5 1 2017

Who is a Naga village? The Naga 'village republic' through the ages

Jelle JP Wouters

Abstract


This article engages historically and ethnographically the idea and idiom of the prototypical Naga ‘village republic.’ Even as the popular imagination of Naga villages as ‘republics’ traces back to colonial writings, and while much has changed since, I illustrate the remarkable resilience of the ‘Naga village’ as a political, partisan, self-protective and affective unit. I perceive the Naga village as encompassing a moral community characterized by its temporal and spatial rootedness, and whose inhabitants define themselves through the conduit of historical memory – a nexus locally between history, locality, ancestral genealogy, and identity – and which orients their relations with neighbouring and nearby villages and villagers. More specifically, I discuss the contemporary form and substance of the ‘Naga village’ in relation to (1) identity and identification, (2) local governance, particularly Nagaland’s policy of communitisation, and (3) democracy and elections.


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