Abouts Programs People Old & New Contact Yale Links

Graduate Seminar: Syllabus (fall 2003)

AgrStds Home



AgrStds Home
About AgrStds
About This Site

Colloq Schedule
Program Fellowships
Financial Aid
Grad Program
Grad Seminar

Faculty & Staff
Resident Fellows

Latest News

Contact Info


Yale Home
Yale Library

drawing: autumn chill
autumn chill

Agrarian Societies

Culture, Power, History, and Development

Anthropology 541a
History 765a
Political Science 779a
F&ES 730a
Instructors: Michael R. Dove
Paul Freedman
Robert W. Harms
James C. Scott
Mondays, 1:30-5:20
8 Prospect Place, Room 119
Fall Semester 2003

drawing: 3 frames



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 08 Week 1 James Scott


No Reading

September 15 Week 2 Michael Dove

Reading Agrarian Ethnography
The Poitics of Describing the Disreputable

block print: corn harvest Readings:

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)

J.S. Otto and N.E. Anderson. 1982. “Slash-and-Burn Cultivation in the Highlands South: A Problem in Comparative Agricultural History,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 24, pp.131-47. (Reading Packet)


Slavery, Serfdom, Bondage, and their Rebellions

September 22 Week 3 Paul Freedman

European Peasants and Elites in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period: Slaves, Serfs, and Free(d)men


Tom Scott, ed. 1998. The Peasantries of Europe: From the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries. London; New York: Longman. Pp. 20-47; 110-43; 226-66. (Book Haven)

M.L. Bush, ed. 1996. Serfdom and Slavery: Studies in Legal Bondage. London: Longman. Pp. 199-224; 277-95. (Reading Packet)

James Maesschaele. The Free Peasantry of Medieval England.” (Unpublished paper). (Reading Packet)

drawing: confrontation

September 29 Week 4 Paul Freedman, Robert Harms, James Scott

Rebellion, Resistance, Revolution


drawomg" om forestPaul Freedman. 1993. “The German and Catalan Peasant Revolts,” The American Historical Review 98 (1):39-54. (Reading Packet) Paul Freedman. 1996. “The Hungarian Peasant Revolt of 1514,” Grafenauerjev Zbornik: 431-46. (Reading Packet)

Thomas Scott and Robert Scribner. 1991. The German Peasant’s War of 1525. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International. Pp.65-80; 115-27; 251-76; 289-313.(Reading Packet)

Michael Adas. 1979. Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest against the European Colonial Order. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Sections on Maji Maji and Saya San Rebellions - pp. 25-42, 92-164. (Reading Packet)

to top to top

October 6 Week 5 Paul Freedman, 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)

drawing: meal at outdoor table

October 13 Week 6 James Scott

Colonialism, Labor, Cash-Cropping, and Resistance


Allen Isaacman. 1996. Cotton is the Mother of Poverty: Peasants, Work, and Rural Struggle in Colonial Mozambique, 1938-1961. Portsmouth, NH: Heineman. (Book Haven)

Michael R. Dove. 1997. Political ecology of pepper in the ‘Hikyat Banjar’: The historiography of commodity production in a Bornean kingdom. In Paper Landscapes: Explorations in the Environmental History of Indonesia, edited by P. Boomgaard, et al. Leiden: Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal, Land-en Volkenkunde, pp. 341-77. (Reading Packet)

Ecology Resources, Climate, and Landscape

cotton plant

Ecology Resources, Climate, and Landscape

October 20 Week 7 Robert Harms, James Scott

Resources, Community, and Migration


sugar plant


Robert Harms. 1987. Games Against Nature: An Eco-Cultural History of the Nunu of Equatorial Africa. Cambridge University Press. (Book Haven)

Hermann Rebel. 2001. “Dark events and lynching scenes in the collective memory: A dispossession narrative about Austria’s descent into the Holocaust.” In Agrarian Studies: Synthetic Work at the Cutting Edge, edited by James C. Scott and Nina Bhatt. New Haven: Yale University Press. Pp. 44-65. (Reading Packet)

