Ethnic Life-Worlds in North-East India: An Analysis

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SAGE Publications, Feb 6, 2008 - Political Science - 316 pages
Ethnic Life-worlds in North-East India: An Analysis draws upon the phenomenological notion of the life-world to understand the culturally-embedded construction of communities, for whom the lived experience of cultural politics constitutes their identity. It analyses the cultural and political determinants of ethnic- and identity-oriented struggles in India's North-East, as well as the cultural politics of ethnic mobilizations in the region.

Such mobilizations are an attempt to construct a self-identity distinct from that constructed by the state—both colonial and post-colonial India—which becomes a source of concern for the latter with regard to its achieving legitimacy and development in the region. While both the state and insurgent groups carve out their distinct ideological and political agenda on to the life-world of the North-East, it is at the point of diversion that the struggle for establishing such agenda falls into the trappings of constitutional determinism.

This book analyses the articulation of ethnic politics in North-East India that takes into account moves for integration as well as apparent differences. In doing so, it critically examines two major insurgent outfits of the region—NSCN and ULFA. It also discusses struggles launched by the Naga and Assamese people and develops a neologism of nations-from-below, arguing that one needs to take into account the concrete totality of the people's lived experiences. It bases this analysis on a critical discussion of the colonial construction of tribal identity and its post-colonial critique.

Thought-provoking and analytical, this book opens a new window to the study of India's North-East, which will intrigue students and scholars across various disciplines of development studies, sociology, philosophy, anthropology, political science and ethnic studies, and will be of interest to policy-makers, NGOs and global humanitarian communities.

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About the author (2008)

Prasenjit Biswas is Reader in the Department of Philosophy at the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong, Meghalaya. A Ph.D. in Philosophy from the North Eastern Hill University, he has been Reader, Assam University, Silchar (2004–05); Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Indian Institute of Guwahati, Guwahati (2003–04); Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai (2001–03); and Lecturer at the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad (1998–2001).

He has authored The Post-modern Controversy: Understanding Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas (Rawat, 2004) and co-authored Political Economy of Underdevelopment in North-East India (Akansha, 2004). He has co-edited Peace in India’s Northeast: Meaning, Metaphor and Method (ICSSR-NERC and Regency, 2006). He has also published a number of papers in journals and contributed chapters to edited books.

Chandan Suklabaidya is Assistant Teacher of Biology at the Town High School in Silchar, Assam. He has conducted extensive fieldwork studies on Hmar, Ao and Ahom villages and on the tea garden diaspora of Assam. He is currently in the process of collating these field notes into two manuscripts entitled Autobiography of Hmarkhawlien: A First Person Essay and Ahom Death Rituals: Observations on Select Villages of Upper Assam. He has presented papers on the subjects in national and international conferences. A Dalit activist, he has written a volume of poems and collected oral literature from the untouchables in Assam’s southern districts. A nature lover, he has also discovered tree fossils in Lakhipur and the North Cachar Hills.

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