Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I write in my capacity as newly appointed book review editor for the Thailand-Laos-Cambodia Studies Group and New Mandala. I am grateful to Justin McDaniel and Andrew Walker for both conceiving of an ambitious effort to commission and make available on-line reviews of new scholarship on Mainland Southeast Asia and for offering me the chance to work with them in this effort. I am looking forward very much to the opportunity to work with many others of you in realizing Justin’s and Andrew’s fine idea and in creating a dynamic forum for reviews that will enrich the study of Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, Southwest China, Northeast India, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

This message has two purposes.

The first is to outline in general terms some practical matters. When, in September, Justin and Andrew announced their plans, they suggested that original reviews would simultaneously go out through the TLC list and be posted on New Mandala roughly every fortnight. My goal, then, is to run some 20-25 reviews a year. Ideally, reviews ought to be between 800 and 1800 words in length, though exceptions for reviews of more than one title will be possible. My hope is that reviewers will be able to “turn around” their reviews within five or six weeks of receipt of the title to be reviewed. Editing of reviews will be light, and final versions will be confirmed with reviewers. Less practically, my hope is that TLC/NM book reviews will reflect a spirit not so much of “gotcha” criticism for criticism’s sake but rather of highlighting and introducing some of the fundamental, important questions, themes, and approaches in the study of Mainland Southeast Asia and its constituent parts. We have a unique opportunity here to bring to the study of the Southeast Asian mainland a rigorous interest in a set of common concerns of the sort that long marked the study of Maritime Southeast Asia. That opportunity also includes introducing students to the field, in the hope that this introduction will lead to their joining us as colleagues before long.

The second purpose of this message is in many ways the more important one, at least for now. Justin, Andrew, and I would like to create a roster of fellow scholars of Mainland Southeast Asia. I ask interested prospective reviewers then to e-mail me in the weeks ahead with a few lines of the areas in which they would like to review books and with their postal addresses. Andrew will soon create a section of the NM site listing books available for review. Interested reviewers will then be able to contact me to arrange mailing of titles to be reviewed. Justin has had great success in the past commissioning book reviews from a well developed roster of reviewers. So we are eager to begin assembling our own such roster as soon as possible. As scholars who have focused in our work primarily on Thailand (and Laos), we are also particularly eager for the help and participation of colleagues in the worlds of Burmese and Vietnamese studies; do forgive the cross-posting of today’s message, then.

As time passes, we will doubtless encounter wrinkles in the way that we commission and edit reviews and indeed get books into the hands of reviewers. This endeavor is, that is, a work in progress in not only intellectual but also logistical terms. But, with Justin and Andrew, I look forward very much to working with many of you in seeing that this endeavor live up to its great potential to have a substantial impact on the way in which Mainland Southeast Asia is understood and studied.

For now, with thanks and kind regards,

Mike Montesano
([email protected])
ISEAS, Singapore