Oral History Project Celebrates James C. Scott and the Yale Agrarian Studies Program

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Oral History Center (OHC) of The Bancroft Library at University of California at Berkeley has announced the release of the Yale Agrarian Studies Oral History Project, a two-part series featuring the life history of James C. Scott, and shorter interviews with more than a dozen affiliates of the Yale Agrarian Studies Program at the MacMillan Center. The project was created and conducted by OHC Historian and Yale alumnus Todd Holmes.

The Oral History Center has been responsible for compiling one of the largest and most widely used oral history collections in the country. The interviewees within this vast collection include many of the nation’s high-profile citizens, ranging from senators and governors to artists, actors, and industrialists. Interviews with Nobel laureates and university presidents also comprise this collection, as do leading scientists and pioneering faculty of color.

Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science at Yale University, with additional appointments in the Department of Anthropology and School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the author of several books, most of which are not only widely read across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, but considered foundational works in those disciplines. In recognition of his contributions, Scott was awarded the 2020 Albert O. Hirschman Prize, the Social Science Research Council’s highest honor. In his oral history, James C. Scott: Agrarian Studies and Over 50 Years of Pioneering Work in the Social Sciences, he discusses his childhood in New Jersey and the Quaker school that played a large role in shaping the scholar known for marching to his own drummer. He discusses his experience with the National Student Association, the interesting turn his studies took upon entry to Yale Graduate School, and the string of books he produced in the decades that followed. These include The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia; Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance; Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts; Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed; The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia; and Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, among other works. He also recounts the founding of the Agrarian Studies Program, an interdisciplinary flagship in the humanities and social sciences now celebrating over thirty years of operation at Yale University.

Part Two of this project features interviews with affiliates of the Agrarian Studies Program. This segment of the project has scholars recount their experience with both Jim Scott and the Program, recollections that help to document the history and impact of Agrarian Studies, as well as offer future generations a glimpse at the scholar who shaped it.

Below are the interviews of the Yale Agrarian Studies Oral History Project. Transcripts for each interview can be accessed through the respective hyperlink. Segments of these interviews are also featured in the video below celebrating the Program’s thirtieth anniversary. Additionally, a video on the life and career of James C. Scott is currently underway and will be released in spring 2022.


Interviews & Transcripts

James C. Scott
Sterling Professor of Political Science
Yale University

Mark Bomford
Director, Yale Sustainable Food Program

Michael Dove
Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology
Yale University

Paul Freedman
Chester D. Tripp Professor of History
Yale University

Robert Harms
Henry J. Heinz Professor of History & African Studies
Yale University

Marvel “Kay” Mansfield
Former Program Coordinator
Yale Agrarian Studies

Alan Mikhail
Professor of History
Yale University

Peter C. Perdue
Professor of History
Yale University

Alison Richard
Former Provost / Franklin Muzzy Crosby Professor Emerita of the Human Environment
Yale University

Paul Sabin
Professor of History & American Studies
Yale University

Nathan Sayre
Professor of Geography
University of California, Berkeley

Ian Shapiro
Sterling Professor of Political Science
Yale University

Helen Siu
Professor of Anthropology
Yale University

K. Sivaramankrishnan
Dinakar Singh Professor of Anthropology / Professor, School of the Environment
Yale University

Louis Warren
Turrentine Jackson Professor of U.S. Western History
University of California, Davis

Michael Watts
Class of 1963 Professor of Geography (Emeritus)
University of California, Berkeley

Elisabeth Wood
Crosby Professor of the Human Environment / Professor of Political Science
Yale University