Faculty of Liberal Arts and Graduate School of Global Studies
Sophia University, United States
This roundtable offers a twist on recurrent debates over the purportedly irreconcilable aims of “area studies” versus formal disciplines. We start from the premise that, in fact, both are inseparable—and that approaches that start from and center “the ground” have strongly contributed to theory-building within disciplines. Few social scientists have been so productive in building bridges between these competing approaches than James C. Scott. Officially trained as a political scientist, for most of his career, Scott has moved seamlessly among that field, anthropology, history, sociology, environmental studies, and more. Throughout, several key concerns have anchored Scott’s work: Southeast Asia as a site of research (albeit increasingly in conversation with other regions), probing how power functions in the world, and exploring the agency of individuals—including and especially those on the socioeconomic margins—to resist, evade, or coopt that power. The concepts and approaches Scott has crafted illustrate and advocate an organically interdisciplinary approach to questioning how the world works and why. Not only have Scott’s books and articles offered tremendous insight in their own right, but they have inspired generations of scholars—his own students and ranks of others—to pose different questions, to seek different perspectives, and to see the project of building knowledge and theory as exciting, challenging, and never straightforward or narrowly bound. His works have also moved beyond the academy to influence public dialogues on issues ranging from anarchism to food production. This roundtable brings together a set of Scott’s former students from across a range of disciplines to examine how Scott’s insights and works have shaped and reoriented the fields of anthropology (Shafqat Hussein), political ecology (Pamela McElwee), development studies (Shaila Seshia Galvin), genomics (Ron Herring), history (Eric Tagliacozzo), political economy (Takeshi Ito), and political science (Meredith Weiss), respectively. James Scott will also be on hand to offer reflections on the commentaries and address the questions raised by the roundtable regarding his enduring contributions to Asian Studies.