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

Yale University Press
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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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Additional Information

Publisher
Yale University Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2009
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Pages
442
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ISBN
9780300156522
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / World / Asian
Science / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
Social Science / Sociology / Rural
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This sensitive picture of the constant and circumspect struggle waged by peasants materially and ideologically against their oppressors shows that techniques of evasion and resistance may represent the most significant and effective means of class struggle in the long run.
-A major contribution to peasant studies, Malaysian studies, and the literature on revolutions and class consciousness.---Benedict R. Anderson, Cornell University
-The book is a splendid achievement. Because Scott listens closely to the villagers of Malaysia, he enormously expands our understanding of popular ideology and therefore of popular politics. And because he is also a brilliant analyst, he draws upon this concrete experience to develop a new critique of classical theories of ideology.--Frances Fox Piven, Graduate Center of the City University of New York
-An impressive work which may well become a classic.--Terence J. Byres, Times Literary Supplement
-A highly readable, contextually sensitive, theoretically astute ethnography of a moral system in change.... Weapons of the Weak is a brilliant book, combining a sure feel for the subjective side of struggle with a deft handling of economic and political trends.--John R. Bown, Journal of Peasant Studies
-A splendid book, a worthy addition to the classic studies of Malay society and of the peasantry at large.... Combines the readability of Akenfield or Pig Earth with an accessible and illuminating theoretical commentary.--A.F. Robertson, Times Higher Education Supplement
-No one who wants to understand peasant society, in or out of Southeast Asia, or theories of change, should fail to read [this book].--Daniel S. Lev, Journal of Asian Studies
-A moving account of the poor's refusal to accept the terms of their subordination.... Disposes of the belief that theoretical sophistication and intelligible prose are somehow at odds.--Ramachandra Guha, Economic and Political Weekly
-A seminally important commentary on the state of peasant studies and the global literature.... This enormously rich work in Asian and comparative studies is... an essential contribution to participatory development theory and practice.--Guy Gran, World Development
James C. Scott is professor of political science at Yale University.
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