Colonial rule, Christianity and sociocultural (dis)continuities among the Sumi Naga
In this paper, I explore contemporary identity construction processes among the Sumi of Nagaland, Northeast India by analysing the continuities and discontinuities in socio-cultural custom that have been effected by a number of agents of social change in the course of the twentieth century. With a particular focus on the history and contemporary significance of Baptist Christianity among the Sumi, the paper demonstrates that even though Christian conversions have entailed certain discontinuities in the socio-cultural traditions of this community, a number of continuities have persisted and come to shape the ways in which contemporary Sumi identity is being reconstituted. The paper argues that as a result, Christianity should not be viewed merely as a major agent of socio-cultural change among the Sumi but as an intrinsic part of their contemporary identity and a vital constitutive part of a ‘new tradition’ that is currently in the making: one, which is creatively embedding Christianity within a solid substratum of cultural reproduction. In so doing, the paper opens up new ways in which we can think about the effects and legacies of missionary activity in Northeast India.
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