The mountainous borderlands of India’s northeast are often seen as historically isolated, remote and inaccessible. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness that such areas were much more open than hitherto assumed. Imperial boundaries could be vibrant thoroughfares. At the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), I will revise my SSHRC-funded Ph.D. dissertation (Warwick, 2017) into a book manuscript that tracks dynamic historical change in one such region: the Lushai Hills District, or what is today the state of Mizoram, from the 1890s to the 1920s.
The study—with the working title Tlengtle: A Mizo History of Colonial Conquest and Religious Transformation, 1820-1920—has two objectives. First, it asks how the people of this eastern Himalayan region transformed themselves from an oral society of disaggregated clans following customary practices, to an overwhelmingly Christian and overarchingly Mizo society. This central question is approached empirically and unconventionally, by foregrounding processes of linkage and disjuncture rather than assuming remoteness, and by exploring the underappreciated ways in which wrenching transitions to modern forms of governance, a cash economy, state borders and remade ecologies entangled with and informed the regional history of Christianity at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The project’s second objective is methodological. Its Mizo-language namesake, tlengtle, invokes the jewel beetles that inhabit India’s upland forests—insects whose forewings are red, green or blue (or all at once) depending on the tilt from which they are viewed. By viewing the Lushai Hills from multiple and Mizo-normative cultural logics and perspectives (rather than exclusively from Euro-normative categories), a very different set of stories can come into focus. Tlengtle is thus as much about social transformations in the Mizo world as it is about how we might develop Indigenous-centered stories about them.
- Histories of Religion and Environment
- Colonial Northeast India
Country of origin
Period of stay at IIAS
Tlengtle: A Mizo History of Colonial Conquest and Religious Transformation, 1820-1920