5 1 2017

Making dreams, making relations: dreaming in Angami Naga society

Michael Heneise


Many cultures, including the Nagas, give great importance to dreams as sources of divine knowledge, especially knowledge about the future. The anthropological study of dreams, which generally focuses on the interpretive practices that surround dream narration, can elucidate local notions of personhood, cosmology, and the myriad ways communities appeal to the supernatural when navigating everyday social problems. Such practices are especially heightened in contexts of political violence, as individuals and communities negotiate the anxieties of everyday uncertainty and unpredictability. A century ago, British administrator-ethnographer J.H. Hutton remarked that ‘the Angamis have almost a science of dreaming’, and this article considers Hutton’s observations while ethnographically examining dream experience in the same communities a century later. 

Full Text:



Basso, E. B. 1997. The implications of a progressive theory of dreaming. In Dreaming: anthropological and psychological interpretations (ed) B. Tedlock, 86-104. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bilu, Y. 2000. Dreams and the wishes of the saint. In Judaism viewed from within and from without: anthropological exploration in the comparative study of Jewish culture (ed) H. E. Goldberg, 285-314. New York: State University of New York Press.

Bird-David, N. 1999. ‘Animism’ revisited: personhood, environment, and relational epistemology. Current Anthropology 40, S67-S91.

Bulkeley, K. 2016. Big dreams: the science of dreaming and the origins of religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Descola, P. 1989. Head-shrinkers versus shrinks: Jivaroan analysis of dreams. Man, The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 24, 439-450.

Dittman, A. T. & H. C. Moore. 1957. Disturbance in dreams as related to peyotism among the Navaho. American Anthropologist 59, 642-9.

Eggan, D. 1952. The manifest content of dreams: a challenge to social science. American Anthropologist 54, 469-485.

Epstein, A. L. 1998. Strange encounters: dreams and nightmares of high school students in Papua New Guinea. Oceania 68, 200-12.

Ewing, K. P. 1994. Dreams from a saint: anthropological atheism and the temptation to believe. American Anthropologist 96, 571-84.

_____ 2003. Diasporic dreaming, identity, and self-constitution. In Dreaming and the self: new perspectives on subjectivity, identity, and emotion (ed) J. M. Mageo, 43-60. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Fabian, J., 1999. Remembering the other: knowledge and recognition in the exploration of Central Africa. Critical Inquiry 26, 49-69.

Firth, R. 1934. The meaning of dreams in Tikopia. In Essays Presented to C.G. Seligman (eds) E. E. Evans-Pritchard, R. Firth, B. Malinowski, and I. Schapera. London: Kegan Paul.

Freud, S. 1900. The interpretation of dreams (trans. A. A. Brill). New York: MacMillan.

Goulet, J.-G. 1994. Dreams and visions in other lifeworlds. In Bing changed by cross-cultural encounters: the anthropology of extraordinary experience (eds) J.-G. Goulet & D. E. Young, 16-38. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press.

Graham, L. R. 1995. Performing dreams: discourses of immortality among the Xavante of Central Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Gregor, T. 1981. A content analysis of Mehinaku dreams. Ethos, 9, 258-275.

Griffith, R. M., O. Miyagi & A. Tago. 1958. The universality of typical dreams: Japanese versus Americans. American Anthropologist 60, 1173-8.

Hall, C. S. & R. L. Van de Castle. 1966. The content analysis of dreams. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts).

Hall, C. S. & V. J. Nordby. 1972. The individual and his dreams. New York: New American Library.

Hall, C. S. 1951. What people dream about. Scientific American, 184, 60-3.

Heijnen, A. 2005. Dreams, darkness and hidden spheres: exploring the anthropology of the night in Icelandic society. Paideuma: Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde 51, 193-207.

Heneise, M. 2016. The Naga tiger-man and the modern assemblage of a myth. In Anthropology and cryptozoology (ed) S. Hurn. London: Routledge.

Herdt, G. 1997. Selfhood and discourse in Sambia dream sharing. In Dreaming: anthropological and psychological interpretations (ed) B. Tedlock. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Herr, B. 1981. The expressive character of Fijian dream and nightmare experiences. Ethos 9, 331-352.

Hollan, D. 1995. To the afterworld and back: Mourning and dreams of the dead among the Toraja. Ethos 23, 424-436.

Hutton, J.H. 1921a. The Angami Nagas. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd.

Hutton, Ms. Box 3, 26. Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford, and available online at http://himalaya.socanth.cam.ac.uk/collections/naga/record/r73000.html, accessed 30/05/2014

Jacobs, J. with A. Macfarlane, S. Harrison, & A. Herle. 1998. The Nagas: hill peoples of Northeast India: society, culture, and the colonial encounter. Bangkok: River Books.

Jedrej, M. C. & R. Shaw. 1992b. Dreaming, religion, and society in Africa. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

Joshi, V. 2012. A matter of belief: Christianity in Northeast India. London: Berghahn Books.

