Bishop, Ryan 1959-
Bishop, Ryan 1959-
PERSONAL: Born 1959. Education: Rice University, Ph.D., 1992.
ADDRESSES: Home and office—Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, National University of Singapore, Blk AS5, 7 Arts Link, Singapore 117570. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: National University of Singapore, Department of English Language and Literature, associate professor.
AWARDS, HONORS: Three Fulbright fellowships.
(Editor and contributor, with Lillian S. Robinson) Night Market: Sexual Cultures and the Thai Economic Miracle, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor and contributor, with John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo) Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes Routledge (New York, NY), 2003.
(Editor and contributor, with John Phillips and Wei-Wei Yeo) Beyond Description: Singapore Space Historicity, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.
Also coauthor, with John Phillips, of Unhinging the Senses, Harvard University Press. Contributor to books, including Transnational Prostitution: Changing Global Patterns, edited by Susanne Thorbek and Bandana Pattanaik, Zed Books (London, England), 2002; Asian Diasporas and Cultures: Globalization, Hybridity, Intertextuality, edited by Robbie Goh and Shawn Wong, Hong Kong University (Hong Kong, China), 2003; and Islam and the West, Conflict and Dialogue: September 11 and Beyond, edited by Stephanie Rupp, University Scholars Occasional Papers (Singapore), 2003.
Author of numerous articles for professional journals, including, Theory, Culture, and Society, Body and Society, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Australasian Journal of American Studies, and Journal of the Kafka Society of America. Coeditor, with John Armitage and Douglas Kellner, of Cultural Politics.
SIDELIGHTS: A cultural anthropologist with training in literature, Ryan Bishop has spent time teaching and studying in Yugoslavia, Thailand, and Singapore as a Fulbright fellow. He is also the co-author, with Lillian S. Robinson, of Night Market: Sexual Cultures and the Thai Economic Miracle. The book focuses on the theory that "sexual tourism" has led to the modernization of Thailand's economy. As noted by Kathleen M. Adams in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, "For several decades the tourism industry has been Thailand's major source of foreign exchange and international sex tourism has been the cornerstone of that industry."
Organized into eight thematic chapters, the book includes discussions of such issues as how various publications, from Western academic journals to the popular press, depict Thai tourism and how government brochures and tourism campaigns may have helped bolster sexual tourism. The authors, who interviewed sex workers in the bars of Bangkok, also explore the complicity of the U.S. government in the widespread sexual trafficking of Thai women and girls, going back several decades to the perceived need of U.S. troops fighting in Vietnam for a safe haven for rest and relaxation in the early 1970s. "International pressures did not establish the sex industry in Thailand (prostitution became legal in 1902), but brought it to levels that resulted in enormous economic returns," observed Michael H. Merson in Lancet. The authors also create a psychological profile of typical sex tourists based on Internet postings by sex tourists, interviews with prostitutes and others in Thailand, and other sources. In addition, the authors explain their views and theories on why a more open debate in Thailand and elsewhere has not occurred over the issue of that country's prostitution and sex tourism trade. The co-authors argue that in many ways the topic remains taboo, partly because of Thailand's historical repressive political regimes.
Some reviewers felt that Bishop and Robinson are not comprehensive enough in approaching their topic. Writing in Library Journal, Donald Clay Johnson noted that later sections of Night Market "rely overwhelmingly on reviewing the writings of others." Johnson also maintained that the co-authors offer only a simplistic solution to the problem, failing to inquire into the issue of Thai men who go to sex workers and choosing to focus solely on Western tourists. Women's Review of Books contributor Carole Anne Taylor noted that Bishop and Robinson "undertake a somewhat patchwork form of explanation, moving between broad historical overviews and close readings of the myriad 'traditions' that relentlessly conflate sexual and economic value." However, Taylor also noted, "Their collaboration allows often brilliant insight into the systematic alienation that brings together tourist-consumers of pleasure and dehumanized sex workers comprising 'human capital.'" Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Brendan Luyt commented on what he felt were several shortcomings in the book, including a lack of evidence to support a relationship between the Thai economy and its sex industry. He added, "In conclusion, while I applaud the aim of Bishop and Robinson to provide an approach to Thailand's sex industry that combines economics and culture, I feel that their work as it presently stands has some serious flaws. These mar what would otherwise be an excellent and well written book."
Other reviewers, however, generally praised the book's approach to tackling a multifaceted issue. A Publish-ers Weekly contributor noted that the authors "come at their complex subject from an invigorating variety of angles—historical, economic, psychosexual." Mercer concluded, "Together they have written a powerful book that illustrates how the unlikely combination of sexual behaviour and economic development on an international scale has had unforeseen impact on the Thai nation and its citizens." And Kathleen M. Adams noted in her review in the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies that the authors' backgrounds—Robinson is an expert in feminist studies and Marxism—"have enabled them to transcend the limitations of prior studies and produce a rigorous, multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary collaborative analysis of Bangkok sex tourism."
Bishop also coedited and contributed to Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes. The book explores the notion of the city as a stage for coexisting yet seemingly contradictory historical and cultural contexts. A Singapore Journal of Tropical Geology reviewer stated that the book "is without a doubt one of the more remarkable urban books I have read in the last few years." One chapter of Postcolonial Urbanism discusses cities and large-scale catastrophes of both the natural and unnatural variety. In the wake of terrorist attacks aimed at urban centers and the 2004 tsunami that claimed over 200,000 lives in Southeast Asia, this chapter seems especially prescient.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Journal of Contemporary Asia, May 1999, Brendan Luyt, review of Night Market: Sexual Cultures and the Thai Economic Miracle, p. 248.
Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, February, 2002, Kathleen M. Adams, review of Night Market, p. 188.
Lancet, July 18, 1998, Michael H. Merson, review of Night Market, p. 246.
Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Donald Clay Johnson, review of Night Market, p. 101.
Publishers Weekly, December 8, 1997, review of Night Market, p. 65.
Singapore Journal of Tropical Geology, Volume 25, number 3, review of Postcolonial Urbanism: Southeast Asian Cities and Global Processes, p. 364.
Women's Review of Books, January, 1999, Carole Anne Taylor, review of Night Market, p. 20.
National University of Singapore, http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/ (January 31, 2005), profile of Bishop.