ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Writing as Disruption

Foot Soldiers of the Zomia

Against State, Against History: Freedom, Resistance, and Statelessness in Upland Northeast India by Jangkhomang Guite, Oxford University Press, 2019; pp 364, 1,095 (hardcover).

Between a history that desires a primitive Other, and a history that aspires to disrupt that binary, which one overcomes the hill–valley divide? The former impinges on everyday tribal–non-tribal and hill–valley interactions in North East India. In fact, this binary still informs how research problem and methodologies are formulated within academia. The latter intentionally pushes methodology and reformulates what constitutes historical accuracy, and demands a critique of history. In North East India, the surviving valley states and their ­assured subject marvels at their extant ruins, and those who believed that they too were once a state, dig for ruins. Others have locked away their past into fateful time immemorial, as self-contained, distinct hill people—happy victims of contagious nationalist history and ruinous identity politics. This is why we must write against a historical past about ourselves, so as to disrupt the comforting truths about the indigenous and illegal, valley and hills, and civilised and primitive.

Jangkhomang Guite’s book Against State, Against History: Freedom, Resistance, and Statelessness in Upland Northeast India is as disruptive as history writing in this region can be; the hill societies in the upland North East India are not remnant others of the civilised inheritors of surviving valley states. When you overturn the enduring civilisational bias, a different kind of facts becomes historical: civilisations are the product of indebted encounter. Any attempt to contain history within ethnic boundaries can only succeed through violence against the other and the self. This book about state-making in the valleys and the stateless in the hills during the precolonial period constructs a history of connections and commonalities. It is about how hill polities and valley states are products of a shared history, and in that sense, it is a truth about what they owe to each other. Even if statelessness was a political choice, they were always simultaneously conscious and anxious about the power of the state.

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Updated On : 21st Feb, 2021

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