The South Asianist Journal 2017-06-29T10:04:05+01:00 Dr. Michael Heneise Open Journal Systems <p>The South Asianist Journal is an open access, interdisciplinary academic journal examining social, ecological, linguistic, religious, political and economic issues affecting South Asia. At its core is the vision to open research on and in South Asia to as wide an audience as possible. With this in mind, articles and reviews are complimented by flexible formats such as exploratory essays, photo essays, and videos. Among the many advantages of our open access policy is that, although authors retain copyright, our high-quality publications are free to view or download anytime, anywhere, by anyone with a basic internet connection.</p> Introduction to Nagas in the 21st Century 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Jelle JP Wouters Michael Heneise <p align="LEFT"><span style="color: black; font-family: 'Cambria','serif'; font-size: 10pt; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;">The title of this special issue; ‘Nagas in the 21<sup>st</sup> Century’, is both an adaptation and a (modest) self-proclaimed sequel to Verrier Elwin’s (1969) iconic <em><span style="font-family: 'Cambria','serif'; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;">Nagas in the Nineteenth Century. </span></em>In this anthology, Elwin introduces and brings together a collection of administrative reports, tour diaries, and ethnographic descriptions on Naga tribes, all written in the 19<sup>th</sup> century. <span style="color: black; font-family: 'Cambria','serif'; font-size: 10pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Calibri; mso-bidi-font-family: 'Times New Roman'; mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin; mso-bidi-theme-font: minor-bidi; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;">During the colonial era Naga tribes turned into an ethnological hotbed, even a cradle of British social anthropology. Back then, writings on Nagas were many, varied and colorful, and included rituals and religion, political structures and sentiments, taboos and omens, dress and ornaments, funeral customs, head-hunting, monolithic cultures, and so on. This ubiquity of colonial accounts, however, contrasts starkly with the scant material generated during the post-colonial period. In fact, as a corollary of the protracted Indo-Naga conflict scholars working on Nagas now grapple with a decades-wide ethnographic void. This, however, is now starting to change. The contributors to this special issue take Elwin’s anthology, or other colonial sources, as a point of reference, </span><span style="font-family: 'Cambria','serif'; font-size: 10pt; mso-fareast-font-family: Georgia; mso-bidi-font-family: Georgia; mso-ansi-language: EN-GB; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin;" lang="EN-GB">and then link these texts to their own areas of research, offering critiques, comparisons, and contrasts as they proceed. Taken together, the articles aim to offer a set of insights and new departures into the study of contemporary Naga society.</span></span></p><p align="LEFT"> </p> 2017-05-06T11:52:12+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Colonial rule, Christianity and sociocultural (dis)continuities among the Sumi Naga 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Iliyana Angelova <p>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. </p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Prayers from the Kuki-Naga conflict: living through violence in Manipur 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Asojini Rachel Kashena <p align="LEFT">This article offers an ethnographic account of individuals using Christian prayer as a coping strategy - one among others - in their process of healing in the aftermath of the traumas that resulted from the loss of their spouses during the Kuki-Naga ethnic violence that occurred between 1992 and 1998. Relationship with God through prayer provides some succour for people to cope with personal loss in militarised societies across Kangpokpi region in Manipur. Among the survivors, constant acknowledgement of God reveals a particular understanding of religion and of faith, which helps them mitigate their trauma and loss through forgiveness and validation of humanity.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Making dreams, making relations: dreaming in Angami Naga society 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Michael Heneise <p>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. </p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## The headhunting culture of the Nagas: reinterpreting the self 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Venusa Tinyi <p>'Headhunting', as a term, was essentialised as the defining identity of the Nagas during the colonial period. Without rejecting the term per se, I endeavor to present an understanding of what headhunting culture means to Nagas and from the viewpoint of a native. In part, I do so by analyzing the term “headhunting” in the Chokri language of the Chakhesang tribe. Next I discuss this term in relation to the elitist culture of trophy hunting popular during the colonial period. I then proceed to explain head-hunting in relation to some core traditional values and beliefs of the Nagas, namely, equality, freedom and justice. Understanding the culture of headhunting from the perspective I tried to present here is likely to affect the way contemporary Naga groups perceive each other in a more positive manner.  