SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

Beyond the Pale: The Earliest Agrarian States and “their Barbarians”

Beyond the Pale Event
Professor James C. Scott

Date: 12 May 2016Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 12 May 2016Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: BGLT

Type of Event: Lecture

How did so many of us, Homo sapiens, quite late in our species history, come to live in sedentary heaps of people, grain, and domesticated animals and governed by units we call states? And what was the relationship between these polities and those remained outside their control? The earliest agrarian states were small and fragile. More people lived outside them than within. They were subject to internal fracture, abandonment, and raiding—both sporadic and systematic. They also represented valuable trade depots that enhanced the exchange value of products from non-state ecologies. The result was, for a time at least, what one might call a “golden age of barbarians.”


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Beyond the Pale: The Earliest Agrarian States and “their Barbarians”


James C. Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and is Director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science, Science, Technology and Society Program at M.I.T., and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

His research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. He is currently teaching Agrarian Studies and Rebellion, Resistance and Repression.

Recent publications include “Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed”, Yale University Press, 1997; “Geographies of Trust: Geographies of Hierarchy,” in Democracy and Trust, 1998; “State Simplifications and Practical Knowledge,” in People’s Economy, People’s Ecology, 1998 and The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist  History of Upland Southeast Asia” (Yale  Press, 2009).

Chair: Dr. Michael Buehler

Professor James Scott will be introduced by Dr. Mark Laffey, the Head of Department of Politics and International Studies.

There will be a drinks reception afterwards in the Brunei Suite.

Organiser: Dr. Michael Buehler

Contact email:

Contact Tel: 020 7898 4724