Call for Papers
Narrativizing the Margins:
Northeast India and Beyond
Department of English
4 — 6 January, 2012
Marginality implies exclusion from the Centre, and it creates a liminal space where the marginalised are voiceless subalterns dispossessed of history and identity. Based on a perception of difference, the ‘self’ privileges itself over the ‘other’ who is then forced to inhabit the peripheral space. Marginalization is thus a product of the power relationship which operates at different axes. The articulation and representation of the position of the marginalized in a given set-up is thus of utmost importance as it is concerned with the question of agency and identity . However, like Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak we may ask: can the subaltern narrativize ? Marginalization is an experience that affects millions of people throughout the world. People who are marginalized have little control over their lives. They suffer isolation, are denied healthy creative life, and are victims of erasure of history and identity. Peoples of ex-colonies in Africa and the Indian sub-continent and south-east Asian countries, Native and Afro-Americans, Aboriginals in Australia, even women in certain societies, economically deprived people of third-world countries, as also Dalits in mainland India, besides many other communities, may be considered to be among the marginalized.
The Northeast of India, a unique geographical space, is surrounded by
China, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh; it is connected to mainland by a chicken’s neck. Territorially, it is truly on the margins. From other points of view too, mainly ethnic cultural perspectives, it is widely felt to have been marginalized over the decades. Marginalization of the Northeast is evident with the superimposition of a geographical non-name. India
The Northeast is an inappropriate label, pasting an identity over a geographical space remarkably different from mainland
as also within the sister states. The Northeast is an anthropologist’s paradise, with seven states and countless cultural, linguistic and religious identities. While it has been a zone of migration by nomadic tribes from neighbouring countries of Mongoloid stock like Myanmar, Tibet, China stretching right up to Mongolia, hybridization, too, has occurred concurrently as a very natural process because of the presence of other communities already here or migrating from mainland India. The resultant cultural encounters have often led to the loss of traditional forms and the adoption of new cultural icons that tend to threaten existing ones. While there have been attempts at reviewing and critiquing one’s own society and culture in the light of new ideas from outside, yet whenever the xenophobic fear of the ‘outsider’ has seized a community, a tendency to retreat into the cocoon of cultural isolation has been evident...maintains Tilottama Misra. Identity consciousness and its assertion is a pronounced characteristic, and a pride in cultural moorings which is remarkable, as also as a marker of an insecurity in being marginalized : historically, geographically, economically, and culturally. As Sanjib Baruah comments: “People tend to use the English term even when speaking or writing in a local language. Unlike place-names that evoke cultural or historical memory, the term ‘ India Northeast India’ cannot easily become the emotional focus of a collective political project”. Ignorance, lack of empathy on the part of the mainstream people lead to misconceptions and the people of the Northeast are gazed at as foreigners and therefore considered easy prey. Mamang Dai hints at such a void in Stupid Cupid when Jia is insulted by a lady from who screams at her to go back to her own country. Jia fights back- “How dare you say such a thing? Do you think I’m Chinese, huh? I am Indian.”. Delhi
Dominant stereo-types about the Northeast region persist, which often just reinforce the images we have of these very troubled lands which are beautiful but fraught with conflict. And certainly, as Baruah points out, Northeast India’s troubled postcolonial history does not sit very comfortably with the standard narrative of democracy in
. The common problems of economic underdevelopment, exploitation of natural resources, environmental degradation and changing demographic profiles in the Northeast states have provided fertile ground for the growth of local militancies, many of which turned into popular secessionist movements. There is widespread perception of neglect and colonial exploitation of the wealth of the region, which has ensured that the region lags behind the national average in terms of developmental indices. The sense of deprivation and difference is along the lines of ethnicity, but is also generated and thrust on the Northeast like the non-name ‘Northeast’. A sense of deep deprivation has given rise to lot of unrest and violence in Nagaland, India , and Manipur, and oppressive methods of curbing unrest have only aggravated the prevailing ground realities in the volatile peoples with identity crisis and pride injured. Mizoram, Assam
The blanket term Northeast does not help. It highlights the difference. And it is normative for a mainland Indian to be received with caution, even suspicion, as the otherizing agent, and negotiated with difference. Sometimes, rejection is open and outright: ‘the outsider’. And the army is never welcome, representing the brutal dominance of the Centre.