But not only that, it may also provide readers with some insights as to why Nagas not only constantly question the superiority of others and the right of others to subjugate them but also struggle passionately to reclaim their fundamental rights to live as a free and equal people.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Who is a Naga village? The Naga 'village republic' through the ages 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Jelle JP Wouters <p align="LEFT">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.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Christian conversion, the rise of Naga national consciousness, and Naga nationalist politics 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Shonreiphy Longvah <p align="left"><span style="font-size: medium;">Religion, a strong belief in the existence of an omnipotent supernatural being that controls </span><span style="font-size: medium;">human destiny, has long been part of the Naga way of life. Even before Nagas converted </span><span style="font-size: medium;">to Christianity, they believed in the existence of a Creator, and to whom different Naga </span><span style="font-size: medium;">tribes accorded different names. Most Naga tribes also had a clear belief system </span><span style="font-size: medium;">pertaining the afterlife. Part of this article argues that it is therefore a misnomer to define </span><span style="font-size: medium;">traditional Naga religion as ‘animistic’, as has been commonly done. However, ancient </span><span style="font-size: medium;">Naga religion did not generate a sense of Naga nationalism in the way, I will argue, </span><span style="font-size: medium;">Christian conversions did. By the late 19</span>th <span style="font-size: medium;">and early 20</span>th <span style="font-size: medium;">century, many Nagas had been </span><span style="font-size: medium;">converted to Christianity. At the same time, Nagas’ self-awareness as a political community </span><span style="font-size: medium;">that shared a common identity and destiny was also born. This article contends that </span><span style="font-size: medium;">Christian conversion was predominantly responsible for the rise of Naga nationalism.</span></p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Masculinity in the margins: men and identity in twenty-first century Nagaland 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Matthew Wilkinson <p align="left">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.</p><p> </p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Continuity and change in Hao Naga Festivals 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Somingam Mawon <p>Festivals can be approached as sites for examining the relationship between indigeneity and assimilationist modernity, and this chapter explores the ways in which Hao (Tangkhul) Naga festivals index cultural continuity and change in Manipur. Since the new millennium, festivals have become a focal point for state-sponsored tourism, as well as for resurgent, and increasingly self-conscious, indigenous identity performance (Longkumer 2013). Globalising indigeneity, spurred by the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the growing economic influence of nostalgic indigenous diaspora, have also contributed to shaping and re-shaping local festivals. This chapter looks specifically at the Hao <em>Luir<span style="text-decoration: underline;">a</span></em>- seed-sewing festival - the largest and most important annual festival for 200,000 Hao Nagas living in Manipur and across the border in Myanmar, and identifies some of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways local communities creatively accept and refuse change.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## From traditional tools and local spirits to digital tools and new interpretations: reflections on artistic practice in Nagaland 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Tara Douglas <p>Over the past half-century, Naga communities often living in remote hill-top settlements, have faced a deluge of modernising forces, and today, an educated younger generation now participates in the digital domain. This paper examines the ways in which local cultural representations are linked to forms of agency in the midst of transition. For instance, a central focus of Naga art has been prowess in warfare, as courage brings with it certain status in the community. This has been linked with important customs such as choosing a suitable marriage partner. Widespread Christian conversion, however, has contributed to the removal of traditional effigies commemorating heroic ancestors. Moreover, modern schools have replaced many of the traditional sites - such as the morung or male bachelor's dormitory - for artistic development. As traditional artistic practices decline, collectors of Naga art have displayed them in galleries around the world, in many ways reifying old stereotypes. With growing tourism, the production of handicrafts that draw on traditional art is now a source of income for local artists, and cultural performances such as are found in the year-end Hornbill Festival are new sites for performing traditional uniqueness. As young people are more exposed to mass media entertainment, however, animation proves a viable alternative for young artists not at home in traditional art mediums. This article looks at the ways in which animation is used by young artists in exploring identity and cultural representation. It looks at the ways in which these new forms challenge embedded notions of authenticity art, and notions of indigenous culture as necessarily about the past.