Or it's a map of Zomia, taken from the Geocurrents blog. "Zomia" is an imagined land, comprising all the highlands of south-east Asia above 200 metres or so, from Vietnam to north-east India; the term was coined by the Dutch historian Willem van Schendel in 2002, and has been enthusiastically developed by the American anthropologist James Scott. Zomia sprawls across borders and encompasses numerous minority peoples - the Hmong, the Karen - who are united by their aversion to central governments: according to Scott, it is the largest area in the world where people have not been incorporated into nation states. Hence the title of his book, The Art of Not Being Governed, reviewed here.
There is a tendency among lowland peoples to think of the inhabitants of Zomia as ancestors, a hangover from a more primitive culture - civilisation hasn't reached them yet. Scott thinks they've tried civilisation and decided it didn't taste good. They are fugitive peoples, who didn't want to put up with all civilisation's discontents - mostly the obvius things, like taxation, conscription, forced labour, overcrowding; but also literacy: apparently, many hill people have stories about how they lost writing. So they escaped, to organise their own freer, more democratic societies. A good way of getting a handle on Scott's ideas is to listen to the 2008 Elizabeth Colson Lecture.
The idea seems to slot too neatly into liberal ideals of primitive peoples, which are themselves descended from good old-fashioned 19th-century romanticism - cf. Walter Scott's Highlanders, or The Last of the Mohicans. Perhaps Scott (James) makes highland life sound too much like a conscious choice, when what is really happening is that people are being squeezed out of the lowlands, and finding ways of living where they can: cf. the Bakhtiari people of south-west Iran, fording rivers and climbing sheer cliffs to get their goats to better pasture, in Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life - it always seemed obvious to me that they were forced into this way of living; you couldn't choose it. But cf., also, Gavin Maxwell's account of Berber society in his brilliant book Lords of the Atlas: as he describes it, the Berbers of the High Atlas lived happily under an independent quasi-democratic, egalitarian cantonal system, until the French clumped in to uproot it and replace it with something close to medieval feudalism - more centralised, and therefore easier to control. (We tend to think of colonialism as progressive in its effects, in which case the problem is that people don't always want progress; but sometimes it's downright regressive.)
On a related point, I've been reading a lot of obituaries and appreciations of Colin Ward, and realising I need to know a lot more about anarchism. Any suggestions for further reading?