Zomia, a zone of resistance: The last great enclosure movement and stateless peoples in Southeast Asia
Professor James C. Scott
Wednesday, 21 May 2008, 5pm to 7pm
Somerville College, University of Oxford
'Zomia' is a shorthand reference to the huge massif of mainland Southeast Asia, running from the Central Highlands of Vietnam westward all the way to northeastern India and including the southwest Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, and western Guangxi. Zomia has, Professor Scott contends, been peopled over the last 2,000 years largely by runaways from several state-making projects in the valleys, most particularly Han state-making projects. They have, in the hills, acquired, and shifted, their ethnic identities. Far from being 'remnants' left behind by civilizing societies, they are, as it were, 'barbarians by choice', peoples who have deliberately put distance between themselves and lowland, state-centers. It is in this context that their forms of agriculture, their social structures, and much of their culture, including perhaps even their illiteracy, can be understood as political choices.
About the speaker
James C. Scott is Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University.