Above and beyond: Zomia and the ethnographic challenge of/for regional history

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35 Scopus citations


James Scott's notion of Zomia proposes a new look at historical and social dynamics in a vast area of the Asian hinterlands, in terms of deliberate state-avoidance that came to an end through the nation state's superior techniques of control. Zomia is a concept metaphor that defines the social reality it purportedly only describes. My examination points to a pervasive problem with the historicization of highland regions in Europe as much as in Asia. Juxtaposing Scott's case with two other definitions of Zomia, I call attention to the way concept metaphors define social landscapes and historical dynamics. Drawing on the work of several Europeanists, I suggest a model of rural-urban relations that does not privilege either a community or the state as the principle of society and history, which may overcome the separate disciplinary biases of anthropology, history and political science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-212
Number of pages22
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010


  • History
  • Marginality
  • Southeast Asia
  • State-minority relations
  • Zomia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology


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