The Art of Not Being Governed: Explorations in State Evasion


Location: Hesburgh Center, Room C103

James Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and professor of anthropology, Yale University

This talk will focus on the stateless people who reside in Zomia, a large mountainous region the size of Europe formed by border portions of seven Asian countries: Cambodia, China, India, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These people and their ancestors have consciously fled organized states to escape conscription, taxes, corvee labor, epidemics, enslavement, and warfare. Dispersed over a rugged landscape, they employ agricultural and pastoral practices that make them highly mobile. Pliable ethnic identities promote acceptance and plurality; devotion to prophetic millenarian leaders builds solidarity. A mostly oral culture allows the people to reinvent their histories and genealogies to suit their needs. Although time may be against them, they have made being stateless an art form.

The logic of statelessness in Zomia can be applied to reactions to state-making across the globe historically.

Sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Department of Anthropology