Water and public policy research in Vietnam

  We don't get a lot of exposure to social science and policy research from Vietnam, so it was very interesting for me recently to run across two recent books by Vietnamese researchers: Pham Cong Huu's Floods and Farmers: Politics, Economics and Environmental Impacts of Dyke Construction in the Mekong Delta / Vietnam and Ly Thim's Planning the Lower Mekong …

Zomia reconsidered

An earlier post described James Scott's recent book on the segment of Southeast Asia that he refers to as Zomia (The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia).  As noted there, Scott turns in his usual creative, imaginative, and innovative treatment of the subject matter; the book is an absolutely …

Red shirts as a social movement

The redshirts in Thailand have moved onto the world stage in the past several months.  Massive protests in Bangkok have stymied the Thai government and have held the army and police forces at bay for months.  Demands from redshirt leaders and posters include removal of the military-backed government of Prime Minister Abhisit and a commitment …

Zomia — James Scott on highland peoples

James Scott opens his most recent book with quotations from frustrated pre-modern administrators and missionaries whose territories included the peoples of inaccessible highland regions -- Guizhou, highland Burma, and Appalachia.  Scott finds that the geographical circumstances of highland peoples mark them apart from the political organizations of the valleys; states could control agriculture, surplus, and …

High modernism and expert knowledge

James Scott is one of the really exceptional social scientists of his generation.  His contributions to peasant studies have been transformative -- his ideas of the "moral economy of the peasant" and "weapons of the weak" are now part of the tool set that we all use in trying to make sense of agrarian societies …

Alleviating rural poverty

What theories and values ought to underlie our best thinking about global economic development?  Along with Amartya Sen (Development as Freedom), I believe that the best answer to the ethical question involves giving top priority to the goal of increasing the realization of human capabilities across the whole of society (The Paradox of Wealth and …

What is the Burmese junta doing?

Burma has been a cauldron of surprising news in the past two years or so. The generals have taken a series of actions in a number of areas: brutal repression of the monks' demonstrations in 2007, prosecution and conviction of Aung Sun Suu Kyi (ASSK) in a bizarre show trial, a major rainy season assault …

What is a diasporic community?

There are many diaspora populations in the world: the African diaspora, with populations in the Caribbean, North and South America, and Europe; the Chinese diaspora, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Cuba and the United States and Canada; the Jewish diaspora, from eastern Europe and Spain across all of Europe, to South Africa and North America …

Running a dictatorship

What is involved in running a military dictatorship in a large country like Burma? Simply having a lot of military force is obviously not enough. It is necessary to organize and manage a number of complex processes in order to manage the basic "metabolism" of the government and society. Even a dictatorship requires a political …

Opaque Burma

It is striking how ignorant we are about the most basic facts about Burma. I don't mean simply that the western public is poorly informed; I mean that a lot of the basic facts about contemporary Burma are simply unknown, to scholars, journalists, and other expert observers. The experts don't know what is going on …

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