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Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  277 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Confrontations between the powerless and the powerful are laden with deception - the powerless feign deference and the powerful subtly assert their mastery. Peasants, serfs, untouchables, slaves, labourers, and prisoners are not free to speak their minds in the presence of power. These subordinate groups instead create a secret discourse that represents a critique of power ...more
Paperback, 269 pages
Published July 29th 1992 by Yale University Press (first published 1990)
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This is a classic - or should be anyway. One of the few books that even in graduate school when I had no time I couldn't help but read slowly, every word, cover-to-cover. It's beautifully written, and better, I think, than Weapons of the Weak - well, this is really taking off above all else from that book's first chapter. He starts off with the question "What does it mean to speak truth to power?" Especially when we all agree now that it's not there is but one truth in the world really. Yet at c ...more
Apr 11, 2015 Vadim rated it really liked it
Книга Джеймса Скотта является прологом к анализу политики в странах, где быть оппозиционером опасно. Там, где рискованно выражать несогласие напрямую, это несогласие находит выход в разговорах между "своими", или публично, но под покровом анонимности или двусмысленности. Говоря словами, Скотта это выражается в "скрытом транскрипте".

Там, где доминирующие оттачивают свою безупречную доминантность, защищая честь от оскорбления, быть может даже на дуэли, люди меньшего статуса оттачивают способность
Nov 25, 2013 Malcolm rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
This is a superb book: Scott sets out and for the most part successfully outlines the role of what he calls the hidden transcripts of domination in cultural and political life. His basic assumption is that all systems of domination include a means of resistance – the 'backstage talk' of the oppressed and the subaltern – that the dominant suspect might exist but cannot in any way get access to.

My only real concern is that he tends to crudely characterise the Gramscian notion of hegemony as simpl
Donald Linnemeyer
Feb 26, 2011 Donald Linnemeyer rated it really liked it
The author's thesis here is pretty much common sense, but it's the sort of common sense you usually need pointed out to you. Basically, he's just saying that relationships between the powerful and the powerless and full of deception. Both groups act a certain way when together, and act completely differently behind-the-scenes. In other words, people under an oppressive regime will talk one way when in the presence of their authorities, and another when they're talking behind the backs of their a ...more
Mar 29, 2009 E rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a phenomenal book. Before I even read any of Scott’s work I was impressed with his interview in Passion and Craft in Comparative Politics (eds. Munck & Snyder), and then I saw him give a lecture about Zomia, the only area of the world where people remain relatively and intentionally stateless. This is the first book of his that I’ve read in its entirety, and I loved it. I found his critique of hegemony and false consciousness especially useful, but above all what I love is that the ...more
Surabhi Gupta
Oct 10, 2014 Surabhi Gupta rated it really liked it
James Scott makes an excellent analysis of the display of power and resistance in everyday gestures, forms of communication and speech through what he calls as the "public transcripts"-the forms, rituals, and discourses through which the dominant group present themselves and their social orders for public view, and the publicly deferential and respectful ways in which subordinate peoples behave and respond when in the presence of power- and "hidden transcripts"-that refers to what persons say to ...more
Reginald Simms
Feb 10, 2015 Reginald Simms rated it liked it
An easy way to create power is to hide information and the way to resist is to speak truth to power. In a completely dominated relationship there is no hidden transcript but if there is a hidden transcript whether it be hidden or out in public but coded in a way that the powerful cannot discern it it is a challenge to power. People who resist oppressions are creating the space for that potential rebellion. The art of resistance are the many ways subordinates speak the truth of unbalanced relatio ...more
Shea Mastison
Jul 04, 2013 Shea Mastison rated it it was ok
This book divides society into essentially two environments; what Scott refers to as the "public transcript," and the "hidden" or "private" transcripts. In the former, you'll find the bedrock of the status quo in any society: in monarchies, the public transcript usually justifies the subjugation of the masses and the social restraint required of them in public. Conversely, the hidden transcript of the resistant masses would include the criticisms, and perhaps the compound anger associated with t ...more
Spanning the entire globe and covering over 1000 years of human history, James C. Scott's 'Domination and the Arts of Resistance' is an intellectual odyssey into the relatively new field of subaltern studies. It is also an intellectual oasis for historians and general readers of history who have become disillusioned with the traditional historiography of power relations and resistance among dominate groups and subordinate groups. Indeed, Scott's use of folklore, speeches, ballads, literary theo ...more
Jul 03, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: scholars of resistance to oppression, Roman Empire
Shelves: theory
James C. Scott's argument is that interactions between oppressors and the oppressed can be understood to have 2 (or more) meanings. People say/do different things when they are in the presence of different people. The public transcript is what people say/do when in public, when "they" are watching. It's what the slave says when the master is present. It is the dominant discourse. The hidden transcript is what what people say/do when "they" aren't around. It's what the slaves say when they're in ...more
Nov 25, 2013 Markus rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Scott outlines an accessible and lucid theoretical argument about the hidden practices of resistance while making a strong argument against those theorists of hegemony and ideology that misperceive the public performances of domination and subordination as evidence of actual and active consent. However, the applicability of Scott's ideas to the present context of capitalist democracies suffers somewhat from his concentration on forms of relatively extreme forms of domination in human history: sl ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Catherine rated it really liked it
Much better than I expected. When I started reading this, my pre-conceived notion, based on hundreds of papers, talks, articles and dissertations about resistance was that this would not be very good. But I was pleasantly surprised about how much I enjoyed it and how much the book helped me. Though the book was about actions and words, the concept of hidden transcripts can be applied to the more material world. I was actually surprised at how little the author talked about spaces, though he freq ...more
Dec 20, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
A classic, plain and simple. Formally lays out a framework for understanding what Scott calls the "hidden" and "public" transcripts of those with power and those without it. It's one of those books that has infected my thinking on an almost daily basis, whether I'm reading news, watching an interaction between a customer/client and someone in a service position, or contemplating relations at a work site. I've recommended this to several writers and dramatists as well, because it's an extremely u ...more
Ralowe Ampu
Mar 23, 2013 Ralowe Ampu rated it liked it
off in the hush arbors. this book is about infrapolitics, therefore maddening and unconsoling for a counterhegemonic transparency junkie. he provides no out for the structure/agency dyad, where resistance can just as easily be the same as anything else, equivocation. i guess that's useful to someone other than non-profits. i just don't know who. it made me uneasy. there's little reassurance for the assertion that resistance countenances no institution. everything's everything. and he lists sever ...more
Jan 16, 2016 Tobias rated it it was amazing
Shelves: old-books
Scott at the height of his powers. An important argument that draws history and literature to make its case.
Jan 29, 2008 Jason rated it really liked it
Dissident subcultures, silenced politics, the myth of false consciousness--if you like Tom Frank and want a social history of the hidden transcripts that lead to open revolutions, Prof. Scott might be your man.

