New essay, and not the last before semester’s end.
Long exile from Christendom and civilization inevitably restores a man to that condition in which God placed him, i.e. what is called savagery. Your true whale-hunter is as much a savage as an Iroquois. I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.
— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Outside Civilization: James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed as History
In the preface to his 2009 book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott writes, “To my mild astonishment, I find that I have become a kind of historian—not a particularly good one, perhaps, but a historian nonetheless.” Scott, a professor of political science, anthropology, and agrarian studies at Yale University, has published groundbreaking books on the Southeast Asian peasantry, often branching into larger sociopolitical themes such as subaltern resistance, for which he is well known. His works offer philosophic challenges to traditional ways of thinking, from 1976’s The Moral Economy of the Peasant to 1985’s Weapons of the Weak and his theoretical 1998 monograph Seeing Like a State. In Not Being Governed, his most recent major work and potentially his last, Scott attempts to sketch the story of peoples beyond the reach of state hegemony, and in so doing presents a dissident, even unabashedly radical politicized discourse to a field typically dominated by the stories of states.
I have decided to put up three essays I have written recently. The first was written for Islam in South Asia–I’m not sure how well I did, but my tack was different than my last attempt, which I was told lacked clarity. This time I stuck pretty close to the texts in a strict compare/contrast/assimilate. I’ll probably get a grade on it tomorrow. The other two are reflection papers, my third and fourth respectively, which I think more interesting than my second. I am not expecting a high grade on the third; the teacher for the Totalitarianism class has been progressively revealing what he wants for these papers, and I may have missed the boat in my focus; however, I have high hopes for my fourth, which I submit tonight.
Equipoise and Public Image in Emperors Aurangzeb and Akbar
“To the Mughals,” writes Muzaffar Alam, “sharī‘a came to be synonymous with the nāmūs-i Ilāhī (divine law), the most important task of which was to ensure a balance of conflicting interests, of harmony between groups and communities, of non-interference in their personal beliefs” (78). In this statement Alam explains the akhlāq posture on sharī‘a adopted by the Mughal emperors, which insists on the continuity, even unity, of sharī‘a with secular justice. The Mughal emperors perpetuated an image of themselves that ran parallel to this view of law, one which idealized justice and equipoise. In this essay I will compare the description of Aurangzeb in Katherine Brown’s “Did Aurangzeb Ban Music?” to a letter by Akbar to offer a partial picture of how the Mughal emperors would try to present themselves in harmony with their philosophy of sharī‘a.
The assignment was to write 300-500 words on three of a list of possible times/locations/events, an emphasis being on description. These were the three I wrote. They aren’t, perhaps, some of my best description work, but I nevertheless derived great pleasure from writing each of them.
Exercise One: Doomed Ship, 1880
The dark, ruminative bell of the church tolled for midnight on pine-covered Fidalgo Island. The loggers and the townsfolk alike were abed when the schooner crept through Puget Sound, seeking haven for the night. It had been a rough day; most of the crew on watch were sore and tired, and the November cold increased their weariness. It went unnoticed at first when the mate, leaning against the forward mast, drifted briefly into sleep and dropped his burning pipe onto a deck recently coated in thick-smelling tar.
I was going to post the letter a few days ago, and then discovered the difficulties of uploading the files. Well, the Dromaius Letter transcript, translation, and scholarly analysis are attached now, I think…. On the first, I apologize for having the same image three times, but I was trying to be sure it scanned.
Scan of the original: Dromaius
Transcript, etc.: Dromaius-Letter