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Professor James Scott

8th – 9th May, 2019
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

Professor James Scott, Yale University

James Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale University. 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.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Science, Science, Technology and Society Programme at M.I.T., and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

James Scott


In Praise of Floods: homo sapiens and rivers
Distinguished International Visiting Fellow Lecture

5pm, Wednesday 8th May 2019
Large Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

An ecological and social hymn to the good work floods do for non-humans and for Homo sapiens alike. An examination of the “flood pulse” as a river’s lungs and the nutrition it provides to all riverine creatures. Virtually all civilizations are dependent on the ever-renewed fertility of floodplain soils. Human engineering has radically simplified river hydrology, the way taxidermy or amputations might destroy a living being, so that rivers can be navigation canals, water storage, sewage conduits, hydroelectric sites, irrigation reservoirs, and flood free. Disturbance ecology teaches us, on the contrary, how the ‘edge environments’ and ‘eco-tones’ created by naturally occurring floods and fires promote bio-diversity. The simplification of river hydrology has set the stage for “iatrogenic” (illness caused by previous ‘treatment’) river ailments including massive floods.

Lecture – poster


Places of Refuge: high and dry, low and wet
Distinguished International Visiting Fellow Seminar

4.15pm, Thursday 9th May 2019
Large Lecture Theatre, Department of Geography, Downing Site

Certain landscapes are well-suited to early state-making: e.g. flood plains, river junctions, protected coastal zones.  Certain other landscapes are resistant to state-making and therefore attractive to peoples wishing to evade or escape state control (taxes, conscription, corvée, enslavement). Such landscapes include rugged mountains, deserts, mangrove coasts, swamps, marshes, and fens—such as those nearby you! I will aim to give a brief description of such “non-state spaces” as well as the history of efforts to reinforce them and efforts by states to eliminate them (e.g. drainage).

Seminar – poster