Literatures of the Tribes of Northeast India

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL3CL4034















Semester and Year Offered: WS2018


Course Coordinator and Team: Shelmi Sankhil (Coordinator)

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None.

Aim: The linguistic and cultural diversity of India’s Northeast region is unlike any other in the country. This reality renders simplistic cultural and linguistic homogenizations untenable. But “Northeast” is regrettably often imagined as a linguistic and cultural monolith by the public outside the region. Long years of focus on select communities as representative of the region has onlyadversely contributed in the perpetuation of this imagination. The modest aim of this course consequently is to extend the focus of academic attention from the usual suspect communities to the other major constituents of the region: the tribal communities, their languages and cultures, their similarities and differences, their political histories and conflicts, etc. all of which find varied expressions in the imaginative works of native writers selected for this course.

Course Outcomes:On completion of the course, students will be better placed

  1. To read better imaginative works coming from the writers in the region.
  2. To appreciate the cultural and social mosaic that is India, along with the contradictions and complexities of the political landscape.
  3. To identify relevant and viable research topics that can further and sustain the conversation on the Northeast experience.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:
Module 1: Poetry: This module contains selections from Khasi, Garo, Naga, and Mizo poetry in English, and also covering about a century of written poetry. They are fairly representative of the communities they represent. Some of the selections in this module are translations. T
Kharmawphlang, Desmond: There Will Be Time
Lungalang, Nini. Nocturne; Dot; Dust.
Selections from ModernA’chik Poetry by Ramona M. Sangma
Selections from the Golden Harp by U Soso Tham.
Zote, Mona. Juvenilia (The Idiot Goes to Hell, Home Going); What Poetry Means to to Ernestina in Peril
Module 2: Fiction I: Novels
Three novels by women writers in English constitute this module. Dai’s novel, set in the 19th century Assam, explores colonial experience of the Natives in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Jacob chronicles the life of a violated (by the Indian Army) and traumatized protagonist set in the most turbulent period of Mizo history (1960s to 1980s). Kire’s award-winning novel exemplifies the imaginative possibilities of the rich cultural consciousness of the Nagas.
Dai, Mamang. The Black Hill. New Delhi: Aleph Book Company, 2014.
Jacob, Malsawmi. Zorami: A Redemption Song. Bengaluru: Primalogue Publishing Media, 2015.
Kire, Easterine. When the River Sleeps. Delhi: Zubaan, 2014.
Module 3: Fiction II: Short Stories
This module looks at select works of short fiction that principally grapple with a wide range of pertinent issues that are set and largely occasioned by the introduction of the nation-state, and the various ways in which the affected communities negotiate both the lure and danger of modernity, etc.
Ao, Temsula. Selections from These Hills Called Home: Stories From a War Zone. Delhi: Zubaan/Penguin, 2006.
Bwiswmuthiary, Uttara. Onthub (Gift of Love). Published by Swrjisuma Kr. Bwiswmuthiary: Kokhrajar (Assam), 2013.
Pariat, Janice. Selections from Boats on Land. New Delhi: Random House India, 2012.

Additional References: Amin, Shahid and Dipesh Chakrabarty, eds. Subaltern Studies IX: Writings on South Asian History and Society, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996. Baruah, Sanjib. Durable Disorder: Understanding the Politics of Northeast India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005. _________ . Beyond Counter-insurgency: Breaking the Impasse in Northeast India, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009. Bhattacharyya, Harihar (1989). "The Emergence of Tripuri Nationalism, 1948-50". South Asia Research 9 (1): 54–71. Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991. Misra, Tilottoma. The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North East India Volumes 1-2. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pou, Veio. Literary Cultures of India’s Northeast: Naga Writings in English. Dimapur:Heritage Publishing House, 2015 Satpathy, Sumanyu. “Locating Cultures: A Semi-Academic Essay on the English Poetry of the North East”. Spivak, G. C (1993). “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Williams, P. & Chrisman, L. (eds.)Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. A Reader. Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1993. pp 66-111. Subba, T. B. and Sujit Som, eds. Between Ethnography and Fiction: Verrier Elwin and theTribal Question in India, New Delhi: Orient Longman, 2005. Syiem, Esther. “How Conflicts are Reflected in Literature: Transcribing Troubled Realities in the Written and the Oral” in Search for Peace with Justice: Issues Around Conflicts in Northeast India, Walter Fernandes, ed., Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre, 2008. pp. 28-35. Trivedi, Harish et al. eds. The Nation Across the World: Postcolonial Literary Representations, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007. Zama, Margaret. Emerging Literatures from Northeast India: The Dynamics of Culture,Society and Identity. New Delhi: Sage Publication, 2013.

Assessment Details with weights: Continuous evaluation:

  • Participation in weekly class discussion (20%)
  • One Short Paper (20%): written paper of about 2000 words, excluding bibliography.
  • One Book Review (20%): any book on and from the region, fiction or otherwise, in 2000 words.
  • One Term Paper (40%): in not more than 4000 words, excluding bibliography