Thursday, November 10, 2011

All gathered around to reconstruct Mizo history

A daylong International Workshop on “Priorities and Challenges to historical research in Mizoram” was held in Seminar Hall, Life Science Building conducted by Department of History of PUC. Prof Willem Van Schendel a dutch social scientist a professor of modern Asian history at the University of Amsterdam was the main resource person and Dr Joy Pachuau Associate Professor at JNU Delhi was another resource person.

This important academic deliberation was blessed by participation of research scholars from various Universities who actively participated throughout the proceeding. The British Library team with a presentation led by Kyle Jackson and Dr. H. Vanlalhruaia also mark the occasion.

The workshop addressed on one very vital issue theory and methodology in Mizo history writing. The concept of “Zomia” coined by the Professor himself and how we can incorporate this concept into our understanding of our past. This concept is popularised after the publication of Yale professor’s James Scott “The Art of not being Governed: An Anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia” As explained by the Convener on the concept “Zomia” he explained that Scott teases out the obverse of state-making and disrupts long-held views of hill peoples as “pre-state”. The Art of Not Being Governed confronts us with a “radically different approach to history that views events from the perspective of state-less people and redefine state-making as a form of internal colonialism”. Virtually everything about the communities inhabiting the “zomia” - their social structure, agricultural practices, belief system, orality - are/were designed to escape state or thwart state springing up within them. For example, Scott argument, “agricultural practices are not ecologically given, but are political choice”, disjuncts conventional notion of shifting agriculture as pre-wet agriculture. This is a history of communities who chose to keep the state at arm’s length.” The theme was addressed by Prof Willem Van Schendel.

The workshop was divided into four sessions with session one themed The Concept of “Zomia” new challenges to our understanding of history. Dr. Cherrie Lalnunziri Chhangte, Assistant Professor of English presented on "Literature and Zomia" followed by Dr. Samuel V.L. Thlanga, Asst. Prof of Aizawl West College, on Zomia in text and context. The second Session was themed “Research themes in the writing of the history of Mizoram. Dr. Malsawmliana, Asst. Prof of Govt. T Romana College have a discussion on Ethnography, Fieldwork and Archaeology, followed by a photo presentation titled “History and Archive” by Dr. H. Vanlalhruaia & Mr. Kyle Jackson of EAP British Library and Dr. Benjamin Ralte, Asst. Professor of Govt. T. Romana College also talks on “Biographical research in History”.

Another presentations are Irene Lalruatkimi of Asst. Professor and Head i/c Department of Mass Communication, MZU on “Challenges in Media Research: A Study of DDK RNU Aizawl” Joseph K. Lalfakzuala a Research Scholar, CPS, JNU on “Recapturing the Past: The Nature of “Nation” Formation within the Mizo frame work” Lalmalsawma Khiangte, Asst. Prof. Govt. Zawlnuam College on "Identity and the Writings of History."

The last session is a review by Esther Laltlankimi, Faculty PUC On Willem’s- A Politics of Nudity: Photographs of the ‘Naked Mru’ of Bangladesh and Lalrameng K. Gangte, Faculty PUC On Willem’s Stateless in South Asia: The Making of the India- Bangladesh Enclaves. The session was concluded by Prof Willem summing up the future prospects for Mizo research in history.