[KS] on the review of "From Tradition to Consumption"

Michael Robinson mrobinso at indiana.edu
Sun Nov 10 09:33:34 EST 2002

Dear Shin Hee:

I didn't think the review of Hart's book was particularly misleading or
negative.  Reviews are reviews and have several purposes besides informing
readers what is in the book.  If you need neutral information go to the many
publications that provide abstracts.  Reviewers have the responsibility to
be critical in the best sense of the word.  In fact, too few book reviewers
hazard criticism at all least someone's feeling might be hurt.  This is
particularly a problem in a small field where everyone knows everyone else.

Mike Robinson
----- Original Message -----
From: "Shin Hee" <earthling_too at yahoo.co.kr>
To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2002 10:25 PM
Subject: [KS] on the review of "From Tradition to Consumption"

> Dear List members,
> I would like to comment on the latest Book Review by
> Robert Hassink (Electronic file:
> http://koreaweb.ws/ks/ksr/ksr02-16.htm).  I used parts
> of the reviewed book, Dennis Hart's "From Tradition to
> Consumption" in one of my undergraduate Women's
> Studies seminar this semester.  I thought the review
> did not fairly represent the book, and more seriously,
> missed the whole point of what the book is about.
> My students loved Hart's book because the book
> provided them a rare connection between women's
> everyday life experiences and the state politics.  I
> used the book along with Anne Allison's book on
> Japanese mothers (based on her field work in Japan in
> late 80s, the same period as Hart's book focuses on)
> and three other anthologies of multicultural
> feminisms. The students found Hart's employment of
> different kinds of data (interviews, media, state
> narratives, and Korean sources) more "feminist" than
> many proclaimed Western feminists, because it showed
> he was listening to local voices and didn't attempt to
> compress real women's responses into Western
> stereotypes.  My students were surprised to see that
> what is seemingly "traditional" (e.g. urban full-time
> housewives and "salaried men" patriarchs) is not
> really a tradition, but a product of modern state
> politics and women's and men's responses to those.  I
> don't think the number of interviews should be a
> problem since the interviews were only a small
> supplementary source to support his theses.  Most of
> shortcomings that he pointed out also are not even
> correct. (For example, the author does provide up to
> date statistics and the author mentions that divorce
> rates vary according to the sources.)
> On a side note, as someone who is currently writing a
> book, I cringe to see this kind of negative and
> misleading book review on a public forum.  Who would
> want to stick her neck out and send her "baby" out to
> such unprofessional academic environments? Writing a
> book is a process that requires a lot of commitment
> and sacrifices in personal lives.  Please be
> thoughtful, fair, and constructive when you provide a
> critique. Don't trash someone else's book on feeble
> bases. Aren't book reviews supposed to inform us, busy
> academics, who cannot possibly skim all the new books
> that come out in our field every year?  The reviews
> published on this list seem to range from very helpful
> to extremely irresponsible. One of the positive
> aspects of this list is that sometimes the authors
> responded to the reviews, and thus they were not
> unilaterally victimized by a misrepresenting review.
> I hope that the list will always remain a safe place
> for people who would like to present a different view.
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