Wayfinding: NE migration project to be exhibited at EASA conference

Wayfinding: NE migration project to be exhibited at EASA conference
At The People Channel in Dimapur, young men and women mainly from rural Nagaland come in for short-term training courses to learn basic soft skills: to present themselves, stand, sit, communicate, dress and apply make-up, all essential requirements for a job in the service sector. Many of them find placements in hotels, spas, restaurants, airlines or security companies.


Bangalore is the main node for Northeastern youths in South India. The scholars followed Williem and his friends who are working in a combined hair saloon and spa in a fashionable suburb. They are all from various parts of Northeast India, sharing a flat in Ejipura, a part of Bangalore where many Northeasterners live.


(Photos by Andrzej Markiewicz as part of the exhibition, ‘Wayfinding: a photoethnography of indigenous migration,’ a project done in collaboration with anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson. It will be on display at the EASA conference at Stockholm University from August 14 to 17, 2018)


Morung Express News

Dimapur | August 8


The European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) will feature an exhibition by anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson in collaboration with photographer Andrzej Markiewicz that traces the lives of migrants from Northeast to cities in India at a conference to be held soon.


The EASA is an organization of scholars in the field of anthropology founded in 1989. It serves as a major professional organization for social anthropologists working in Europe.


The exhibition, titled ‘Wayfinding: a photoethnography of indigenous migration,’ will be on display each day throughout the bi-annual conference organized by the EASA at Stockholm University, Sweden, from August 14 to 17 under the theme ‘Staying, Moving, Settling.’


Migration from NE

Between 2013 and 2016, anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson collaborated with photographer Andrzej Markiewicz to trace indigenous migrants from the borderland of Northeast India.


The exhibition is part of a larger anthropological research project where the anthropologists examine why an increasing number of indigenous youth from Northeast India have started to migrate, leaving the land, at this particular point in time. This mobility has to be understood in the context of an affirmative action regime and a political culture that privilege sedentarism: that people stay put in place and claim rights to ancestral territories.

Dolly Kikon


“I am excited to see this research exhibition at the 2018 EASA annual conference. Our project on Northeast India speaks about global concerns and it is clearly connecting to larger themes and topics across the continents,” said Dolly Kikon while speaking to The Morung Express.


“This is a humbling moment for us, that research on Northeast India and the lives of our people has drawn the attention of some of the most prestigious research networks around the globe,” she asserted.


The scholars focus on what labour migration to the south and to the metropolis entails in relation to care for family members and community in the hills. By doing so, they aim to assess the cultural fissures at work in people’s attachment to the places of their journeys.


According to their project description, the young indigenous migrants seem to be out on a migration route without fixed destinations, struggling to make out what and where home is. The anthropologists refer to this as Wayfinding: a voyage without a map or beaten paths or pathways to follow and with no clear destination or end station. But rather as a form of movement where the traveller constantly is adjusting the direction, seeking out new places and possibilities as s/he is moving on. And as the young are leaving – no longer interested in cultivating the land – the scholars ask what the future holds for the indigenous communities of Northeast India.


Kikon, currently teaching Development Studies and Anthropology at the University of Melbourne, and Karlsson, Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University, have recently finished working on a book manuscript entitled ‘Leaving the Land: Indigenous Migration from the Resource Frontier to the Urban Sprawl in India.’ This exhibition is part of a research project based at Stockholm University and financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences).


This year, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues will observe the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9 under the theme “Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement.” The event will focus on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders. It will also examine the challenges and ways forward to revitalize indigenous peoples’ identities and encourage the protection of their rights in or outside their traditional territories.