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Naga Studies – For a cultural renaissance

Dr. Asangba Tzüdir

 

It may be argued but one reason why Nagas in general and the teens in particular, get easily influenced by the robust waves of changes brought in by ‘modernity’ especially popular culture is because Nagas have ignored their cultural value system. The celebration of a ‘Naga culture’ called unique finds itself questionable.

 

The waves of changes have ‘enforced’ various forms of predominating attitudes, behavior and lifestyle which have now come to characterize their everyday life functioning and living. The question, ‘what makes one a Naga,’ seems to be slowly losing its relevance even as Nagas live comfortably nestled within a fabricated ‘Naga Covering’ without form and content of their real identity.

 

Today, Naga Identity finds itself built around various waves of change largely dominated by a ‘westoxicated’ modernity. A wrong reference point and living dangerously within what the noted sociologist Dipankar Gupta aptly calls ‘mistaken modernity.’ In short, a people not knowing the roots of their identity becomes a wrong reference source for re-visualizing their past. The Naga condition today is in dire need of reclaiming their real Identity so also rebuild the ignored value system and thereby reassert the Naga Identity. Most importantly, the entire gamut of the ‘Naga world’ needs to be captured within an academic discourse.

 

A look into the status of Nagaland University clearly points to the need for a revamp. Besides lacking in content, it also seems to have ignored disciplines that teach about humanity and its associated values. The university offers PG Diploma in Hindi, but it doesn’t have space for a department like philosophy. Nonetheless, considering the need of the present Naga condition, firstly, a full fledged department on Naga Studies that offers bachelors degree course in colleges as well as doctorate studies is really needed to study about Nagas within a proper discourse.

 

Secondly, like colonial history and writings, Naga history and culture too needs to be put through a critical analysis to present a proper report about the condition and knowledge of the Nagas. Thirdly, Naga history and culture has attracted a lot of attention and interest, and the presence of such a department in the university will enable academic cultural exchange programmes at an international level. Within the contesting cultures and branding of traditional culture as ‘old’ and ‘primitive,’ such programmes can enliven culture within a meaningful discourse in terms of value system as well as its relevance in the present day.

 

This will definitely boost the history and culture of the Nagas. Fourthly, such a department should also strive towards rebuilding a Naga Identity and also the value system embedded within traditional Naga culture. The youngsters today are going through a crisis of culture and lifestyle, and a proper study on Naga culture will provide perspectives on the roots of Naga Identity built within a strong value system.

 

In short, a cultural renaissance is needed to root Nagas in their cultural identity which will then lead to re-building the Naga cultural value system that finds ignored today. Nagas today need to ‘learn,’ ‘unlearn’ and ‘relearn’ the status and function of our traditional culture, and assert a Naga Identity build around a value system that would inculcate a sense of ‘Naganess’ and also one that captures the truth about ‘what makes one a Naga.’

 

(Dr. Asangba Tzüdir writes a weekly guest editorial for The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to asangtz@gmail.com)

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