Chapter 34: East Asia
J.S. Eades East Asia (including both Northeast and Southeast Asia) presents a particularly complex arena for the investigation of economic phenomena by anthropologists for a number of reasons. First, many countries in the region have experienced their own versions of the ‘economic miracle’, with double-digit economic growth rates propelling some of them from the ranks of Third- to First-World countries. Second, this process has resulted in considerable economic diversity, both in production, exchange and consumption practices, and in levels of income. Economic growth has not produced uniform prosperity across the region, and even in Tokyo, the richest city in Japan, unemployed and homeless casual workers live rough in the major railway stations, underpasses and parks. Third, the region has also seen the impact of political ideologies, Stalinist, Maoist and capitalist, which have helped complicate the picture. Fourth, the literatures on countries like China and Japan are now vast and the boundaries between disciplines have become increasingly fuzzy, as anthropology itself has become more interdisciplinary. Finally, Western anthropologists are finding that they are not alone: they are increasingly having to take account of the vast mass of research being carried out by local scholars and published in Asian languages. This complexity raises the question of how to cover the main themes and issues in the current literature in a chapter of this length. One possibility would be to divide the field in terms of the various theoretical schools within economic anthropology, such as rational actor, political economy, substantivist and cultural approaches,...
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