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Visualising National Life: The Hornbill Festival as Culture and Politics

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFocus on World Festivals
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary case studies and perspectives
EditorsChris Newbold, Jennie Jordan
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherGoodfellow Publs
ISBN (Print)978-1-910158-55-5
StatePublished - Feb 2016

Abstract

The Hornbill Festival has become an international event in the last 10 years that is synonymous with the Indian state of Nagaland. While the Festival attempts to draw large numbers of visitors globally, it speaks to a number of issues that are not always visible on the glossy posters and magazines circulating in the media-scape. This article will suggest that in order to appreciate the Festival one has to take into account the different levels of what I shall call the “performance of identity”. First, the Festival celebrates the creation of Nagaland in 1963 as a state in India after years of civil and military unrest in the region. Second, while the political situation remains unresolved, the Festival is an attempt to project a distinct Naga identity that correlates with notions of indigenous peoples’ rhetoric of “preservation of culture” and “self-determination” as the cornerstone of national identity. While these different forces are at play in the global arena of indigeneity, the Hornbill also functions as a contested site of “culture”. On the one hand, it plays on representations of exoticism from colonial ethnography emulating them in visuals of glossy coffee-table books, and adventure tourist materials. On the other hand, the Festival itself is struggling to articulate a Naga culture that represents the lived reality of present day Nagas. Tension arises from displaying a manufactured “culture” that is dependent on the political economy of global markets. It is in these tensions that we can come to understand the evolving nature of culture and all its manifest contradictions.

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