Affecting change : death, violence and protest in Manipur, Northeastern India



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This dissertation explores some of the ways in which precarity takes form in a reeling present. Many social and political analysts have described the contemporary socio-economic and political situation in the Northeastern states of India, marked by a situation of civil war for more than half-a-century, as an “impasse.” With particular focus on Manipur, one of the eight Northeastern states, this dissertation looks at some of the ways in which people live through this “impasse.” Through a series of extraordinary and ordinary scenes, brief encounters, public testimonies, biographical sketches and autobiographical accounts it speaks of the precariousness of life, relationships, rituals and cultural categories even as people suffer and respond to the ongoing “crisis” of law and order, a defining feature of the “impasse.” Inspired by the affective turn in Critical Theory, this dissertation does not see precarity as necessarily traumatizing, thereby keeping the trope of trauma at a critical distance while attending to the lives of people in a situation of low-intensity armed conflict of long duration. It does not claim to provide any final explanation of what is happening in Manipur today rather it offers an innovative way to revisit anew some of the old anthropological questions about people and places undergoing dramatic changes.