Runaway societies, or maroon communities, have been known for centuries. Some African slaves in the early modern Caribbean and South America were able to escape from plantations and form their own communities in dense rainforests and mountainous areas. Other stateless peoples have been discerned by historians studying various geographic regions and historical periods.
Now, a new book by anthropologist James C. Scott examines stateless peoples in current Southeast Asia. Scott claims that approximately 100 million people live in runaway societies in the mountainous regions of countries such as Vietnam,
Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, and Burma. His book ascribes considerable agency to these peoples, arguing that “ethnic identities in the hills are politically crafted and designed to position a group vis-à-vis others in competition for power and resources.”
Scott’s book has already provoked significant controversy among scholars studying Southeast Asia and state development theory.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the debates aroused by Scott’s book.
I look forward to reading Scott’s book soon myself.