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

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Genealogies of Nagaland’s ‘Tribal Democracy’

Compared to the bulky literature on caste and democracy, we still know little about the form and functioning of democratic politics amongst tribes. This is a serious lacuna, one which, at the level of sociology, impedes the kind of careful comparison that has long proven fruitful to capture the inner logic and intricacies of social life. If caste is deemed central to any understanding of contemporary Indian politics, what about those states and constituencies in which tribes preponderate numerically?

Inequality in Rural Nagaland

Tribal villages are usually perceived to be the egalitarian counterparts to villages in India that are ruled by hierarchical caste structures. Taking the case of Ao Naga villages, clan rank and class are found to be important for understanding the changing structures of inequality. Today, these villages are deeply integrated into the larger milieus: politics, administration, education and the market economy. The social mechanisms responsible for inequality are now to a large degree centred outside the village, and living in a village has become almost identical with a lower social status. One result of this process is that instead of clan ranks, the access to outside resources forms the basis of social inequality within the village. Based on secondary sources as well as original fieldwork, an account of how this integration leads to class differentiations at the village level is presented.
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