High vs. Low: A Roundtable Discussion of High Modernism and Low Modernism in the History of Agrarian Development

AHA Session 199
Agricultural History Society 2
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Sterling Evans, University of Oklahoma
James C. Scott, Yale University
Jess Gilbert, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Deborah Fitzgerald, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Tore Olsson, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Session Abstract

“High vs. Low” seeks to bring to the table a wide assortment of scholars whose research and publications in one way or the other have supported high modernism or low modernism as ways to interpret agrarian development. The panel brings in Dr. James Scott who first innovated the concept of high modernism for his studies on rural Southeast Asia but whose book Thinking Like a State became a model for understanding rural agrarian development anywhere. But the model was challenged by Professor Jess Gilbert whose notions of low modernism came to others as a better understanding of rural agriculture in the United States (especially for the American South) and peasant agriculture elsewhere in the world, especially in Latin America. Thus it is time to get these scholars together to discuss and debate the concepts of high and low modernism! And they represent a broad interdisciplinary approach for agrarian studies, including history (Evans, Fitzgerald, and Olsson), political science and anthropology (Scott), and rural sociology (Gilbert). They also represent agricultural history in diverse parts of the world, from Southeast Asia (Scott), to the American Midwest (Fitzgerald, Gilbert), the American South (Gilbert, Olsson), and Latin America (Olsson, Evans). Likewise, this panel engages a good generational range of scholars, from more seasoned to younger and up-and-coming. In true roundtable style, each presenter will have 10 minutes to put forth his/her thoughts on high and low modernism, followed by a chance for each speaker to respond to the arguments, and with ample time for the audience to participate in what will assuredly be a very robust, academic discussion.
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