What explains Island Southeast Asia's “reversal of fortune” from one of the precolonial world's most economically thriving and populated areas to one of today's largest exporters of surplus cheap labor? In The Making of a Periphery: How Island Southeast Asia Became a Mass Exporter of Labor, social historian Ulbe Bosma searches for the “pre-colonial and colonial roots of postcolonial global inequalities” by complicating dependency and world-systems theories (19). These theories blame Southeast Asia's underdevelopment on its peripheralization and status as a commodity exporter for capitalist and industrializing countries in western Europe and North America. By contrast, Bosma argues that the roots of Island Southeast Asia's reversal of fortune can be found in the region's history of high and sudden demographic growth and its modes of labor control, specifically bonded labor embedded within patron-client relationships.

This reversal of fortune happened not in the seventeenth century, as suggested by historian Anthony...

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