Destratifying In-Zomia: A cartography of a people in Southeast Asia



This paper will build on the rhizomatic intricacies of a cartography of a people in Southeast Asia in James Scott’s (2009) description of the stateless inhabitants of Zomia, arguably lawless peoples whose migration from island assemblages in the region was caused by early 20th century ‘state-making projects’, oppression and colonialism. These peoples to this day still exist in a region assembled by mountain ranges the size of Western Europe.

Escaping state-making projects and their concomitant use of war machines is the imprint of a people who in A Thousand Plateaus (1987) Deleuze and Guattari liken to abstract art: ‘Multidirectional, with neither inside nor outside, form nor background, delimiting nothing, describing no contour, passing between spots or points, filling a smooth space.’ The peoples of Zomia, nonetheless, are prone, much more in these days, to ecological catastrophe that in all likelihood Deleuze must have in mind when he speaks of the earth’s dynamic transformation in terms of ‘the general distribution of continents, the states of the seas, and lines of navigation’ (Desert Islands) which could have sparked a flurry of migrations, especially in Southeast Asia, drowned by melting polar glaciers during the Last Glacial Maximum. If the peoples of Zomia were compelled to escape what was in general the threat of war machines, how about in this age of ecological threat?

The paper will try to revisit Deleuze and Guattari’s work in cartography in order to arrive at a new post-anarchistic understanding of what is now at stake in the model of Zomia as a rhizomatic achievement of abstract machines, which to us remains a potent diagram of a people to come, especially in view of the apocalyptic threat of the new ecological order.

Keywords: abstract machine, cartography, desert islands, people to come, post-anarchism, Zomia


Text of the abstract accepted for presentation by the organizers of the Second International Deleuze Studies Conference in Asia to be held this time in Osaka University, Japan from June 6 to June 8, 2014.This is my second international engagement on Deleuze Studies in Asia. Long live Deleuze!

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