The Unfolding of Myth of the ‘Tribal’: A Case of the Nagas


  • Chakri Bhodhimani ศูนย์ภารตะศึกษา สถาบันวิจัยภาษาและวัฒนธรรมเอเชีย มหาวิทยาลัยมหิด


Identity politics, India’s North East, myth, visual imagery, The Nagas and Nagaland


Tribe is a social construct which has no constant meaning. While the word ‘tribe’ is used to describe a group of people, the understanding of this narration is very often delusional, leading people to believe that the concept associated with it is fixed and rigid. The label of tribal is repeatedly understood to mean primitive and backward and is attached enduringly to numerous communities who were unable to control their mode of production, particularly during post-colonial phase. In this paper, I contend that ‘tribal’ cannot be generalized as a homogenous social category. If we regard a tribe as a social group that has certain territory, simple political organization, common religious beliefs and single spoken language, with respect to the Nagas, this is not the case. Likewise, this paper will take into consideration the political history and ethnohistory of the Nagas so as to identify the construction and changing patterns of Naga culture and identity politics. In this review, the rising phenomenon of identity politics of the Nagas will be closely scrutinized through the circulation of visual culture specifically tied in with features of ethnic interest as well as the feminine body. Conclusively, the paper suggests that the Nagas are forced into a situation where they have had to preserve the distinctiveness of their culture, despite or because of manipulation and threats imposed by primitive stigmas and labels.


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