School of Tribal Culture, Philosophy and Eco-spiritualism and the Centre for Indigenous Cultural Heritage and Diversity, KISS-DU organized an Invited Special Lecture on Contested Heritage: Colonial Construction of Tribal Savagery in North East India on 13th May 2022. Professor Sajal Nag of Assam University, Silchar addressed the professors, research scholars, and students on how some influential European writers chose to selectively isolate some aspects of tribal social and economic landscape as a definitive characteristic to claim that they were savages.
Professor Nag, in his lecture, argued that some European missionaries and civilians had highlighted headhunting, raiding, and slave keeping as definitive characteristics of some indigenous communities in northeast India as part of a larger attempt to claim that they were primitive and required to be civilized. These portrayals had become so pervasive that they had reached even the League of Nations during the 1920s. Over time, these motivated and out-of-context portrayals were internalized by some among the communities themselves. More recently, however, scholars from within these communities themselves have come forward to reject such accounts and present more authentic and credible accounts of their history and heritage, he stated.
Professor Nag, who has published ten monographs, eight edited volumes, and nearly sixty papers, specializes in the history of northeast India and its people, with particular reference to colonial and postcolonial period, sub-nationalism, politics of ethnicity, and environment. He has held fellowships and visiting professorships in several universities in India and Europe and is an advisor to ten journals and academic publishers.
Earlier, welcoming the speaker, Professor Deepak Kumar Behera, Vice-Chancellor, KISS-DU emphasized the need for more research on how indigenous heritage comes to be defined and that voices from the indigenous communities must have precedence in such processes. Dr. Anirban Bandyopadhyay, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Indigenous Cultural Heritage and Diversity, introduced the speaker.
Dr. Kanhu Charan Mahali, Director-General, KISS-DU; Professor Siba Prasad Adhikary, Professor Emeritus; Mr. Rudranaryan Mohanty, faculty in Political Science Programme; and Dr. Rajshree Biswal, School of Performing Art also spoke on the occasion. The lecture was followed by a question and answer session by the students and attendees. Dr. Ratnakar Mohapatra, Dean, School of Tribal Culture, Philosophy and Eco-spiritualism, proposed a vote of thanks.