Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts
James C. Scott
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 spoken behind the backs of the dominant. At the same time, the powerful also develop a private dialogue about practices and goals of their rule that cannot be openly avowed. In this book, the author, a social scientist, offers a discussion both of the public roles played by the powerful and powerless and the mocking, vengeful tone they display off stage - what he terms their public and hidden transcripts. Using examples from the literature, history, and politics of cultures around the world, the author examines the many guises this interaction has taken throughout history and the tensions and contradictions it reflects.
status inscribed in its use. Inasmuch as there was a determined effort by the revolutionaries in France immediately after 1789 to ban the use of vous, we can take it for granted that this semantic of power was not a matter of popular indifference. To this day, at socialist and communist gatherings, Europeans who are strangers will use the familiar form with one another to express equality and comradeship. In ordinary usage vous is now used redprocally to express not status, but lack of close
Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language of the Jews, 243, emphasis added. 34. Sex and Character, 146, cited in Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, 245. 35. Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, 243-44. Domination, Acting, and Fantasy plain enough is that, in any established system of domination, it is not just a question of masking one's feelings and producing the correct speech acts and gestures in their place. Rather it is often a question of controlling what would be a natural
Habermas excludes, by definition, all "strategic" action and dominated discourse from the ideal speech situation and, hence, from the search for rational consensus. What domination achieves, in this context, is the fragmentation of discourse, so that much ofwhat would be a cohesive, integrated discourse is sequestered into the hidden transcript of the subordinate and the hidden transcript of the dominant. See, for example, Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory ofJuqen Habermas, 273-352. 37.
undercover investigation to identify those nobles who had been excessively cruel and inhumane. The czar was aware that any symbolic gains derived from his paternalistic pose would, if made public, be far outweighed by the provocation to defiance that the apparent disunity among elites would set in moti0n.~3 It does not follow that public activity between dominant and subordinate is nothing but a kind of tableau of power symbolizing hierarchy. A great deal of communication-especially in
offstage. That impression would be a serious mistake. My aim in this chapter is to direct attention to the manifold strategies by which subordinate groups manage to insinuate their resistance, in disguised forms, into the public transcript. If subordinate groups have typically won a reputation for subtlety-a subtlety their superiors often regard as cunning and deception-this is surely because their vulnerability has rarely permitted them the luxury of direct confrontation. The self-control and