5 1 2017

Masculinity in the margins: men and identity in twenty-first century Nagaland

Matthew Wilkinson


Constructions of masculinity in Nagaland have historically focused on stereotypes of a premodern, warrior savage. Early discussions are rife with ascriptions of primitiveness and a widely perceived adherence to ‘headhunting’ practices. Recent discussions of masculine discourses in Nagaland engage with ideas of manhood and masculinity as externally informed and influenced by these constructions, as well as Indian mass media, and national and international tourism dialogues. I argue that masculinity in Nagaland navigates myriad structures and scales of identity, involving shades of this externally drawn masculinity, as well as local configurations of masculinity that are less salient and ‘loud’, but in many ways are highly relevant to the changing nature of identity in Nagaland. Essentially, masculinity in Nagaland is fluid and dynamic, despite popular tourist and media rhetoric framing Naga men as cut from an ancient, temporally distinct, and savage stock. It is informed by these historical stereotypes, but also by contemporary politics and social issues. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it contributes to discussions of multi-scalar identity in Nagaland, how Naga culture is presented to the outside world, and the ways many Nagas perceive themselves in a changing Nagaland. Secondly, these identity structures shape identity politics and political outcomes today, a phenomenon that is part of larger local debates on marginality in Nagaland.


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