Culture Education Student Engagement Traditions

Reconstruct My Tribal Identity: Experience in the Tata Institute of Social Science

By Onhring Langhu

My journey to being a part of the Tata Institute of Social Science began on July 6th, 2015 when I got accepted for Integrated MPhil and a PhD course in Social Work. It was a dream come true and a great achievement for me. I belong to an indigenous tribal community known as Anȃl Naga tribe in the State of Manipur, India. A few countable scholars from our community are pursuing research in the field of Social Science and other related subjects. It means so much to me to be a part of this premier Institution of India: Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS).

When I first came to TISS, the first problems I faced were the weather condition (hot and humid) and the food (sour and spicy curry), as I have never been fond of sour curry. I managed to adapt to the environment and the food as I stayed longer. TISS is a university free from all forms of racial, caste, gender and religion discernment. The institute’s interdisciplinary research centers help research scholars from various centers to come to have dialogues and interchange ideas, concepts and theories from diverse subject disciplines. I am very much interested in learning. I think learning should not be restricted, and should be a lifelong process. I have formed a habit of reading books regularly in TISS, the cyber library has helped me to access good books easily.

Spending my two years here in Tata Institute of Social Science has been a productive journey so far as I have completed my two years of MPhil in Social work successfully. I express my heartfelt gratitude to my Parents, Research Guide Dr. Alex Akhup and the Institution for their countless support. TISS has educated me in many ways and helped me to think beyond research. It has given me an opportunity to illuminate new things in the field of research, and gave me a chance to interact with people from diverse communities. I get to learn about diverse culture, religion, traditions and identities from people across the country and region.

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The Mosaic Festival is celebrated annually in the institute by displaying our culture and tradition in forms of folk songs, cultural and traditional dances, aiming to preserve our culture, tradition, and identity. Mosaic is a platform given to student groups, particularly from the Northeast States part of India, such as Assam, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Arunachal, and Sikkim to introduce their the greater Indian community to their heritage. This Mosaic Festival begins in January and lasts for two days. On the first day, students introduce one another to their indigenous games and traditional music. On the second day, students engage in discussions where experienced guest speakers present topics concerning Northeast Region and its development. This platform has helped us to introduce our unique culture, tradition, and identity to the people across the country India.


Now that I have completed my MPhil, I will be registering for the Ph.D. course soon. I am excited and at the same time anxious about my Ph.D. research. It will be a great journey in my life as I will be revisiting my tribe identity and history for my research study.

Anȃl Naga tribe is one of the Minority Indigenous tribe in the Northeast region of India bordering Myanmar. Being minorities, we are facing complications in asserting our own Identity. My goals of my upcoming Ph.D. research are to deconstruct the colonial writing on the Anȃl Naga Tribe and revisit the politico-history of its identity. As the Anȃl Naga Tribe’s identity has been in question for so long, my Ph.D. research will seek to articulate the origins, traditions, and cultural practice of the Anȃl Naga Tribe from an insider’s perspective. This research will help the upcoming scholars to know about the Anȃl Naga and their perspective in the academic space. This  will clear the knowledge of Anȃl tribe as an ‘old Kuki’ termed by colonial writers.* I am passionate about writing monographs on indigenous tribes and their culture. I am also passionate about teaching and researching. I would like to thank Critical Edge Alliance Zine for giving me this privileged to share my experience of my two years stay in Tata Institute of Social Science (2015-17) Mumbai Campus.

*Editor’s Note: ’Kuki’ is a broad ethnic term that encompasses a wide range of Indian minorities without respect to their own heritage or tribal identity. Not unlike those called ‘Miao’ in China, many of these tribal groups don’t appreciate the vague, generic and imprecise label.


About the Author

Onhring Langhu is a Research Scholar in Tiss, Mumbai Campus. He has completed MPhil in Social Work recently and is in the process of registering for Ph.D. in Social Work. He belongs to Anȃl Naga Tribe in the state of Manipur, India. His field of research interest is Tribal and Cultural studies, Development issues, Political Ecology and Social and Welfare policy.

1 comment on “Reconstruct My Tribal Identity: Experience in the Tata Institute of Social Science

  1. Anonymous

    Great journal…. good luck 👍


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