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HIST A390: Global anarchism, the Scott Debate and Zomia


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The Scott Debate and Statelessness

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HIST A390: Global anarchism, the Scott Debate and Zomia

  1. 1. Global Anarchism: Communes, Cooperation, and Communism The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia
  2. 2. The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia A history of those who “got away” Or Head for them thar hills!
  3. 3. Zomia geographical term for “ all the lands at altitudes above roughly three hundred meters all the way from the Central Highlands of Vietnam to northeastern India and traversing five Southeast Asian nations (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma) and four provinces of China (Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi Sichuan).” (Scott, ix) Some 2.5 million square kilometers with about one hundred million minority peoples (Scott, ix) “Southeast Asian mainland massif”
  4. 4. Zomia as a geographical term (2002) created from Zomi, a term for highlander common to several related Tibeto-Burman languages spoken in the India-Bangladesh-Burma border area. Highlander v. lowlander distinction embodied in term Transnational v. national distinction embodied in this tem About vast region and not “created nations” About periphery v. center About state centric v. people focused Those who evaded the state v. those who came under its control
  5. 5. Resources, economic relationships, and the State: Rice crop near Ambositra, Madagascar, 2007
  6. 6. The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia Scott’s thesis “simple, suggestive, and controversial. Zomiza is the largest region of the world whose peoples have not yet been fully incorporated into nation-states” (Scott, ix) Scott argues that self-governing peoples were the vast majority of humanity until fairly recently and that the “hill peoples” of Zomia have used a variety of strategies to escape low land states. Used conscious strategies to escape slavery, taxes, conscription, and a host of state demands. Chose to “evade” the state and to embrace “statelessness” or “self-barbarism”
  7. 7. The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia Evaders of the Modern State continue in efforts Nation-state “won” (especially after 1945) but at what cost? Remain “zones of refuge” and “shatter zones” States use “strategies of ‘engulfment’” (military, technologies) Selling of the state: Created “hegemonic narrative” of state as embodiment of progress/civilization/enlightenment/order but flipside to this story (Scott, 31) Living outside of the state a viable alternative, people have chosen to be ungoverned “The larger the pile of rubble you leave behind, the larger your place in the historical record.” (Scott, 33) “The job of peasants, you might say, is to stay out of the archives.” (Scott, 34)
  8. 8. A scene depicting the Chinese Empire (Qing Dynasty)'s campaign against the Miao people at Lancaoping in 1795.
  9. 9. The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia State needs population (“manpower”) but population can deny the state itself State appropriates and integrates resources, brings in periphery to center to serve interests, a state hates a vacuum States colonize not just people but nature. Landscape transformed, remade, ordered States dislike disorder (diversity) strive for uniformity (“sameness”): Language, law, identity Zomians resist incorporation, “zone of cultural refusal” "Departure Herald” (1425-1435 AD
  10. 10. “Barbarism by Design”: About choice to be stateless Hill peoples made choices to: • Move from valleys to high lands to be out of state’s reach): Location key! • Engage in ”escape agriculture” or forest farming (swidden agriculture)—roots v. rice (grain/rice production visible hence taxable) • “Forget” history (be outside of the state’s narrative). Travel light: “They have just as much history as they require.” (Scott, 330) • “Forget” writing and loss of literacy (record keeping a tool of the state and oral tradition more flexible, transportable, democratic—no “orthodox text”) • Be “not-a-state subject” instead of a state subject
  11. 11. Japanese mountain yam
  12. 12. Terrace rice fields in Yunnan Province, China 2003 Reject mono-culturalism: Padi-states foster uniformity in crops, work, leisure, identity. Easier to monitor, assess, tax. Diseases spread more readily.
  13. 13. Rice paddies in Dili/East Timor (2011) but what is happening in the higher elevations?
  14. 14. Self-Autonomy and Statelessness • Three themes in hill peoples’ narratives: equality, autonomy, mobility (Scott, 217) • States have rulers and hill peoples have leaders? (Scott, 113) • States make tribes rather than tribes make states (Scott, 257) and tribes require chiefs • “states make wars and wars make states” (Tilly, in Scott, 146)
  15. 15. Rural landscape, Shan State, Burma, 2001
  16. 16. States and Nationalism • “Stateless” through war or by choice very different. • “Ethnic Cleansing” Nationalism and patriotism?
  17. 17. Mae La camp for Burmese (Myanmar) refugees, Tak, Thailand, with over 700,000 refugees (2007)
  18. 18. Rohingya refugees boarding boats to flee to Bangladesh (Sept. 2017). Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times
  19. 19. Karen boy with traditional costume for Karen New Year, 2013 The “Scott Debate” and a place called Zomia Scott concludes: “The valley imagination has its history wrong. Hill peoples are not pre- anything. In fact, they are better understood as post-irrigated rice, postsedentary, postsubject, and perhaps postliterate. They represent, in the longue durée, a reactive and purposeful statelessness of peoples who have adapted to a world of states while remaining outside their firm grasp.” (Scott, 337) What makes it an “anarchist history”?