Travails of knowledge production and history
In contemporary times, it has become increasingly difficult to disentangle oneself from the question: Why do we get affected by ‘history’ or our own ‘understanding of history and identity’ constructed by others? Or how does one construct identities based on records that claim to represent our history – be they from the writings by colonial administrators, anthropologists, our royal chroniclers or even the early Christian missionaries. The questions raised here are not necessarily an attempt to reawaken the debate on historiography or the methodology on rewriting about the near and distant past. At the most, it is a small attempt to look at how certain images are constructed or the ways in which our identities are shaped by the descriptive power and authority of the observers.
The exercise becomes a cumbersome thought when we think about writing our own history or describing ourselves using various sources - both primary and secondary. Connected to this thought are the questions we often ask ourselves. How do people construct ‘narratives’ of the other from all the events, processes in the past and even from ‘living’ records? Should the construction of our own narratives be just the collation or recording of given facts as understood by the early observers, founded solely on the all so pervasive ‘empirical-evidence model’? The questions put up here are not new and they have branched out of bigger debates and scholarships.
Closer home, we seem to be still struggling, trying to source historical texts of colonial exigencies on one hand, and attempting to figure out records of events produced as a result of the efforts made by others in ‘describing’ what we were.
We belong to a generation that has posed uncomfortable questions related to our past and have directed these questions to either to the claims made by ‘neighbors’ or the ‘anointed custodians’ of the previous generations who have passionately engaged themselves in writing a history or those who had been engaged with a description of what we actually were.
There are enough ‘affective’ grounds for many to develop a historical understanding of our identities defined by ourselves based on sufficient grounds not considered “ahistorical in approach”.
While setting our conditions and preconditions and in our earnest enterprise of writing or recording our own identity based on historical ‘truth’, we have been able to collect and build an arsenal of counter offensives, not necessarily related to a defensive discourse. In the process, many individuals who have not been previously bracketed within the so called ‘official historians’ or ‘academics’ have had an intense glimpse of the history and identities of the people of Northeast India.
The discerning individuals have also joined the running bandwagon of ‘rediscovering the truth’ or launching ‘historical enquiry’. To the discomfiture of many ‘officially’ established experts on the history of pre-colonial or post-colonial understanding of the people of the Northeast, the development has further widened the discourse over our history as a ‘discipline’ guided either by the conventional ‘empirical evidence model’ or the ‘constructed narratives’.
Surprisingly, there seems to be less of a rambling controversy when some of our people proudly declare the “state of our being” before the arrival of Hinduism or Christianity. While delineating the issues involved here, we are not going through the available debates on ‘historiography’, lest we would be accused of practicing or imposing suppressive and ‘infallible’ grand narratives over how histories of identities should be ‘written’ and our images “constructed, reconstructed or deconstructed” besides neglecting the project of seeking the ‘truth’, however contested or controversial.
While arguing for a reliable approach to writing of history or conducting a dispassionate ethnographic or sociological venture, the affective political content of these works can also be gauged from the stance taken after reviewing or textually unraveling the so called ‘records.’ There are those who not only seek the ‘truth’ but also try to see the ‘truth’ in the light of reason, liberty, equality and fraternity informed by the indigenised and internalised projects. Many have tried to look at this enterprise of writing history or for that matters any writing through the prism of what we call “descriptive power of the observer.” This alludes to the way we deal with questions of ‘representation’ and gives us a hint at the process of knowledge production.
However, amid what seems to be part of an emerging bigger discourse on the history of identities, we are hesitant to project a durable vision of the past, the present and the future even if we have one at present. This hesitation is borne out of the intricate relation between current ethno-political situations on one hand and the ‘ought to be of our history’ on the other. Therein lies the travails and trepidation of knowledge production and history writing.
IMPHAL | Oct 15 “The state of Manipur is for all and the ancestral land belongs to no particular community; the misunderstanding between the communities and state government that may affect people’s sentiments will also be solved soon.” Chief secret.....
PLHIVs feel ignored by MACS, govt By Donald Sairem IMPHAL | Oct 15 Even though Manipur is among the states with highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, the state is yet again facing acute shortage of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to be provided to People Liv.....
IMPHAL | Oct 15 The United Naga Council (UNC) appealed to the Kuki ‘brethren’ to restrain from making provocative statement and activities in commemorating the centenary of the ‘Anglo-Kuki War 1917-19’ which is to be organised by Kuki Inpi Manipur. .....
IMPHAL| Oct 15 The 12-hour general strike imposed today by Coordination Committee (CorCom) and Alliance for Socialist Unity - Kangleipak (ASUK) severely affected normal life in Manipur valley with all activities coming to a standstill. The total sh.....
By Lelen Vaiphei IMPHAL | Oct 15 Bandhs and strikes in the state paralyse daily activities of the state. Every individual ceases their daily work in support of the bandh or either to avoid any untoward incidents, but it is a common scene to witness .....