Exploring the Diversity of Religion

The Geo-political Dimensions of Fieldwork and Identity in the North East of India


  • Arkotong Longkumer University of Edinburgh




fieldwork, Heraka, identity, Naga, North East India, religion


This article considers the importance of “religion” and “identity” in the process of fieldwork in the North Cachar Hills, Assam, India. The political sensitivities in the region provided a difficult context in which to do fieldwork. This is chiefly because of the various armed insurrections, which have arisen as a consequence of the complicated remnants of British colonialism (1834–1947), and the subsequent post-independence challenge of nation building in India. This article raises important methodological questions concerning fieldwork and the relational grounding of the fieldworker relative to the inside/outside positions. It reflects on these issues by discussing the Heraka, a Zeme Naga religious movement. Their ambiguity and “in-between” character accommodates both the “neo-Hindu” version of a nation or Hindutva (Hinduness) and the larger Naga (primarily Christian) assertion of their own cultural and religious autonomy. The Heraka provides an alternative route into ideas of nationhood, religious belonging and cultural identity.


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Author Biography

Arkotong Longkumer, University of Edinburgh

Arko Longkumer was educated in India and the United States before completing his PhD in Religious Studies, University of Edinburgh in 2008. For his PhD he conducted research with the Zeme, a “Naga” group in the north-eastern state of Assam, India, and studied a religious reform movement known as the Heraka. His main area of research is religion and nationalism in South Asia, indigenous religions, “neo-Hindu” groups, Christianity, and fieldwork methodologies. He is currently a visiting Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh.





How to Cite

Longkumer, A. (2010). Exploring the Diversity of Religion: The Geo-political Dimensions of Fieldwork and Identity in the North East of India. Fieldwork in Religion, 4(1), 46–66. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.v4i1.46