A mother lulls her baby to sleep in Mizoram singing a lullaby...sleep baby sleep! Else the big bad outsider ‘vai’ will come! No need no need...my baby sleeps! Angailo angailo...
Voices from the Northeast : from the margins...from the periphery. History, myths, narratives again re-create history. Histories of different identities, of different nationalities. People whose history and civilization had been pushed to the margins as not conforming to the Eurocentric concept of modernity, have taken up the task of re-creating their past and re-inventing their traditions to represent the present and resist the colonial project of denial of history or literature to the ‘colonized’. The imposed nomenclature and constructed identity of the Northeast, as elsewhere, generate a site for encounter; within the Northeast, too, there is evidence of fractures; ‘things fall apart’ and ‘the centre cannot hold’: marginalization engenders further marginalization. The term Northeast refers back to the nation, the national life and “totalization of national culture”(Bhaba). From the recesses of national culture emerge alternative cultures, ethnicities, social movements and the politics of difference.
“What kind of cultural space is the nation with its transgressive boundaries and ‘interruptive’ interiority?” Bhaba asks.
The proposed Conference would generate an open space for scholars, writers, social scientists, etc. to share their thoughts : narrativizing the voices from the margins and related issues . Voices of different underprivileged peoples/nationalities are expected to feature in a big way. Jonathan Culler commented on ‘the role of narratives in producing history by establishing a community or group identity’. The Conference would provide space for interaction between the marginalized voices from the Northeast and beyond the borders of the Northeast, who share a common colonial past, and are connected across artificial political borders by common identity and culture: the identity of being marginalized and marginalizing.
The Department of English,
: Diphu Campus, envisages hosting an International Conference on the theme described above from 4th to 6th of January, 2012. The Diphu Campus of Assam University was established in 2007 to cater to the needs of higher education in the hill district of Karbi-Anglong and surrounding areas. The Campus is surrounded by picturesque lush green hillocks and breathtaking natural beauty in a sylvan locale inhabited by various indigenous groups like the Karbis, Dimasas, Boros, etc. The Department of English was one of the first Departments to be set up in the Campus. From its inception, the Department has been actively engaged in teaching and research besides organising various academic activities. The proposed conference is the first attempt to locate the Department in the academic map of the world. Assam University
Besides the main theme described above, papers are invited on the following sub-themes, the listing of which is merely indicative. Participants are welcome to contribute papers on relevant related/interdisciplinary areas too within the paradigm of the thrust area.
· Sub themes:
· Narrativizing the North East
· Narrative and Gender
· Folklore and Narration
· Theoretical formulations of marginality
· Politics of difference
· Homogenisation/stereotyping of the margin/marginal
· Publishing industry, the North East and marginalization
· Representation and marginality
· Ethnicity and marginalization
· Religion and narrativizing
· Religion and marginalization
· Class, caste, gender and marginalization
· I, we and they : Inter & Intra community negotiation
· Marginalization & diaspora
· Narratives of colonialization
· Territoriality & marginalization
· Border & borderlands
· Standard language & marginalization
Diphu is very well connected by air, rail and road. The nearest airport is Dimapur, Nagaland (60 Kilometres) to which direct flights are available from Kolkata, Guwahati etc. The
L.G.B. International Airport, Guwahati, is well connected with all the major and some from abroad too. Connected directly from Indian Airports , Kolkata, Chennai, etc., one can reach Diphu in around 5 hours from Guwahati by train and in around 7 hours by bus. Delhi
Diphu is situated in a moderate climatic zone and January is usually pleasant to chilly. Light woollens are recommended.
Participants are requested to send their abstracts (300 words) along with short bio-data by 30th September, 2011. The acceptance of abstracts will be notified by 15th of October, 2011. Full papers (Latest MLA Style, 3000—5000 words, presentable within 15 minutes) may be submitted by 15th of November, 2011 in soft copy, out of which, selected papers will be published in a volume likely to be released in the conference. Full Papers not received by 15th. of November cannot be considered for publication.
Interested participants may register for the conference by sending their Registration Fees as per schedule below :
Registration (Early Bird): 1st to 30th November, 2011
Registration (after 30th.November)/Spot Registration during Conference dates:
Participants may send their Registration Fees after the acceptance of abstracts by Crossed Demand Draft payable at Diphu to the Coordinator, International Conference, Department of English, Assam University Diphu Campus,
Contact for enquiry :
mobile : 9207055919/9859985809/9435540414/8876909239