21 June, 2021

Why Do Tigers’ Tails Twitch?

A new economic history of Asia springs forth on several daring proposals. Annual visitors to Tokyo’s Yasukuni shrine will be most pleased, though.

Photograph by Getty Images
Why Do Tigers’ Tails Twitch?

This book is breathtaking in its sweep and coverage, not just in length. Prasenjit Basu is a Singapore-based academic and com­mentator who is intimately familiar with all of Asia—East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. In six well-researched cha­pters, with a prologue and an epilogue, it tells “Asia’s story in the 20th century”, about the post-colonial rise of a continent. There are several steps in the argument. First, “this book seeks to tell the story of the renaissance of Asia during the twentieth century”. One would expect this to be a well-chronicled tale, but it is a story that has hardly ever been told collectively. A single narrative about Asia is still considered inappropriate, bec­ause the Western media has led the world to believe that Asia is riven with deep-seated cultural differences that make it something less than a continent. Most people will instinctively accept the heterogeneity proposition. However, this is a serious book and the contention is not one that is asserted without...

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