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:13+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## A hundred grains of rice: regional Mahābhārata stories in performance 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Srinivas Reddy <p class="Body">This article explores the subject of regional folk stories found in various vernacular expressions of the <em>Mah</em><em>ā</em><em>bh</em><em>ā</em><em>rata</em>. In particular, the non-canonical stories of Śaśirekha and Śakuni as found in several Telugu versions of the <em>Mah</em><em>ā</em><em>bh</em><em>ā</em><em>rata</em> story are taken up as exemplars to investigate the dynamic process by which regional folk stories transitioned from theatre to text, and from text to cinema. The Śaśirekha story for example, moves from Surabhi folk theatre to a multitude of <em>parinaya</em> texts and finally to the Telugu cinematic hit <em>Maya Bazaar</em> of 1957. By tracking these stories as they evolved into various forms of new media, this article elucidates the fluid, circulatory process by which folk elements enter a grand narrative like the <em>Mah</em><em>ā</em><em>bh</em><em>ā</em><em>rata</em>, penetrate the normative text and get recirculated back as new literary forms and performative genres. In this context, I also try to complicate the classical/folk dichotomy and question the permeability and mutually constitutive nature of such hermeneutical categories.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Re-territorialisation of persecuted identity: Sikh refugee contribution towards ethno-national conflict in Indian Punjab 2017-05-26T06:06:36+01:00 Shyamal Kataria <p>It has been said that ethno-national identity, despite being ‘psychological’ in constitution, is territorialised in place. Indeed, it is virtually impossible to conceive of any identity, particularly one that is ethno-national in variety, which does not contain a strong territorial underpinning. Yet refugees that are driven out from their homeland on account of their ethno-national identity are typically considered to constitute a de-territorialised group. Halting the analysis there, however, is problematic, since refugees do not necessarily lose a sense of ethno-national identity consciousness on account of being de-territorialised. Nor would it be sensible to assume that ethno-national identity can persist without a territorial basis. Rather what this paper contends is that de-territorialised refugees, upon arrival into their host societies, endeavour to ‘re-territorialise’ their persecuted identity and that such a process will likely prompt the rise of ethno-national conflict. This claim will be demonstrated with reference to the Sikhs of Punjab.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Dismissal of the first Communist ministry in Kerala and the role of extraneous agencies 2017-05-26T06:06:37+01:00 Ajayan T <p>The Communist Party of India came into power in Kerala in 1957 during one of the tensest periods of the Cold War. Introducing landmark legislation on land, education and administration, the initiatives of the Communist ministry in Kerala, provoked vested interests in countering Soviet influence in the region, thus making India a theatre of the Cold War in South Asia. Efforts to counter the Communist ministry's political inroads in Kerala from within the country came to be known as the 'liberation struggle', which ultimately succeeded with the dismissal of the ministry. However, the ouster was part of a US-backed campaign of containment of communism in Asia. This paper explores how US-based agencies overthrew the democratically elected government in Kerala with the backing of Union Congress ministers and with the aid of the Indian Intelligence Bureau.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Politicising ethnicity: Tharu contestation of Madheshi identity in Nepal's Tarai 2017-05-26T06:06:37+01:00 Krishna Pandey <p>The Madheshi agitation of 2007 and the Tharuhat agitation of 2009 redefined the ethnic relation between the self-identifying Tharu and Madheshi communities. At that time, the Tharu not only contested Pahadi (hill-origin) identity but also vehemently confronted the increasing hegemony of Madheshi caste groups by challenging the notion of Madhesh, Madheshi labelling, and the demand for a single Madhesh province across the Tarai, as put forward by the Madheshi community. Tharus that enthusiastically participated in the 2007 Madheshi agitation, appeared to be against the same identity just two years later. Why did they turn around? This article argues that the Tharu sensed the systematic initiation of Madheshisation of their centuries-long indigenous identity, while Madheshi activists and leaders undermined the concept of the Tharuhat, Tharu language and culture, by continuously insisting on the Madheshi label, a Madhesh province, and the Hindi language. Their eventual challenge to the Madheshi label raised questions about the legitimacy of the Madheshi agitation, a fact that some Madheshi leaders claim is political blackmail. This article seeks to bring out the Tharu-Madheshi contestation in relation to identity claims and state restructuring in Nepal, particularly with reference to the Tarai.