Agency and Knowledge in Northeast India: The Life and Landscapes of Dreams, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Agency and Knowledge in Northeast India

The Life and Landscapes of Dreams, 1st Edition

By Michael Heneise


172 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2018-08-10
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The Nagas of Northeast India give great importance to dreams as sources of divine knowledge, especially knowledge about the future. Although British colonialism, Christian missions, and political conflict have resulted in sweeping cultural and political transformations in the Indo-Myanmar borderlands, dream sharing and interpretation remain important avenues for negotiating everyday uncertainty and unpredictability.

This book explores the relationship between dreams and agency through ethnographic fieldwork among the Angami Nagas. It tackles questions such as: What is dreaming? What does it mean to say ‘I had a dream’? And how do night-time dreams relate to political and social actions in waking moments? Michael Heneise shows how the Angami glean knowledge from signs, gain insight from ancestors, and potentially obtain divine blessing. Advancing the notion that dreams and dreaming can be studied as indices of relational, devotional, and political subjectivities, the author demonstrates that their examination can illuminate the ways in which, as forms of authoritative knowledge, they influence daily life, and also how they figure in the negotiation of day-to-day domestic and public interactions. Moreover, dream narration itself can involve techniques of ‘interference’ in which the dreamer seeks to limit or encourage the powerful influence of social ‘others’ encountered in dreams, such as ancestors, spirits, or the divine.

Based on extensive ethnographic research, this book advances research on dreams by conceptualising how the ‘social’ encompasses the broader, co-extensive set of relations and experiences - especially with spirit entities - reflected in the ethnography of dreams. It will be of interest to those studying Northeast India, indigenous religion and culture, indigenous cosmopolitics in tribal India more generally, and the anthropology of dreams and dreaming.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Angami Science of Dreaming

3. The Phenomenology of Dreaming

4. The Corporeality of Dreams

5. The Authority of Dreams

6. The Landscapes of Dreams

7. The Public Life of Dreams

8. The reversibility of dreaming

About the Author

Michael Heneise is an American anthropologist exploring indigenous religion and medical pluralism in the Asian highlands. He is editor of the South Asianist Journal and co-editor of the Highlander Journal, both published by Edinburgh University. In 2017, he launched Highlander Books, an open access academic press that works in tandem with the journal. He edited Passing Things On: Ancestors and Genealogies in Northeast India (2014), and co-edited Nagas in the 21st Century (2017). In 2016, he earned a PhD in South Asian Studies from Edinburgh University, and is the founding director of the Kohima Institute for Advanced Studies, Nagaland, India.

About the Series

Routledge/Edinburgh South Asian Studies Series

This series is published in association with the Centre for South Asian Studies, Edinburgh University - one of the leading centres for South Asian Studies in the UK with a strong interdisciplinary focus. It presents research monographs and high-quality edited volumes as well as textbook on topics concerning the Indian subcontinent from the modern period to contemporary times. It aims to advance understanding of the key issues in the study of South Asia, and contributions include works by experts in the social sciences and the humanities. In accordance with the academic traditions of Edinburgh, we particularly welcome submissions which emphasise the social in South Asian history, politics, sociology and anthropology, based upon thick description of empirical reality, generalised to provide original and broadly applicable conclusions.

The series welcomes new submissions from young researchers as well as established scholars working on South Asia, from any disciplinary perspective.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General