Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom in India

Fragmented Memories: Struggling to be Tai-Ahom in India

by Yasmin Saikia, Yasmin Saikia, Saikia


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Fragmented Memories is a beautifully rendered exploration of how, during the 1990s, socially and economically marginalized people in the northeastern Indian state of Assam sought to produce a past on which to base a distinctive contemporary identity recognized within late-twentieth-century India. Yasmin Saikia describes how groups of Assamese identified themselves as Tai-Ahom—a people with a glorious past stretching back to the invasion of what is now Assam by Ahom warriors in the thirteenth century. In her account of the 1990s Tai-Ahom identity movement, Saikia considers the problem of competing identities in India, the significance of place and culture, and the outcome of the memory-building project of the Tai-Ahom.

Assamese herself, Saikia lived in several different Tai-Ahom villages between 1994 and 1996. She spoke with political activists, intellectuals, militant leaders, shamans, and students and observed and participated in Tai-Ahom religious, social, and political events. She read Tai-Ahom sacred texts and did archival research—looking at colonial documents and government reports—in Calcutta, New Delhi, and London. In Fragmented Memories, Saikia reveals the different narratives relating to the Tai-Ahom as told by the postcolonial Indian government, British colonists, and various texts reaching back to the thirteenth century. She shows how Tai-Ahom identity is practiced in Assam and also in Thailand. Revealing how the “dead” history of Tai-Ahom has been transformed into living memory to demand rights of citizenship, Fragmented Memories is a landmark history told from the periphery of the Indian nation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822333739
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 11/09/2004
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Yasmin Saikia is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She is the author of In the Meadows of Gold: Telling Tales of the Swargadeos at the Crossroads of Assam.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface xi

Introduction Locating Tai-Ahom in Assam: The Place and People 1

Part One

Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Identity: Indian, Assamese and Tai-Ahom

1. Identification in India 37

2. Colonial Origins of Ahom 77

3. The Memory of the Local: The Stories the Buranjis Tell 113

Part Two

Tai-Ahom: A Language and Culture of Emotion

4. Rationalizing a History 147

5. Performance and Politics of Tai-Ahom 177

6. There Was No Plot in the People’s Struggle 225

Conclusion The Past and Present: Connecting Memory, History and Identity 251

Epilogue 267

Notes 269

References 301

Index 319

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