The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia

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Yale University Press, 2009 - 442 pages
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For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them--slavery, conscription, taxes, corvee labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an anarchist history, is the first-ever examination of the huge literature on state-making whose author evaluates why people would deliberately and reactively remain stateless. Among the strategies employed by the people of Zomia to remain stateless are physical dispersion in rugged terrain; agricultural practices that enhance mobility; pliable ethnic identities; devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders; and maintenance of a largely oral culture that allows them to reinvent their histories and genealogies as they move between and around states. In accessible language, James Scott, recognized worldwide as an eminent authority in Southeast Asian, peasant, and agrarian studies, tells the story of the peoples of Zomia and their unlikely odyssey in search of self-determination. He redefines our views on Asian politics, history, demographics, and even our fundamental ideas about what constitutes civilization, and challenges us with a radically different approach to history that presents events from the perspective of stateless peoples and redefines state-making as a form of internal colonialism. This new perspective requires a radical reevaluation of the civilizational narratives of the lowland states. Scott's work on Zomia represents a new way to think of area studies that will be applicable to other runaway, fugitive, and marooned communities, be they Gypsies, Cossacks, tribes fleeing slave raiders, Marsh Arabs, or San-Bushmen.

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An examination of the upland region of southeast Asia (which Scott calls "Zomia"), seen as the world's largest Maroon region. Scott defines the region as one which has resisted governance and explains ... Read full review


An Introduction to Zomia
Zones of Governance and Appropriation
Slavery and Irrigated Rice
4 Civilization and the Unruly
The Peopling of the Hills
The Culture and Agriculture of Escape
6½ Orality Writing and Texts
A Radical Constructionist Case
8 Prophets of Renewal
9 Conclusion

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About the author (2009)

James C. Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science, professor of anthropology, and codirector of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. His books include "Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed," "Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts," and most recently, "The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia." He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a part-time mediocre farmer and beekeeper.

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