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Recipe for assimilation: national integration, the ethnic other and the evolution of Kandyan consciousness in Sri Lanka 2017-05-26T06:06:37+01:00 Hasini Lecamwasam <p>The Kandyan Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon) occupy the central highlands of the island, and are believed to have a disposition that is ‘culturally’ different from that of their counterparts in the lowlands. This difference, real or perceived, was most strongly emphasized during the colonial era when the low-country Sinhalese settled in Kandyan areas in large numbers, and started benefiting from the British-introduced plantation economy that thrived on Kandyan soil, thus creating a competition of sorts between the Kandyan and low-country Sinhalese. Such competition subsequently prompted a federal demand by the Kandyans. Interestingly, they currently seem to have harmonized perfectly with the unitary model of the state, their erstwhile demands apparently forgotten. This study explores the reasons behind this evolution of the Kandyan consciousness by studying the function of integrative forces in the nation-building process of post-colonial Ceylon that expedited the absorption of Kandyans into the larger Ceylonese nation. Specifically, it examines the context in which the Kandyan demand for federalism emerged, and how the ethnic conflict shaped the Sinhalese perception of power-sharing and how that in turn impacted the Kandyan understanding of same. Towards this end, the study has made use of the Integrated Threat Theory, National Identity Theory, Ethnic Nation Theory, and Typology of Integration. Surveys, focus group discussions, and in-depth interviews have been employed in building the analysis of this research. It contends that the rise of Tamil nationalism effectively paled all intra-Sinhalese divisions, synonymized the Ceylonese/Sri Lankan nation with the Sinhalese ethnicity, and thus provided a very potent incentive for the Kandyans to accept the project of the unitary state, their previous grievances and the resultant demand for federal autonomy notwithstanding.<em> </em></p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## Justice in divided societies: the role of competing narratives in Sri Lanka’s transitional justice landscape 2017-05-26T06:06:37+01:00 Nipunika O. Lecamwasam <p>This paper explores the contested nature of truth and memory in Sri Lanka’s transitional justice debate. It delves into the predominant Sinhalese and Tamil narratives that present opposing demands for justice in the aftermath of the armed conflict. It maps how Sinhalese and Tamils have come to view criminal justice and truth commissions as mutually exclusive mechanisms based on their respective understandings on the history of the ethnic conflict and ending of the armed struggle. An exploration of competing narratives is important in search for appropriate mechanisms of transitional justice in the heavily polarised Sri Lankan society. The paper argues that truth should be established objectively to the furthest possible extent by exploring a multitude of existing narratives. It concludes that addressing these competing narratives is central to any meaningful process of transitional justice in Sri Lanka. The paper also proposes a combination of mechanisms of retributive and restorative justice. It emphasises the timing factor of criminal justice: given the sensitivity of the situation, it cannot be the first mechanism to apply, but should not be delayed for too long either. Most importantly, the paper calls for a societal reckoning with its criminal past by opening up one-sided ethno-national narratives.</p> 2017-05-06T11:52:14+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement## 'Butterflies taking down giants': the impact of Facebook on regime transformation in Sri Lanka 2017-06-29T10:04:05+01:00 Samal Vimukthi Hemachandra <p>This article examines the impact of Facebook on regime transformation in Sri Lanka, and in particular, that which occurred in the 2015 presidential election with the defeat of President Rajapaksa. Firstly, this article discusses how people on Facebook reflect on living under the Rajapaksa regime; and secondly, how they sought to achieve their life goals based on their experience vis-a-vis the state. In this regard, this research aims to combine three main fields in political science: radical politics, Facebook as a political tool, and dystopia; a combination that is unique in Sri Lankan studies. In particular, this examination draws from Facebook posts, videos, pictures and comments to understand anti-Rajapaksa discourse and emergent Facebook activism. Results suggest that people that felt powerless under the Rajapaksa regime articulated the Rajapaksa regime as dystopic. Facebook, in many respects, became a tool of escape, urging and convincing social network friends to vote against President Rajapaksa in the 2015 presidential election. Thus, this article reflects on 'butterflies who took down giants' through the use of Facebook.</p> 2017-06-29T10:04:04+01:00 ##submission.copyrightStatement##