- Series: Contemporary Asia in the World
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 21, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780231171342
- ISBN-13: 978-0231171342
- ASIN: 023117134X
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,325,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (Contemporary Asia in the World) Hardcover – May 12, 2015
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Marching Through Suffering is a really moving book. It is partly the subject matter, to be sure, but it is also Sandra Fahy's sensitivity to what her subjects are saying and their psychological state. That is what ethnography should be doing for us. (Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego)
Sandra Fahy offers a unique, penetrating, and informative ethnography of one of the most opaque societies in modern history. Few scholars have sought to understand the humanity that survives, and sometimes thrives in its own way, beneath the oppressive state structure―an important contribution to the expert literature, yet accessible to the general reader. (Victor Cha, Georgetown University)
This book is an extraordinary contribution to the famine literature. Sandra Fahy's analysis of the North Korea famine draws extensively on her interviews with survivors, which gives this narrative a unique depth and credibility. These personal accounts lift the veil of secrecy and reveal North Koreans as real people with a healthily skeptical sense of humor, even in extreme adversity, not as mute shadow-puppets mindlessly manipulated by their dour leaders. No book I have ever read conveys the mundane horror of a famine so vividly, while retaining academic rigor and advancing our understanding of this famine's complex causes and consequences. (Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies, author of Theories of Famine and editor of The New Famines)
Subtly and sensitively, the author examines how people tried to cope with and make sense of their lives as they ran out of food in a society where words such as famine and starvation were taboo. (Times Literary Supplement)
A rich study of coping, resilience, hope, loss, and transition. (Human Rights Review)
Sandra Fahy's, Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, makes an original contribution to the literature on the 1990s famine in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. (David Hawk Human Rights Quarterly)
Sandra Fahy's fascinating work... achieves something of much depth and empirical utility to the scholar. (Pacific Affairs)
Fascinating... An important work that helps provide a far more nuanced view of the complexities of life in North Korea than that found in the media. (CHOICE)
What emerges is a people-centered story, a tale that empowers rather than victimizes. It is, the reviewers unequivocally conclude, a harrowing but powerful read. (Sino NK)
With its nuanced understanding of North Koreans and elegant prose, Fahy's work will certainly find a place on the syllabi of many future coures on North Korea. (BAKS Papers)
About the Author
Sandra Fahy is associate professor of anthropology at Sophia University in Tokyo. She is also the author of Dying for Rights: Putting North Korea’s Human Rights Abuses on the Record (Columbia, 2019).
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As a dissertation rather than a book, the author wants to make sure the examiners get the point, so, as circus-tent evangelicals are wont to do, she tells us what she’s gonna tell us, then she tells us, and then she tells us what she told us.
Every subject is examined to the point where there is no meaningful aspect remaining unexamined and often enough the reader is presented with some aspects far beyond any meaningful connection to the subject. Are we reading for information or perhaps is the author trying to show she is capable of finding import where none others would? It doesn’t help in an answer to that question that the book is repetitive, both in simply failed proof-reading (pgs 151-152) and I lack of editorial supervision (Pg 185, Victor Cha). There are more examples…
But here are reasons I found to like the book:
Pg 57: There was an attempted coup, which, not surprisingly went nowhere. I did not know there was one.
Pg 66: “Intellectuals” were more often the victims of starvation as they didn’t wish to sully their hands in pursuit of filthy lucre, which tells you something about “intellectuals” in NK and possibly elsewhere.
Pg 77: China is seen as a wealthy nation.
Pg 89: The introduction of the concept of “performance speech”; that collection of lies and circumlocution which is required to exist in a hell-hole such as North Korea.
Pg 131: The Nork government “[failed] to provide a legal means of sustaining life”. This is one of the most important comments in the entire book: The NK government made starvation the only legal option to the population.
There are more and some quite as insightful such as the “legal means” or “performance speech” comments. But you can see the list above covers a bit more than half the book, and in between those (rare) insights, you are given (Pg 101) “The accounts point to a human need, regardless of conditions, to articulate observed incongruities and receive confirmation of what is observed”, which I’m pretty sure means folks are pleased when others agree with them.
On the same page, the reader finds:
“An active participation in ambiguous, rather than direct, forms of articulation that “affords the opportunity for realizing that an accepted pattern has no necessity” and that the “particular ordering of experience may be arbitrary and subjective.”
Unfortunately, there are far more of such comments. It makes for a difficult read.
Marching Through Suffering is highly recommended for scholars of North Korea, but also for those who want to understand what people are capable of in the face of incredible challenges.