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Agrarian Societies
Culture, Power, History, and Development

Anthropology 541a
History 965a
Political Science 779a
F&ES 753a
Instructors: Michael Dove
Robert Harms
Linda-Anne Rebhun
James Scott
Mondays, 1:30-5:20
70 Sachem Street
Fall Semester 2001



This seminar presents a multi-disciplinary perspective on the modern transformation of the countryside of the world. The rise of a capitalist mode of production as the engine of a world economy, the emergence of a contentious international polity of nation-states, and the propagation of rationalizing religions and standardizing education are three distinct yet intersecting processes in the modern transformation of the world since the 1500s. These processes have not been inevitable, nor irreversible, nor complete. However, they have been compelling, in so far as they have come to frame both our acceptance of and resistance to the modern order in which we find ourselves.

“Peasant studies” is a rubric for the loosely-bounded, interdisciplinary exploration of the initial modernization of the European countryside and the subsequent engagement and ongoing incorporation of the countryside of Asia, Africa, and the Americas into this modern order. At its most precocious, it tries to comprehend the intrusive thrusts of nation-state formation, capitalist production, and the rationalization of belief into the most distant agrarian regions of the world. At its most instructive, it insists that people everywhere have confronted those forces with their particular histories and distinctive, local configurations of environment, society, and culture. Everywhere, the encounters of old and new ways of viewing the world and organizing activities have been fitful and frightful, always metamorphic, but never uniform. Animating peasant studies has been the concern to demonstrate the varied ways in which peasants have shared in the making of the modern world that has in turn transformed their lives.

We intend this to be an introductory seminar. That is, we assume you may be ignorant of much of the basic literature. We also assume that you work hard and learn fast. Although the varying backgrounds of students and faculty require us to be somewhat eclectic, we hope that the seminar will prove foundational in an interdisciplinary sense for subsequent work on agrarian issues in any discipline. We encourage you, in your writing and discussion, to make vigorous efforts to be understood across disciplinary boundaries.

Seminar meetings combine lectures and discussions. We expect regular attendance; please notify us in advance if you are unable to come to a session. We regard participation in discussions to be a gauge of students’ completion and comprehension of the assigned readings. We will evaluate your performance in the seminar on the basis of this participation and on the quality and timeliness of the writing assignments.

Beginning in the third week, designated students will be asked to take formal responsibility for organizing the discussion of the readings. Such responsibility will be shared as equitably as possible. As far as writing assignments are concerned, there are two. First, students are required to submit short (3 page) essays on THREE weekly themes/readings of their choice. They may want to link these essays to themes for which they have some responsibility in organizing the discussion. A second paper is due at the end of the course. This may be either a research paper on a topic related to the course concerns or a theoretical discussion or synthesis of some of the analytical readings we have covered. In either case, it should be negotiated with one of the instructors.

All assigned readings for the seminar are on reserve at the Social Science or Cross Campus Libraries. Copies of all assigned books are available for purchase at Book Haven. In addition, we have placed a collection of all assigned articles on file at the office of the Program on Agrarian Studies Office (204 Prospect Street, Room 204). Students may choose to have a copy of this file made for their purchase and use.

Weekly Sessions: Topics and Readings

September 10 Week 1 James Scott


No Reading

September 17 Week 2 James Scott

Moral Economy


James C. Scott. 1976. The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Subsistence and Rebellion in Southeast Asia . New Haven: Yale University Press. (Book Haven)

September 24 Week 3 Michael Dove

Agrarian Ethnography: The Politics of Describing the Disreputable


Harold C. Conklin. [1957] 1975. Hanuno'o Agriculture: A Report on an Integral System of Shifting Cultivation in the Philippines. Orig. published by the Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome. Reprint, Northford, CT: Elliot's Books. (Book Haven)

October 1 Week 4 Linda-Anne Rebhun



Sally Cole. 1991. Women of the Praia: Work and Lives in a Portuguese Coast Community. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Susan Carol Rogers. 1975. "Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance: A Model of Female/Male Interaction in Peasant Society." American Ethnologist 2: 4727-57. (Reading Packet)

October 8 Week 5 Robert Harms

Agrarian Change and la Longue Durée


Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. 1974. The Peasants of Languedoc, translated by John Day. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. (Book Haven)

Robert Brenner, "Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe." (Reading Packet)

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, "A Reply to Robert Brenner," in The Brenner Debate: Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe, edited by T.H. Aston and C.H.E. Philpin, pp. 10-63, 101-6. (Reading Packet)

October 15 Week 6 James Scott



John Womack. 1969. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. New York: Knopf. (Book) Haven

October 22 Week 7 Robert Harms

Colonial History


Thomas Spear. 1997. Mountain Farmers: The Moral Economies of Land and Agricultural Development in Arusha and Meru. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Book Haven)

October 29 Week 8 Linda-Anne Rebhun

Marriage and Emotion


Linda-Anne Rebhun. 1999. The Heart is Unknown Country: Love in the Changing economy of Northeast Brazil. Stanford University Press. (Book Haven)

November 5 Week 9 Linda-Anne Rebhun



Michael Pollan. 2001. "Desire: Control Plant: The Potato." The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eve View of the world." Pp. 183-249. New York: Random House. (Reading Packet)

Sidney W. Mintz. 1996. Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture and the Past. Beacon Press.

