Agency and Knowledge in Northeast India
The Life and Landscapes of Dreams
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
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.