Kilborne, B. 1981. Pattern, structure, and style in anthropological studies of dreams. Ethos 9, 165-185.

Kire, E. 2011. Forest song. Kohima: Barkweaver Publications

_____ 2013. When the river sleeps. New Delhi: Zubaan.

Kohn, T. 1995. She came out of the field and into my home: reflections, dreams, and a search for consciousness in anthropological method. In Questions of consciousness (eds) A. P. Cohen & N. Rapport, 33, 41-59. London: Routledge.

Kracke, W. 1979. Dreaming in Kagwahiv: dream beliefs and their psychic uses in an Amazonian Indian culture. Psychoanalytic Study of Society 8, 119-171.

Kracke, W. 1981. Kagwahiv mourning dreams of a bereaved father. Ethos 9, 258-275.

_____ 1999. A language of dreaming: dreams of an Amazonian insomniac. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis 80, 257-271.

_____ 2003. Afterward, Beyond the Mythologies: A Shape of Dreaming. In Dream Travelers: Sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific (ed) R. Lohmann. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Lattas, A. 1993. Sorcery and colonialism: illness, dreams and death as political languages in West New Britain. Man (New Series) 28, 51-77.

LeVine, S. 1981. Dreams of the informant about the researcher: some difficulties inherent in the research relationships. Ethos 23, 276-293.

Linyu, K. 2004. Christian Movements in Nagaland. Kohima: Published by the author.

Lohmann, R. I. 2003d. Dream travelers: sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

_____ 2000. The role of dreams in religious enculturation among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. Ethos 28, 75-102.

Longchar, W. 2000. The tribal religious traditions in north east India: an introduction. Jorhat: Eastern Theological College.

Mageo, J. M. 2003. Dreaming and the self: New perspectives on subjectivity, identity, and emotion. Albany, New York State University of New York Press.

Mittermeier, A. 2010. Dreams that matter: Egyptian landscapes of the imagination. Berkeley: University of California Press.

O’Nell, C. W. 1965. A cross-cultural study of hunger and thirst motivation manifested in dreams. Human Development 8, 181-93.

Opas, M. 2016. Dreaming faith into being: indigenous evangelicals and co-acted experiences of the divine. In Temenos 52, 239-26.

Oppitz, M., T. Kaiser, A. von Stockhausen, & M. Wettstein. 2008. Naga identities: changing local cultures in the Northeast of India. Gent: Snoeck Publishers.

Poirier, S. 2003. This is good country. We are good dreamers. In Dream travelers: sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific (ed) R. Lohmann. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sears, W. E. 1948. The Navaho and Yir-Yoront, their primitive dreams (BA thesis, Harvard University)

Seligman, C. G. 1921. Notes on dreams. Sudan Notes and Records 4, 156.

_____ 1923. Type Dreams: A Request. Folklore 34, 376-8.

_____ 1924. Anthropology and Psychology: A Study of Some Points of Contact. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 54, 13–46.

Stephen M. 1979. Dreams of change: The innovative role of altered states of consciousness in traditional Melanesian religion. Oceania 50, 3-22.

_____ 1982. 'Dreaming is another power': The social significance fo dreams among the Mekeo of Papua New Guinea. Oceania 53, 106-22.

_____ 1996. Dreams and self-knowledge among the Mekeo of Papua New Guinea. Ethos 24, 465-490.

Stewart, C. 1997. Fields in dreams: Anxiety, experience, and the limits of social constructionism in modern Greek dream narratives. American Ethnologist 24, 877-894.

_____ 2003. Dreams of treasure: Temporality, historicization and the unconscious. Anthropological Theory 3, 481-500.

_____2004b. Special Issue: Anthropological approaches to dreaming. Dreaming 14, 2-3.

Strathern, A. 1989. Melpa dream interpretation and the concept of hidden truth. Ethonology 28, 301-315.

Tedlock, B. 1987a. Dreaming and dream research. In Dreaming: anthropological and psychological interpretations (ed) B. Tedlock, 1-30. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

_____ 1987c. Dreaming: anthropological and psychological interpretations. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tonkinson, R. 1997. Ambrymese Dreams and the Mardu Dreaming. In Dreaming: Anthropological and Psychological Interpretations (ed) B. Tedlock. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tumminia, D. G. 2002. In the dreamtime of the Saucer people: sense-making and interpretive boundaries in a Contactee group. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 31, 675-705.

Tylor, E. B. 1870 Researches into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization. London: John Murray.

_____ 1871. Primitive Culture: Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Language, Art and Custom. London: John Murray.

_____ 1960 [1881]. Anthropology. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Viveiros de Castro, E. 1998. Cosmological deixis and Amerindian perspectivism. In Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 4, 469-88.

Weiner, J. 1986. Men, ghosts and dreams among the Foi: literal and figurative modes of interpretation. Oceania 57, 114-127.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2050-487X
Privacy and cookies Take Down Policy