Title: The interaction of print culture, identity and language in Northeast India
Author: Zou, Vumlallian David
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2008
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EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.486253 
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Queen's University Belfast, 2008 Qualification Level: Doctoral
Pnnt culture IS an emergmg field of enqUIry ennched by a growing body ofliterature that 9JJ incorporates 'literacy studies', 'book history' and 'textual geography'. Print, language and identity converged in convoluted ways. The printing press arrived at India's colonial Northeast in 1836 not a revolutionary force per se; but it forged linkages with its oral precedents. Oral tradition did not simply dissolve at the triumph ofevangelical pri~t culture. Nonetheless, it eventually weakened the kinship complex oftraditionai chiefdom while spawning an embryonic middle class in the hill societies. The institutions of colonial reports and ethnographic records also inscribed inscrutable kinship matrices into intelligible 'colonial tribes'. The tribe idea transcended earlier concepts of clan and kinship. The technologies of writing and printing underpinned the formation of 'tribal'identity' under the Raj. Under favourable context and scale, print technology contributes to the emergence of privileged standard languages amidst Babel oftongues. The educated elite, in tum, often militantly conflated their evolving literary language with a new community identity. Moreover, ecclesiastical network and missionary magazines ironically nurtured a primitive public sphere - tribal ecumene - among 'interpretive communities' under restrictive colonial conditions. However limited the missionary literary lens might have been, vernacular book readers (at least in colonial Mizoram) managed to construct an 'imaginative geography' oftheir own 'homeland'. While the Mizos always had sentimental attachment to old village sites at particular places, an abstract 'Mizo homeland' as a generalised idea would have been irrelevant (if not unimaginable) in a pre-literate society. Through such 'ways of reading' the Word and the world, the educated elite harnessed aspects of old altruistic traditions to new uses. But it also uncritically shared, especially through Bible translation, sexist idioms and metaphors with pagan patriarchy. Ultimately, printing and reading are sites of linguistic contest, identity inventIon and gender contention.