Rice-beer, purification, and debates over religion and culture in Northeast India

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The aim of this paper is to examine the importance of rice-beer (zao) amongst the Zeme Nagas. Colonial and Christian missionaries brought in new ideas into social and cultural practices, quite different from their own, within Zeme regions. One way to frame this interaction is to examine the salient tension between worldviews inhabited by indigenous religions and Christianity; and the paradox that this represents in the Zeme’s encounters. I aim to demonstrate how the term ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ can be understood by examining the position of rice-beer in Zeme society. I will show how these debates were influenced by 19th century Victorian interlocutors – the enthusiastic missionaries and colonial administrators – but equally how local discourses appropriated these colonial concepts as a point of leverage for internal social dynamics in contemporary times.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Early online date12 Apr 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Zeme Nagas
  • rice-beer
  • Christianity
  • materiality
  • indigenous religions
  • religion and culture
  • purification


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