October 27 Week 8 Robert Harms, Michael Dove

Climate and Landscape: Punctuated Longue Durée


Mike Davis. 2001. Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso Press. Selected chapters to be announced. (Book Haven)

James Fairhead and Melissa Leach. 1996. Misreading the African Landscape: Society and Ecology in a Forest-Savanna Mosaic. Cambridge University Press. (Book Haven)

November 3 Week 9 James Scott

Plants, Food, Taste, Diet, Health


Michael Pollan. 2001. The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World. Random House. (Book Haven)

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. 1993. “Potatoes and Knowledge.” In Anthropological Critique of Development, edited by Mark Hobart. London: Routledge. Pp. 177-234. (Reading Packet)

Jeffrey Steingarten.1998. The Man Who Ate Everything. New York: Vintage Books. “Ripeness is All,” pp. 74-88; “Vegging Out,” pp. 134-43; “Salad the Silent Killer,” “Salt,” “Murder My Sweet,” and “A Fat of No Consequence,” pp. 177-234. (Reading Packet)

John L. Hess and Karen Hess. 2000. The Taste of America. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press. “Manicured Chickens,” “The Green Revolution,” pp. 283-328. (Reading Packet)

November 10 Week 10 Michael Dove and Linda-Anne Rebhun

Depicting the Rural Poor in the American South


James Agee and Walker Evans.1966/1939. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. “Forward,” pp.xli-xliv; “Preamble,” pp. 7-16; “Money,” pp.115-21; “Shelter,” pp.123-220; and “On the Porch,” pp.221-53. (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. “Maggie Louise,” pp.i-v; Preface xv-xxiv; “King Cotton,” 3-16; and “1936-1940,” pp. 17-72. (Reading Packet)

November 17 Week 11 James Scott

Industrial Agriculture and Local Knowledge


Deborah Fitzgerald. 2003. Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture. Yale University Press. (Book Haven)

James Scott. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press. Ch. 8 “Taming Nature” and ch. 9 “ Thin Simplifications/Practical Knowledge,” pp. 262-341. (Reading Packet)

James Hightower. 1978. Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times. The original Hightower report, unexpurgated, of the Agribusiness Accountability Project on the Failure of the American Land Grant College Complexes Commission for Agribusiness Responsibility. Cambridge: Schenkman. Pp. 1-142. (Reading Packet)

December 1 Week 12 Michael Dove, James Scott

Development Discourse


James Ferguson. 1994. The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis:University of Minnesota Press. Preface, pp. 1-80; 135-66; 194-226; 251-88. (Book Haven)


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

“Peasants Carousing,” detail, by Isack van Ostade (1621–1649), from The Dutch and Flemish Drawings at Windsor Castle by Christopher White and Charlotte Crawley (548pp. Cambridge University Press).


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.

The Peasants’ Rising

Wat Tyler killed King Richard’s tax collector with a roofer’s hammer. The man tried to prove Wat’s daughter old enough to pay the tax. The girl sat shucking peas beside the fire. The tax collector dragged her by the elbows and tore her clothes off. “Woman flesh I call this,” he roard. Wat Tyler’s hammer went to work. From collarbone to forehead Wat was a fire. The girl’s pale skin dripped brains and bits of skull. A growling rabble gathered at the window — everywhere springtime and the noise of birds, a splatter of crocuses, hollyocks by the gate, wagtails darting into the lilac bush, a gust of melancholy in the heart.

A medieval peasant garden.

to top to top

Top  Site Home  SiteMap  Text Only  Yale Home  ISPS  MacMillan Cntr  FAQ

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
Contents copyright © 2012
Yale University Program in Agrarian Studies
All rights reserved.

Web Design by H.G. Salome, MetaGlyfix
email: hgs@metaglyfix.com
Design copyright © 1998-2012 MetaGlyfix

Yale Program in Agrarian Studies / Last updated Sun, Aug 23, 2009