He covers a lot of the usual sociological suspects (Habermas, Bourdieu, Foucault, Bakhtin, E.P. Thompson), but he has a light touch for an academic and draws in all sorts of literary flair (Sophocles, George Eliot, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Balzac, Genet, Kundera, Gombrowicz).

It's nic
Sep 20, 2012 Fr. added it
This is a unique book where the author captures a unique trait of human beings. After having read this book, one cannot get away by saying that he / she is innocent or was not aware of this fact. It definitely challenges you about the question of trusting human beings, as one does tend to look at human relationships in terms of whether they are dominant or oppressed in nature....
Oct 17, 2010 Michael rated it it was amazing
For anyone trying to understand how resistance works when confronted with powerlessness, this is a must read. I have read every book James Scott has written. Though written later in his career, this gives a good insight into his methodological approach to Weapons of the Weak and the Moral Economy of the Peasant.
Feb 18, 2009 Gill rated it it was amazing
Another excellent work by Scott wherein he really threshes out the issues in defining and researching "resistance". Critical thoughts on whether resistance comes from the individual or the group. Its relation to violence. Brechtian theatre and carnival.

Should be read with his other work on resistance.
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Chick rated it it was amazing
Scott is erudite but not overblown and he freely admits that part of his thesis is nothing new or amazing. Regardless, he argues his point well with examples from both history and art. I recommend this book to anyone trying to understand the relations between the powerful and the underclass.
Jonathan Schoeck
Aug 25, 2010 Jonathan Schoeck rated it liked it
It is a worthwhile read, but often a bit dry. It's a lot like reading for a philosophy class. The ideas are inspiring, but are presented in a redundant manner.
Mar 30, 2009 Sapote3 marked it as to-read
Oh god, this is going to be so dry. This is the kind of academic writing that makes me wish academicians had beta readers. But it's an interesting topic!
Mar 26, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
Rating this retroactively. One of the few books I remember liking from my graduate career. I think I still have it and may reread it.
Nov 29, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, history
I read this book in college and still think about it constantly. It changed the way I think about a variety of topics.
Deva Fagan
Dec 28, 2013 Deva Fagan marked it as to-read
This is what piqued my interest:
Jun 09, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
5 stars for Chapters 2, 6, and 8; 4 for the rest!
Prasanna marked it as to-read
Feb 09, 2016
Cynthia Kinney
Cynthia Kinney rated it really liked it
Feb 09, 2016
Niltiac marked it as to-read
Feb 07, 2016
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received his bachelor's degree from Williams College and his MA and PhD (1967) from Yale. He taught at the University of Wisconsin–Madison until 1976, when he returned to Yale. Now Scott is the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and is Director of the Agrarian Studies Program. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held grants from the N ...more
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“Gossip is perhaps the most familiar and elementary form of disguised popular aggression. Though its use is hardly confined to attacks by subordinates on their superiors, it represents a relatively safe social sanction. Gossip, almost by definition has no identifiable author, but scores of eager retailers who can claim they are just passing on the news. Should the gossip—and here I have in mind malicious gossip—be challenged, everyone can disavow responsibility for having originated it. The Malay term for gossip and rumor, khabar angin (news on the wind), captures the diffuse quality of responsibility that makes such aggression possible.
The character of gossip that distinguishes it from rumor is that gossip consists typically of stories that are designated to ruin the reputation of some identifiable person or persons. If the perpetrators remain anonymous, the victim is clearly specified. There is, arguably, something of a disguised democratic voice about gossip in the sense that it is propagated only to the extent that others find it in their interest to retell the story.13 If they don’t, it disappears. Above all, most gossip is a discourse about social rules that have been violated. A person’s reputation can be damaged by stories about his tightfistedness, his insulting words, his cheating, or his clothing only if the public among whom such tales circulate have shared standards of generosity, polite speech, honesty, and appropriate dress. Without an accepted normative standard from which degrees of deviation may be estimated, the notion of gossip would make no sense whatever. Gossip, in turn, reinforces these normative standards by invoking them and by teaching anyone who gossips precisely what kinds of conduct are likely to be mocked or despised.

13. The power to gossip is more democratically distributed than power, property, and income, and, certainly, than the freedom to speak openly. I do not mean to imply that gossip cannot and is not used by superiors to control subordinates, only that resources on this particular field of struggle are relatively more favorable to subordinates. Some people’s gossip is weightier than that of others, and, providing we do not confuse status with mere public deference, one would expect that those with high personal status would be the most effective gossipers.”
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