Agrarian Studies Program Wins Fellowship Grant

The Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale has won a $250,000 grant to fund Rockefeller Foundation Resident Fellowships in the Humanities for the coming three years. The fellowships will be used to bring two “public intellectuals” from Third World countries to Yale each year to participate in the Agrarian Studies weekly colloquium series and other activities of the program. A “public intellectual” is one who can communicate complex ideas to a broad audience.

The Program in Agrarian Studies is an experimental, interdisciplinary effort to explore rural life and culture, development and ecology. Instituted in 1991, it brings together Yale faculty members and graduate students from American studies, anthropology, economics, forestry and environmental studies, history, law, political science, religious studies, and several of the regional councils of the Yale Center for International and Area Studies. Devoted to “creative trespassing” across traditional academic disciplines, the program is shaping how a new generation of scholars and officials understands rural society. The core of the program is a team-taught graduate seminar, “Agrarian Societies: Culture, Society, History, and Development.”

The theme for this year’s colloquium series is “Hinterlands, Frontiers, Cities, and States: Transactions and Identities.” The topic embraces the study of mutual perceptions between countryside and city, patterns of cultural and material exchange, migration, and the legal systems and political orders that link them. Specialists, including farmers and World Bank officials, join faculty members, graduate students, and “public intellectuals” in weekly discussions of research and policy papers.

A key aspect of the program is communication between Western and Third World scholars and practitioners.

“The opportunities for mutuality are enormous,” says James C. Scott, director of the Yale Program in Agrarian Studies. “There are relatively few problems facing Third World rural peoples that do not have historical analogies in the West from which something could be learned. And students from the West have even more to gain from this conversation than their counterparts in the Third World. For nearly every social or economic process that is the subject of controversy in Western history, there is a contemporary parallel in the Third World that would enrich understanding.” In addition, he notes, “Third World scholars can, informally, serve as mentors” for graduate students who are pursuing research in developing countries.

With the Rockefeller Foundation funding, the Program in Agrarian Studies plans to select two fellows each year through an international competition. Each will come from a different area of the world and represent a different area of expertise.

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