Lecture: The Art of Not Being Governed; A History of State Evasion

Stellan Vinthagen April 29th, 2013

Welcome to an unique opportunity

A world-leading resistance researcher gives a public lecture at the University of Gothenburg

The Art of Not Being Governed; A History of State Evasion

James C. Scott,
Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at Yale University

At 14.00-16.00, May 14, 2013, at room 220, Annedalsseminariet, School of Global Studies, Campus Linné, University of Gothenburg.

This lecture deals with the challenging reinterpretation Scott makes of Southeast Asian ‘ethnic’ groups or ‘indigenous’ as stateless resistance cultures, rather than fixed and traditional identities. In his book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2009), Scott wrote: ‘Zomia’ is a new name for virtually all the lands lying above roughly 300 meters all the way from the Central Highlands of Vietnam to northeastern India and traversing six Southeast Asian nations. It is an expanse of 2.5 million square kilometers containing about 100 million minority peoples of truly bewildering ethnic and linguistic complexity. My thesis is simple, suggestive, and controversial. Zomia is the largest remaining region of the world whose peoples have not yet been fully incorporated into nation states. These hill peoples are best understood as runaway, fugitive, maroon communities who have, over the course of two millennia, been fleeing the oppressions of state-making projects in the valleys slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. Virtually everything about these people’s livelihoods, social organization, ideologies, and even their illiteracy, can be read as strategic choices designed to keep the state at arms length. Their physical dispersion in rugged terrain, their mobility, their cropping practices, their kinship structure, their pliable ethnic identities, and their devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders are designed to avoid incorporation into states.

A limited number of places will be available at a restaurant afterwards for the post-seminar social gathering from 16:30. Please register at stellan.vinthagen@resistancestudies.org

Map/info of the Campus area: http://www.globalstudies.gu.se/english/about+us/addresses- communication/

James C. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science, professor of anthropology, and codirector of the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. (For more info on Scott, see the next page)

All identities, without exception, have been socially constructed: the Han, the Burman, the American, the Danish, all of them…. To the degree that the identity is stigmatized by the larger state or society, it is likely to become for many a resistant and defiant identity. Here invented identities combine with self-making of a heroic kind, in which such identifications become a badge of honor. (pp. xii-iii.)

A short bio

James C. Scott is s Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at Yale University, and the director of the Program in Agrarian Studies. Scott’s work focuses on the ways that subaltern people resist dominance. His original interest was in peasants in the Kedah state of Malaysia. During the Vietnam War, he took an interest in Vietnam and wrote The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Subsistence and Rebellion in Southeast Asia (1976). In Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (1985) Scott expanded his theories to peasants in other parts of the world, and in Domination and the Arts of Resistance: The Hidden Transcript of Subordinate Groups (1990) he argued that all subordinate groups resist in ways similar to peasants. Scott’s theories are often contrasted with Gramscian ideas about hegemony. Against Gramsci, Scott argues that the everyday resistance of subalterns shows that they have not consented to dominance.

Selected bibliography:

  • Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play. Princeton University Press, 2012.
  • The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press, 2009.
  • Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press, 1998.
  • Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Yale University Press, 1990.
  • Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press,

    1985.

  • The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia. Yale

    University Press, 1979.

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