Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Hill Tribes that Wanted to Be Governed?

Recently I’ve been reading through some reports created by Americans in the 1960s as they tried to help the Royal Thai Government incorporate “hill tribes” into the nation of Thailand. These Americans were primarily trying to prevent small isolated villages from radicalizing and joining broader communist movements taking place across Southeast Asia.

The Art of Not Being GovernedMany of these report contain interviews with members of the hill tribes, and they have really got me thinking about how upland peoples interact with the state. In his book The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, James C. Scott makes a number of argument demonstrating that hill tribes throughout history, more often than not, have attempted to evade the state and have actively worked to exist outside of the nation. But, these interviews tend to suggest that a number of upland peoples in Northern Thailand in the 1960s wanted to be more deeply embedded within the nation. They wanted to be governed.


It seems that almost all groups were aware that being born within geographical borders of the Thai nation-state, or geo-body if you prefer, created a certain set of rights and responsibilities based on their nationality. They particularly wanted the educational opportunities that they observed in lowland communities. However, many were confused by what appeared to be a racial and civilizational bias toward being racially Thai. They also found it disheartening that the only Thai officials they meet with any regularity were military boarder police.

Final Report Hill Tribes the Target Audience Supplement to Final Report 1969

This desire to be further incorporated into the state, particularly the desire to be educated by the Thai government, really flies in the face of Scott’s work. Moreover, it make me wonder why these incorporation programs by both the American and Thai governments turned out so poorly. Were these reports a sort of wish fulfilment by Thai and American researchers, or were these desires to be at least at some level smoothly incorporated into the state simply ignored?

Maybe I Should Have Been a Math Teacher… Bwaahaahaa… co-written by Edgar Allen Poe.


As I pondered weak and weary over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore (well, AHA writing about “professionalization” actually), I thought, perhaps I chose unwisely my lifestyle and future long-term career. You see, in the hard sciences, particularly mathematics, there are right and wrong answers, it’s not semantics. You either solved the problem or you didn’t. Yes, they require imagination, but yet, there is an internal logic to the system that creates comforting certainty. Certainty for sure.



University of Oregon, math, building, winter

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December, that I sat in classrooms in dark Eugene on the fourth floor. Here I learned about the many varieties of mathematic expression and tips on coaching young students to calculate progressions. My dad, a high school teacher of chemistry and physics had apparently deposited some semblance of a desire to teach within my soul.



And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me – filled me with the prospect never felt before; perhaps I should be a teacher. A teacher, not an astronaut as I had previously envisioned. But this would take years of schooling, researching things that others consider a bore.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, I decided to emulate my father and learn the teaching craft of yore. Of course this process had many bumps along the way and redirected me toward the histories of Asia, the U.S., cultural development, and more. I loved the classes and people until that day… That day my first student asked me “what are we learning this for?” imagesCAY7ZGFR Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming, how to answer the question “what are we learning this for?” Was this student asking this question in class to address some grievance, perhaps from all the homework dealt out to her before? I turned for a second to face what was written on the board.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, soon again I heard a tapping, a foot upon the floor. My students were impatient while I searched for a response that would satisfy their educational needs galore. Then the student added, “I’m never going to need this, when I graduate, I am going to work in my mother’s store.”

Much I marveled this ungainly foul (fowl) to hear discourse so plainly, though my answer little meaning – little relevancy bore. “We can examine the past to learn to reason, see new connections, understand power structures, and maybe even find out what human beings were put here for.” “So what” said the student “learning something about the Mongols or whoever isn’t important anymore.”

desk, officeStartled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, “doubtless,” said I, as I wondered what this student’s future had in store. After class had ended with evil portended intended, I returned to my cramped cubicle-cum-office to stare upon the floor. Should I have been a math teacher with symbols, right or wrong answers, and nothing more? If I can’t impart value and aid in the future of society, what am I teaching for?

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing to this confidence crushing question now burning into my bosom’s core. This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining on the broken patent leather office furniture with the lamp-light gloating o’er.  You shall impart meaning nevermore.

And this statement, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting, round the small room number placard and course listings adjacent my office door. And its biting piercing query creates a shadow of a career path made more demining by the insecurity of adjunct hiring outside the union’s moor. And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted – nevermore!