Gendered World: Politics and Memory in Northeast India (GWNEI)

Home/ Gendered World: Politics and Memory in Northeast India (GWNEI)
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSHS2028424

Semester and Year Offered: 4

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Lovitoli Jimo

Email of course coordinator: lovitoli[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: Students should be registered to the programme

Course Objectives/Description:

The course will introduce students to India‟s Northeast region through a gendered lens; the making of Northeast India during colonial period and, the making of Indian nation state in post-colonial context where India‟s Northeast region became one of the binary „other‟. The course intends to deconstruct the idea of one homogeneous Northeast in the popular imagination within Indian nation state. This will be done by foregrounding the contentious relationship between memory and history, culture and politics, and understanding how deeply gendered this history of homogenisation of Northeast has been. This will be done by looking at beliefs and practices, customary laws and tradition, labour and the emerging women‟s movements in the region.

The aim of the course is to understand the region through a critical feminist lens to interrogate how memories, both individual and collective, become cultural artifacts put into the service of nation building or identity formation. The course thus attempts to unpack „Northeast‟ as a „cultural category‟ and at the same time critically engages with State policies and State making in the creation of the „Other‟. The role of the political economy and the forces of market and developmental discourse of the post-colonial state in the construction of the region are important aspects to look at. One of the ways in which Northeast is looked at is through colonial texts and records and the language of state in post-colonial India as the region of conflict. Hence, the idea is to read the text against the grain with feminist sensitivity where people‟s memory is used and evoked through different kinds of texts. Memory here is then used as a methodological and pedagogical tool rather than a conceptual category.

Course Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Understand the complexity of Northeast India
  2. Understand key concept like Gender, power, multiple patriarchy, customary laws and practices, traditions etc
  3. Capability of marshalling comprehensive knowledge and building an argument.
  4. Develop a sense of inquiry and use course materials to build arguments.
  5. Ability to analyse and interpret from qualitative/quantitative data.


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  1. Theorising Memory and the Political in the Framing of India’s Northeast Region: This section will look at construction of India‟s „Northeast region‟. The complex histories and trajectories of the region through the concept of time, memory and history in history making are important aspects. Importantly, peoples memory‟s are used both in the creation of the hegemony as well as in interrogating the state and its agencies. The intersection of race, ethnicity, culture, region and politics in identity formation is central to the discourse of the region. One of the central questions that the section will address is how the gendered history was/is missed out in the discourse of making or framing India‟s Northeast region even. Hence, the challenge here as a feminist will be to use gender as an analytical category to theorise the region as political using people‟s memory and history.
  2. Gendered Location: Associated Beliefs and the Everyday: This section will look at the process of creating and the reinforcement of Northeast as a „culture category‟ without its own „Historicity‟. This is done through the process of reverse orientalism and exoticism in the Post-colonial India which will be closely interrogated. The gendered cultural practices and beliefs will be interrogated in the gendered world of India‟s „Northeast‟ region. The assumption that women in the region enjoy equal position in the so-called egalitarian society, or that Northeast India is matrilineal and thus women are liberated is problematic. Hence, the question how egalitarian was/is the society in India‟s Northeast Region? This section will look at memory, oral history, folklore, performance and representations to study the people and its complex cultural history and gendered identity formation, and in the process unpack the „cultural category.‟
  3. Customary Practices, Laws and Gendered Work: This section will look at the tradition and customs and its translation into customary practices and laws which is based on oral history and culture. The role of women within the customary practices and laws and the everyday; the trope of motherhood assigned to women through customary lens. It will look at labour and work which is gendered considering the agrarian nature of the region and the centrality of women‟s labour in the economy. Place between tradition and conflict situation, how women negotiate between tradition and customs, and the state power, where the private public divide is blurred as home maker, the peace maker and also as a provider through fractured everyday experience and reality.
  4. Politics, Resistance and Citizenship: ‘Women’s Movements’ and Participation: The last section will look at the issue of women as victims of different forms of violence played out both by the family and state. It is within this context and situation different women‟s group in the region emerged with the language of peace and security. This will be interrogated through the nuanced understanding of the political economy of the region and the troubled history that led to the region becoming one of the most militarized parts of the country in the post-colonial India. Placed within customary and agency, it will critically engaged with question of the voices of women in the politics of the region. The section will look at the politics played out and the resistance leading to the polarization of us and them within and outside. There is a need to engage, contextualize and theories the different agents and functionaries of patriarchies in the context of India‟s Northeast Region which this course will consciously made an effort to.

Assessment Details with weights:

  1. Assessment 1 of 30% weightage: A paper of 3000 words on the first unit.
  2. Assessment 2 of 30% weightage: group presentation on Unit 2.
  3. Assessment 3 of 40% weightage: Term paper of 5000 words on Units 3 and 4.

Reading List:

