Accepted paper:

Three wars and the Christian conversion: Naga nationalism on Indo-Burma border.

Author:

Vibha Joshi (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

The paper will question how and why conversion to Christianity in Indo-Burma border has become both a form of dissent and an expression of identity among the Naga, a people marginalised by Indian and Burmese dominance. Going beyond current Naga nationalist rhetoric, it will enumerate religious conversion in the light of the profound impact of three wars -- the two World Wars and the so-called Indo-Naga war.

Paper long abstract:

The Indo-Burma border was perceived by the British as the frontier of its Empire during colonial times, and has continued since Indian independence in 1947 to be seen by the Indian federal republic as a frontier between India and Burma. As a buffer zone it has had constant military presence. The paper will question how and why conversion to Christianity in this contested militarised zone has become both a form of dissent and an expression of identity among the Naga, a people marginalised by Indian and Burmese dominance. Going beyond current Naga nationalist rhetoric, the paper will enumerate religious conversion in the light of the profound impact of three wars -- the two World Wars and the so-called Indo-Naga war - especially the rapid conversion to Christianity during three decades, from 1950 to 1970, of the 'Indo-Naga' war. Through accounts and constant material reminders, the Naga have internalised the experience of these wars over the generations. Using archival material, oral histories and contemporary ethnography, the paper will discuss such intergenerational experiences: among Naga who participated in the First World War as part of French Labour Corps; among those involuntarily caught up in the Second World War battle of Kohima in 1944; and among those involved in present nationalist and religious movements.

panel G07
Tribal situation in India's North-east: emerging issues and ongoing anthropological attention