Highlights from The Art of Not Being Governed

Some highlights from The Art of Not Being Governed…

On illiteracy, or ‘post-literacy’:

Illiteracy in the hills [of Southeast Asia] can, more speculatively, be interpreted in the same fashion. Virtually all hill peoples have legends claiming that they once had writing and either lost it or that it was stolen from them. Given the considerable advantages in plasticity of oral over written histories and genealogies, it is at least conceivable to see the loss of literacy and of written texts as a more or less deliberate adaptation to statelessness.

On modern states:

Only the modern state, in both its colonial and its independent guises, has had the resources to realize a project of rule that was a mere glint in the eye of its precolonial ancestor: namely to bring nonstate spaces and people to heel. This project in its broadest sense represents the last great enclosure movement in Southeast Asia. It has been pursued—albeit clumsily and with setbacks—consistently for at least the past century. Governments, whether colonial or independent, communist or neoliberal, populist or authoritarian, have embraced it fully. The headlong pursuit of this end by regimes otherwise starkly different suggests that such projects of administrative, economic, and cultural standardization are hard-wired into the architecture of the modern state itself.

On the ‘production’ of China’s ethnic minorities:

The general pattern, however, seems to be as follows: as the reach of the Chinese state grew, peoples at the point of expansion were either absorbed (becoming, in time, Han) or moved away, often after a failed revolt. Those who left be-came, at least for a time, distinct societies that could be said to have “self-marginalized” by migration.48 As the process was repeated again and again antibiotic Ciplox http://canadianpharmacyonline.org/product/ciplox/ online, culturally complex zones of refuge sprang up in the hinterlands of the state. “The history of the various non-state peoples of this region” can, Fiskesjö believes, be written as the bifurcation between those who had long been in the hills (for example, the Wa people) and those who sought refuge there: “Among those who left [the zone of Chinese state power], we find many Tibeto-Burman ethnolinguistic formations (Lahu, Hani, Akha, etc.) as well as Miao or Hmong speakers, and other peoples . . . described as ‘hill tribes out of China’ with a ‘heritage of defeat’ that has led many of them during the past few centuries, into the northern parts of the modern states of Thai-land, Burma, Laos, and Vietnam where many of them are still regarded as newcomers.”

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