ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Performing Democracy in Nagaland

Past Polities and Present Politics

Drawing on the February 2013 assembly elections in Nagaland, this article explores the continuities and connections between past Naga polities and modern electoral politics. It departs from conventional assessments of Nagaland elections, both scholarly and commentarial, which tend to emphasise its "electoralills", and subsequently, condemn it as a mockery, if not a slur on democracy. This article argues towards a more contextualised, culturally-embedded understanding of Nagaland's electoral processes, which renders bare the incongruence between modern democracy and different traditional Naga polities, and bestows agency to them. It shows how different Naga tribes, instead of adjusting themselves to modern democratic ideals, adjusted democracy to themselves.

I express my gratitude to Tanka B Subba, Lucy Zehol and Arkotong Longkumer for their valuable comments at various stages of writing, which does in no way imply that they necessarily agree with my interpretation of electoral politics in Nagaland. I am also grateful to the Wennergren Foundation for its funding of my ethnographic research in Nagaland.

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