Foreword James C. Scott
Being asked to write a brief foreword to a collection of this quality
and breadth would always be a privilege. The honor, in this particular
case, is enhanced in at least three ways. First, I believe that the work as-
sembled here and the conference in which the papers were discussed repre-
sent the groundwork for an important intellectual advance in our
think-
ing about environment and agriculture. Second,
K.
Sivaramakrishnan and
Arun Agrawal, the intellectual progenitors and editors of tIllS volume, are
themselves the authors of distinguished work in this "third wave" of envi-
ronmental analysis-some of it already published, some "in the pipeline."
Third, the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale, which I helped found, can
legitimately claim to have been the matchmaker for this enviable collabo-
ration. If there is one principle for which the Program in Agrarian Studies
stands, it is the pathbreaking, grounded, interdisciplinary work found be-
tween these covers.
As I read these papers I came to tIunk of them as the third generation of
environmental discourse on South Asia. That is no small achievement, inas-
much as the environmental and agrarian literature about the subcontinent
has, as with subaltern studies, so often set the intellectual and conceptual
tone for work on comparable issues elsewhere in the world. There are any
number of rigid categories, binary distinctions, and alustorical truisms that
either do not survive this volume or, at best, emerge severely recast and
qualified in the light of this new work.
Among the great services this volume performs is to demonstrate tI1e
artificiality of such categories as arable, forest, pasture, et cetera, as well
as categories of livelihoods based on them: cultivation, hunting-gathering,
pastoralism. The movement witmn and between such categories, unclas-
sifiable mixed cases, the strong interdependence between various modes
of liveliliood, and the radical changes over time in landscape, markets, cli-
mate, and human strategies of land use defy such simple distinctions. These
categories were not, of course, merely the stock-in-trade of intellectuals
and etlmographers; they were also applied administrative categories that
marked the entire history of India-precolonial, colonial, and indepen-
Previous Page Next Page