  1. Karlsson, Bengt G. (2013). “Evading the State: Ethnicity in Northeast India through the Lens of James Scott,” in Asian Ethnology, Vol. 72, No. 2, Performing Identity Politics and Culture in Northeast India and Beyond, pp. 321-331.
  2. Bodhisattva Kar. 2011. “Can the Postcolonial Begin?: Deprovincializing Assam,” in Saurabh Dube (ed.), Handbook of Modernity in South Asia: Modern Makeovers. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 43-58.
  3. Sundar, Nandini. 2011. “Interning insurgent populations: The buried history of Indian democracy”, in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XLVI, No.6, pp. 47-57.
  4. Baruah, Sanjib. 2010 (2013). “Northeast India: Beyond counterinsurgency and developmentalism,” in Preeti Gill (Ed.), The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India’s Northeast, New Delhi: Zubaan, pp. 29-56.
  5. Pachuau, L K Joy, 2014. “Framing the Margins: The politics of Representing India‟s Northeast,” in Being Mizo: Identity and Belonging in Northeast India, Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 32-81.
  6. Baruah, Manjeet. 2012. “Assamese Language, Narrative and the Making of the North East Frontier of India: Beyond Regional Indian Literary Studies,” in Modern Asian. Studies, pp. 1-31.
  7. Halbwachs, Maurice. 1992. “The Reconstruction of the Past, and The Localization of Memories” in, On collective memory, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp.
  8. Katyal, Anjum. 2012. “Manipuri Theatre‟s Sabitri Devi: Embodying protest,” in Kavita Punjabi and Paromita Chakravarti‟s (eds.), Women contesting Culture: Changing frames of Gender Politics in India, -Kolkata: Stree, pp. 42-57.
  9. Zote, Mona. 2005. “Heaven in Hell: A Paradox,” in India International Quarterly, Vol. 32, No.2/3, pp. 203-212.
  10. Nongbri, Tiplut. 2014. “Deconstructing Masculinity: Fatherhood, and Social Change”, in Development Masculinity and Christianity: Essays and Verses from India’s North East, pp. 37-64.
  11. Jimo, Lovitoli. 2018. “Text, Knowledge and representation: reading Gender in Sumi Marriage Practices,” in Lipokmar Dzuvichu and Manjeet Baruah, 2018, ed, Modern Practices in North East India: History, Culture and Representation, London: Routledge, pp. 144-171.
  12. Rosaldo, Michelle Zimbalist. 1974. “Women, Culture and Society: A Theoretical Overview,” in Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere, (Ed), Women, Culture and Society. Stanford: Satanford University Press, pp. 17-42.
  13. Jayeeta Sharma. 2009. “Lazy Natives, Coolie Labour, and the Assam Tea Industry,” in Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 43, No. 6 (Nov., 2009), pp. 1287-1324. Cambridge University Press.
  14. Borooah, Romy. 2000. “Transformations in Trade and the Constitution of Gender and Rank in Northeast India,” in American Ethnologist, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 371-399.
  15. McDuie-Ra, Duncan. 2012. “Leaving the Militarized Frontier: Migration and Tribal Masculinity in Delhi,” in Men and Masculinities, Vol.15, No. 2, pp. 112-131.
  16. Collins, Patricia Hill. 2002. “Black Women and Motherhood,” in Thorne, Barrie and Yalom, Marilyn, Rethinking the Family: Some Feminist Questions, Boston: Northeastern University Press, pp. 215- 240.
  17. Fernandes, Walter, Melville Pereira and Vizalenu Khatso. 2005. Customary Laws in North East India: Impact on Women, Guwahati: North Eastern Social Research Centre (Selected Section).
  18. Ao, Temsula. 2006 (2013). “The Night” in These hills called home: Stories from the war zone, New Delhi: Zubaan, pp.
  19. Nongbri, Tiplut. 2008. “Ethnicity and Gender: Identity Politics among the Khasi”, in Mary E. John (Ed.,), Women’s Studies in India: A Reader, New Delhi: Penguin Books, pp. 482-491.
  20. Kikon, Dolly. 2015. Life and Dignity: Women’s Testimonies of sexual Violence in Dimapur (Nagaland), Guwhati: North Eastern Social Research Centre, pp. 14-83.
  21. Haripriya, Soibam. 2012. “Agitating women, Disrobed Mothers,” in Gender in Meitei society, Eastern Quarterly, Vol.8, Issues I & II, pp. 18-34.
  22. Deka, Meena. 2013. “Changing Patriarchy and Women‟s Space in Politics”, in Women‟s Agency and Social Change: Assam and Beyond, New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 123-147.
  23. Manchananda, Rita. 2007. “Where are the women in South Asian Conflict?,” in Rita Manchanda, (Ed.)., Women, War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency, New Delhi, Sage Publications, pp. 9-41.
  24. Banerjee, Paula. 2007. “Between two armed Patriarchies: Women in Assam and Nagaland,” in Rita Manchanda, (Ed.)., Women, War and Peace in South Asia: Beyond Victimhood to Agency, New Delhi: Sage Publications, pp. 214-251.
  25. Bora, Papori (2010), “Between the Human, the Citizen and the Tribal: Reading Feminist Politics in India‟s Northeast,” in International Feminist Journal of politics. Taylor and Francis, 12:3-4, pp. 341-360.


  • Erik de Maaker, 2013. “Performing the Garo Nation? Garo Wangala Dancing between Faith and Folklore,” in Asian Ethnology, Volume 72, Number 2, pp. 221–239.
  • Chatterjee, Partha. 1993. “Whose Imagined Community?,” in The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 3–13.
  • Syiem, Esther. 2010 (2013). “Khasi Matrilineal Society: The Paradox within,” in Preeti Gill (Ed.), in The Peripheral Centre: Voices from India’s Northeast, New Delhi: Zubaan, pp.133- 143-108.
  • Ao, Temsula. 2006 (2013). “The last Song” in These hills called home: Stories from the war zone, New Delhi: Zubaan, pp.
  • Chakravarti, Uma. 2007. “Archiving the Nation-state in Feminist Praxis: A South Asian Perspective,” New Delhi: Centre for Women’s Development Studies. Available at (Selected sections).
  • Sumi Krishna. 2005. “Gendered Price of Rice in North-Eastern India,” in Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40, No. 25, pp. 2555-2562.
  • Chatterjee, Piya, 2001. A Time for Tea: Women, Labor, and Post/Colonial Politics on an Indian Plantation, Durham and London: Duke University Press, pp. 51-83 & 168-234.