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Agrarian Studies

Agrarian Studies: Synthetic Work at the Cutting Edge

James C. Scott
Nina Bhatt
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Agrarian Studies
    Book Description:

    This book presents an account of an intellectual breakthrough in the study of rural society and agriculture. Its ten chapters, selected for their originality and synthesis from the colloquia of the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University, encompass various disciplines, diverse historical periods, and several regions of the world. The contributors' fresh analyses will broaden the perspectives of readers with interests as wide-ranging as rural sociology, environmentalism, political science, history, anthropology, economics, and art history.The ten studies recast and expand what is known about rural society and agrarian issues, examining such topics as poverty, subsistence, cultivation, ecology, justice, art, custom, law, ritual life, cooperation, and state action. Each contribution provides a point of departure for new study, encouraging deeper thinking across disciplinary boundaries and frontiers.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12877-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    How to prepare the reader for the sheer intellectual excitement and originality to be found in this, the first collection of papers selected from more than two hundred presented to the Program in Agrarian Studies Colloquia at Yale University over the past ten years? In one way or another, each chapter opens a door to new and bracing views of the terrain. Having no paper of my own represented in the collection, I feel no embarrassment in being an aggressive tout for the work represented here. I can virtually guarantee that no social scientists or historians who read this book...


    • CHAPTER ONE Some Ideological Aspects of the Articulation between Kin and Tribute: State Formation, Military System, and Social Life in Hesse-Cassel, 1688–1815
      (pp. 11-43)

      In 1962 Otto Büsch wrote about “social militarism” in order to describe how deeply eighteenth-century Prussian military institutions became entwined with German structures of authority at every level of society.¹ Fifteen years later Michel Foucault connected the same developments in the entire Western world to a new technology of power he called “discipline.”² Much of the later work of Gerd Oestreich has elaborated on this theme for early modern territorial states in Germany.³ Despite the fruitfulness of this work, much of it remains limited to the dimension of what power holders intended and what they accomplished. Particularly true of Foucault’s...

    • CHAPTER TWO Dark Events and Lynching Scenes in the Collective Memory: A Dispossession Narrative about Austria’s Descent into Holocaust
      (pp. 44-66)

      Before we get to the story promised in the title about a dispossession figure moving through Austria’s historical experience with the Nazi Holocaust, I have to make such a story possible by, first, considering briefly some current objections to writing any histories about the Holocaust at all and, second, attempting to conceptualize a historical anthropology capable of narratingspecific“long-duration” cultural histories that are punctuated by periodic collapses into concealed—but known—mass murders.

      Eric Hobsbawm’s concession to what he calls “serious” historians’ acceptance of the Holocaust as inexpressible tragedy makes sense in terms of his concern that some Holocaust...


    • CHAPTER THREE Agrarian Issues During The French Revolution, 1787–1799
      (pp. 69-85)

      There is no comprehensive agricultural history of France, nor is it likely that one will ever be written. According to Lucien Febvre, “la France se nomme diversité” (France can be called diversity), and agronomists tend to agree. For statistical purposes modern France is divided into 473 discretePays, or micro-agricultural regions, holding characteristics in common that distinguish them from their neighbors.¹ Nonetheless, itisfeasible to study the agricultural, or rather the agrarian, history of France on a more confined scale. Thanks to a vigorous tradition of local and regional monograph writing, there exists today a rich and accessible collection...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Imagining the Harvest in Early Modern Europe
      (pp. 86-138)

      In the minds of many, peasant identity is indelibly linked to the past. Not only is food production the oldest profession, but peasants, especially in Latinate definitions of the term, are associated with a region, apays. In the nationalist revivals of the nineteenth century, peasants thus came to embody the nation, its traditions and mores, unsullied by modern concepts. What the Right seized on with glee, the Left rejected as reactionary. Karl Marx never wavered from his conclusion that peasants, attached to their plots of land, were a counterrevolutionary force. They could not accept the march of history. Both...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Naturae Ferae: Wild Animals in South Asia and the Standard Environmental Narrative
      (pp. 141-185)

      In this chapter I shall examine two themes missing or only sketchily represented in the standard South Asian environmental narrative. These are, first, the hazards posed by wild animals to the security of rural communities in the past and present and, second, the defensive measures taken by these communities and by the state toward off this threat. By “standard environmental narrative” I mean the emerging scholarly consensus that postulates a transition in rural India over the past 120 years from a condition of environmental harmony, distributive justice, and material abundance to one of ecological disruption, massive social inequity, and widespread...

    • CHAPTER SIX Disease, Resistance, and India’s Ecological Frontier, 1770–1947
      (pp. 186-205)

      It would be perverse any longer to lament, as Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha did in 1992, “the almost universal neglect of Indian ecological history.”¹ Recent years have seen a remarkable volume of writing on the subject, much of it based on extensive archival and oral research. Enormous gaps no doubt remain (not least for pre-colonial India), but a wealth of material and interpretation has been opened up for critical examination and analysis.² Environmental history in India has directed particular attention to the fate of the forests (understandably, in view of their former extent and ecological significance) and generated a...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Subalterns and Others in the Agrarian History of South Asia
      (pp. 206-232)

      Recent trends in history writing about rustic South Asia have been linked by intricate webs of influence—still dimly understood—to geological upheavals in the world of agrarian studies. Until the early 1980s, historians of the countryside were most concerned with economic, political, and social transformation, and their intellectual orientations reflected the contours of state politics and policy.¹ This kind of history informed national efforts to improve living conditions; its role was to measure trends and substantiate critique. Foundations for such agrarian history first emerged with the nationalist critique of imperial policy, following famines in the 1870s. Agrarian studies permeated...


    • CHAPTER EIGHT Contesting the “Great Transformation”: Local Struggles with the Market in South India
      (pp. 235-263)

      Much social science discourse, implicitly or explicitly, is about the search for central tendencies and structured simplifications: the mean, the generalizable, the patterned. Exceptions to central tendencies are often dismissed as mere “cases,” “outliers,” or even “error terms.” We might learn from the practice of clinicians: anomalies also suggest puzzles.

      The state of Kerala in Southwest India is sufficiently anomalous that many Indologists would prefer to ignore it. Like Sri Lanka, it is anomalous for its very high levels of life expectancy and literacy and very low infant mortality rates despite aggregate poverty.¹ Poverty reduction, which has lagged generally in...

    • CHAPTER NINE Policies for Sustainable Development
      (pp. 264-282)

      This chapter presents four interrelated policies for sustainable development. The policies are presented from the perspective of the United States but should, in principle, apply to any country. Before getting to the specific policies, I discuss a basic point of view within which the policies appear most sensible and urgent, even though I think they are also defensible to a degree within the standard neoclassical framework. The four policies are then presented in order of increasing radicalism. The first two are fairly conservative, fundamentally neoclassical, and should be relatively noncontroversial, although often they are not. The third will be hotly...

    • CHAPTER TEN Weaving and Surviving in Laichingen, 1650–1900: Micro-History as History and as Research Experience
      (pp. 283-296)

      I shall take this remark on micro-history made by Italian historian Giovanni Levi at a 1990 discussion as my point of departure from which to consider how my own work has experimented with social, cultural, and economic perspectives on the study of history. While micro-historical perspectives originated in Italy in the late 1970s, simultaneous and independent work had begun elsewhere in Europe and in the United States as well. In Göttingen, for example, David Sabean, Peter Kriedte, Alf Lüdtke, Jürgen Schlumbohm, and I came together in the 1970s to develop micro-historical approaches that were different from, but in important respects...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 297-300)
  10. Index
    (pp. 301-310)