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James C. Scott's 'The Art of Not Being Governed' Wins the 2010 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award

Oct 20, 2010
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New York, October 2010 -- Asia Society is pleased to announce the winner of its 2010 Bernard Schwartz Book Award: James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (Yale University Press), an enlightening examination of the pressures faced by indigenous peoples in the mountainous region connecting Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, northeast India and southern China.

By recounting the improbable quest for self determination of the hill peoples from this region, Scott redefines our views on Asian politics, history, and demographics, and challenges conventional notions about the relationship between pre-modern rural populations and the nation-state.

Scott, the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology at Yale University and one of the world's preeminent scholars on Southeast Asia today, will receive a $20,000 prize and be honored at a public event at Asia Society in New York on Monday, November 22, 2010.

Jury co-chairs Professor Carol Gluck and Ambassador Tommy Koh commended the jury’s selection, chosen from a pool of over 85 books. “A tour de force of social science and sympathetic writing, Scott's study of the hill peoples of upland Asia demonstrates how much of human experience is left out of our nation-centered thinking, not only in Southeast Asia but around the world,” said Professor Gluck.

According to Ambassador Koh, “The peoples who live on the hills and mountains of Asia are little understood. We tend to view them as exotic and in need of civilization. Scott's book forces us to look at the world from their perspective. Scott’s insights are equally relevant to the hill peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan."

“We are thrilled to award the second annual Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award to such an original and thoroughly researched piece of work,” said Asia Society President Vishakha N. Desai. “We hope this award will help raise awareness about the plight of stateless people, wherever they may reside.”

The Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award is an annual award that recognizes nonfiction books offering outstanding contributions and new perspectives in understanding contemporary Asia or U.S.-Asia relations. In keeping with the Asia Society’s mission, the award is designed to further public awareness of the changes taking place in Asia and the implications for the wider world, and to raise the profile of authors making a meaningful contribution to this dialogue.

Click here for more information on the book and the award.

In addition to the winner, four books received honorary mentions:

Amitav Acharya
Whose Ideas Matter?: Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism
(Cornell University Press)

Saleem H. Ali
Islam and Education: Conflict and Conformity in Pakistan
(Oxford University Press)

Barbara Demick
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
(Spiegel & Grau)

Jay Taylor
The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China
(Harvard University Press)


2010 Jury Members

Carol Gluck (Co-chair)
George Sansom Professor of History, Columbia University

Tommy T.B. Koh (Co-chair)
Ambassador-At-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

Hassan Abbas
Bernard Schwartz Fellow, Asia Society
Quaid-i-Azam Chair Professor, South Asia Institute, Columbia University

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Senior Editor, Hindustan Times

C. Raja Mohan
Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Andrew J. Nathan
Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Kazuo Ogoura
President, Japan Foundation

Thitinan Pongsudhirak
Professor of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Susan Shirk
Director, University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation,
UC-San Diego; Arthur Ross Fellow (2008-09), Asia Society

Simon Tay
Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs;
Professor, National University of Singapore
Bernard Schwartz Fellow (2008-2009), Asia Society