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From Avoidance to Confrontation: Peasant Protest in Precolonial and Colonial Southeast Asia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 June 2009

Michael Adas
Affiliation:
Rutgers University

Extract

Although there has been a dramatic broadening of the definition of social protest in recent years to include collective behavior that was once dismissed as criminal, irrational, or insignificant, our attention has continued to be focused on movements involving direct, often violent, confrontations between the wielders of power and dissident groups. Avoidance protest, by which dissatisfied groups seek to attenuate their hardships and express their discontent through flight, sectarian withdrawal, or other activities that minimize challenges to or clashes with those whom they view as their oppressors, has at best remained a secondary concern of students of social protest. Although specific forms of avoidance protest, such as the flight of slaves in the plantation zones of the Americas or the migration or serfs to the towns of medieval Europe and peasants to the frontiers of Tsarist Russia, have merited a prominent place in the historical literature on some societies and time periods, avoidance protest has rarely been systematically analyzed as a phenomenon in itself. There have been few detailed studies of the diverse forms which avoidance protest may take and the ways in which these are shaped by the sociopolitical contexts in which they develop. This neglect is serious because in many societies and time periods (perhaps in most in the preindustrial era), modes of protest oriented to avoidance rather than confrontation have been the preferred and most frequently adopted means of resisting oppression and expressing dissatisfaction.

Type
The Politics of Protest in Rural Communities
Copyright
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 1981

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References

1 For sample discussions of avoidance protest in each of these situations, see, respectively, Genovese, Eugene D., Roll, Jordan, Roll (New York, 1972), esp. pp. 648–57Google Scholar, and Mullin, Gerald, Flight and Rebellion: Slave Resistance in Eighteenth Century Virginia (New York, 1972)Google Scholar; Hilton, Rodney, Bond Men Made Free (New York, 1973), esp. ch. 2Google Scholar, and Bennett, H.S., Life on the English Manor (Cambridge, 1937), ch. 11Google Scholar; Blum, Jerome, Lord and Peasant in Russia (Princeton, 1961), esp. ch. 14.Google Scholar

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68 For a superb illustration of these fears applied to several colonized areas, see Schoemaker, W.J., “Het Mohammedaansche fanatisme,” IG 20, no. 2 (1896): 1517–537Google Scholar. For discussions of actual government overreactions, see Drewes, G.W.J., Drie Javaansche Goeroe's: Hun Leven, Onderricht en Messiasprediking (Leiden, 1925), esp. pp. 3940, 49Google Scholar; Mendelson, E. Michael, State and Sangha in Burma (Ithaca, N.Y., 1975), pp. 173–79Google Scholar; Berque, , Egypt: Imperialism and Revolution, pp. 233, 262.Google Scholar

69 For examples of these forms of protest see, respectively, Kartini, Raden Adjeng, Letters of a Javanese Princess (New York, 1964), p. 60Google Scholar; Brandon, James R., Theatre in Southeast Asia (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), pp. 259, 284–88Google Scholar; Peacock, James L., “Anti-Dutch, Anti-Muslim Drama among Surabaja Proletarians: A Description of Performances and Responses,” Indonesia 4 (1967): 4473CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kartomi, , “Performance, Music, and Meaning,” pp. 115–16Google Scholar; Dahm, Bernhard, Sukarno and the Struggle for Indonesian Independence (Ithaca, N.Y., 1969), esp. pp. 102–5Google Scholar; Myint, Thein Pe, “Her Husband or Her Money,” “Oil,” “Bittersweet,” and “A Song to Make One Weep,” in Selected Short Stories of Thein Pe Myint, Milne, P.M., trans. (Ithaca, N.Y.,1973)Google Scholar; Long, Ngo Vinh, Before the Revolution: The Vietnamese Peasants under the French (Cambridge, Mass., 1973)Google Scholar; Adas, , Burma Delta, pp. 193–96Google Scholar; and Mendelson, , State and Sangha, pp. 214–21.Google Scholar

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