November 12 Week 10 Michael Dove and Linda-Anne Rebhun



Michael F. Jiménez. 1995. "From Plantation to Cup: Coffee and Capitalism in the United States, 1830-1930." In Coffee, Society, and Power in Latin America, edited by William Roseberry, Lowell Gudmundson, and Mario Samper Kutschbach. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. (Reading Packet)

William Roseberry. 1996. "The Rise of Yuppie Coffees and the Reimagination of Class in the United States." American Anthropologist 98, 4762-75. (Reading Packet)

Anne Tyler Calabresi. 1987. "Vin Santo and Wine in a Tuscan Farmhouse." In Constructive Drinking: Perspectives on Drink from Anthropology, edited by Mary Douglas, pp.122-34. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Reading Packet)

Michael Dove. 1988. "The Ecology of Intoxication Among the Kantu of West Kalimantan." In The Real and Imagined Role of Culture in Development: Case Studies from Indonesia, edited by Michael Dove, pp. 139-82. HonoluluUniversity of Hawaii Press. (Reading Packet)

Penny Harvey. 1994. "Gender, Community and Confrontation: Power Relations in Drunkenness in Ocongate (Southern Peru)." In Gender, Drink, and Drugs, edited by Maryon McDonald, pp. 209-33. Oxford: Berg. (Reading Packet)

Maryon McDonald. 1994. "Drinking and Social Identity in the West of France." In Gender, Drink, and Drugs, edited by Maryon McDonald, pp. 99-124. Oxford: Berg. (Reading Packet)

David N. Suggs. 2001. "These Young Chaps Think They are Just Men, Too: Redistributing Masculinity in Kgatleng Bars." Social Science & Medicine 53:241-50.(Reading Packet)

November 26 Week 11 Michael Dove, Linda-Anne Rebhun, James Scott

Agee/Evans - Representing Rural Lives


James Agee and Walker Evans.1966/1939. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families. New York: Ballantine Books, pp. ix-xx, 7-15, 105-10, 111-97, 199-229. (Book Haven)

Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson. 1989. And their Children After Them: The Legacy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee, Walker Evans, and the Rise and Fall of Cotton in the South. New York: Pantheon Books, pp. xv-xxiii, 3-68. (Reading Packet)

December 3 Week 12 Michael Dove, Robert Harms, and James Scott

Development Discourse


James Ferguson. 1994. The AntiPolitics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Preface, pp. 180, 13566, 194226, 25188.


Prize: 1 free meal after an Agrarian Studies Colloquium

  • Be the first to name the author of any one of the first three poems.
  • Name the rebellion from which the text of the anonymous letter (4) comes.
  • A correct answer for any one of the four selections wins a prize.


When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

Tom's hand was strong to the plough
Elizabeth's lips were red,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

Year in year out they worked
While the pines grew overhead,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

But all the beautiful crops soon went
To the mortgage-man instead,
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

Elizabeth is dead now (it's years ago)
Old Tom went light in the head;
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said.

The farm's still there. Mortgage corporations
Couldn't give it away.
And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.

to top to top


Flee the seat in the shade and staying in bed until dawn
during the season of reaping when the sun is withering the flesh.
This is the time to be hastening and bringing your harvest home,
rising at daybreak, that you may have sufficient to live on.
For Dawn rightfully claims as her own a third of the day's work;
Dawn gives a man a start on the road and a start on his work,
Dawn that brightly arising stirs up many a man to
go on his way and sets the yoke upon many an ox team.
But when you see the scolymus flowering and hear the cicada
sing in the tree, sending its beautiful, vibrating song
pulsing from under its wings in the season of scorching-hot summer,
then you will find that she-goats are fattest, wine most delicious,
women most desirous of love but men most enfeebled,
for now the dogstar Sirios parches their heads and their knees,
and in the heat their skin becomes dry. Then would I have
a shady retreat in the cool of the rocks, and Bibline wine with
mild-leavened bread and milk of goats that are starting to go dry,
and meat of cow that has fed in the woods, one never in calf, and
that of the newborn kid. And then would I drink of the red wine,
as I relax in the shade, my appetite sated completely,
turning my face to enjoy the cooling breezes of Zephyros,
and would pour from a clear and ever free-flowing stream
three parts of water to mix for my drink with one part of wine.
But as soon as the strength of Orion arises, you should
urge your slaves to thresh the holy grain of Demeter
on a spot well swept by the wind, well leveled for threshing.
Then you should measure it off well into your jars. But when you've
got your supply all safely stored on your homestead within doors,
find as hired laborers to help you a man without home and a woman,
one without child, I advise you, for one with a child is a burden.

to top to top



The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing
beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

to top to top



To all Churches, States and People, on the Sea Sand

O Remember

Samson sent 300 foxes with firebrands into the Philistine's corn fields,
because they robbed him of his natural rights, and God declares Samson
more justifiable than them - so now the Gentiles and Heathen starve the
poor, why marvel ye if every man turns after Samson, `for these are the
days of vengeance, when all shall be fulfilled' under

Extra Executors,
Earthquakes, Panics and Col, Witnesses.

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Program in Agrarian Studies
Yale University
Box 208209
New Haven, CT 06520-8209
campus address: 204 Prospect Street, Room 204
tel 203/432-9833   fax 203/432-5036
email  agrarian.studies@yale.edu
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Yale Program in Agrarian Studies / Last updated Sun, Aug 23, 2009