this post by friend, Scot Nakagawa.

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Filed under Desi, Ethnic Studies, Moron of the Week

Book Review – Beyond Walls: Reinventing the Canada-United States Borderlands

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I just finished a book review for the Journal of Landscape Research. The book is aptly titled ‘Beyond Walls: Reinventing the Canada-United States Borderlands‘ because the entire book is a complete reinvention, devoid of much historical understanding or exploration of how the Canada-U.S. border is so ‘benign.’ Of course, I was nicer in my book review parts of which I can share:

Konrad and Nicol claim that their purpose is “not to attempt a comprehensive history in a book devoted largely to contemporary border issues…[but to] entice readers to search beyond the national narratives…” (64). While the last chapter on transnationalism provides some narratives of people living in the borderlands, it leaves out much of the complications from the new security border. For example, the border fence between Canada and the United States in Derby Line, Vermont is spreading hatred and discontent among residents as they can no longer see long-time neighbors.

Additionally, while recognizing that it is futile to talk about the border without talking about immigration issues (210), the authors shy away from delving into this homeland security imperative, which has completely transformed the cultural landscape. The fact that Canada and the United States do not dub each other as ‘foreign’ is worth further historical examination than the book provides.

Since the evolving borderlands are not cloaked by violence and anguish of power struggle and the changes are aligned in the interests if both countries, Konrad and Nicol conclude that the Canada-United States border offers a model of future borderlands.

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Filed under Education, Political Theory

Journal of Peasant Studies – Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India

This book review should appear in the upcoming edition of the Journal of Peasant Studies. I cannot publish the whole bit here even though it is my work, since I signed over licensing rights but it should be available through your college databases.

I don’t know whether I will have time for more book reviews in the future or if it is an endeavor that I am any good at, but it was worth experimenting and I am not too displeased with the results. (The Publisher ain’t complaining; why should I)?

Review: Vinayak Chaturvedi, Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, University of California Press, 2007.

by Prerna Lal

Small excerpt:

The untold narrative of peasant classes marginalized from the promise of the postcolonial nation-state is a popular subject of research and criticism among subaltern scholars seeking to pose ruptures and discontinuities in the hegemonic history of Indian nationalism.

In Peasant Pasts: History and Memory in Western India, Chaturvedi embarks on this project after a chance discovery while pouring through archives on the agrarian economy of Gujarat: he discovers notes by the district magistrate about the historically-celebrated Patidars forcibly extracting labor from the Dhalara peasants in Kheda. Upon further investigation, Chaturvedi discovers that the Dharalas were considered a ‘criminal class’ by both the colonialists and Indian nationalists through the passage of the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and given their treatment, it came as no surprise that the Dharalas opposed Patidar-led nationalist politics along with colonialism.

Enamored by the prospects of an untold history of peasant pasts, the central thesis of this scholarship revolves around the actions, practices and discourses of the Dharala peasants before the emergence of an Indian nation-state. Chaturvedi claims that the Dharalas were political in their own right and their opposition to Patidar nationalism allied with Gandhi did not denote that these peasants lacked an understanding of politics or an inability to imagine political community. On the contrary, through rigorous fieldwork and archival study, Chaturvedi lays out a fragmentary and episodic history of the Dharala peasants that establishes their broad political discourses, complex understandings of political community, and subsequent resistance to both colonialism and nationalism.

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Filed under Desi, Ethnic Studies, Nationalism, Political Theory