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Prophecy and indigenous knowledge in a digital age

Dr Arkotong Longkumer has been awarded funding from the Edinburgh Futures Institute to digitise an important archive about the Naga conflict in North East India.

The pilot project will photograph, scan and catalogue thousands of local publications, documents and souvenirs, together with the pictures of over 50 Naga leaders, stored in the Naga Archive & Research Centre (NARC), Dimapur.

Transferring the data to computer will allow public access to unofficial material that has been collected over 60 years of political conflict, and which was previously subject to strong censorship.

‘Prophecy files’

Dr Longkumer says,

“The NARC houses the largest repository of historical documents on the Naga movement, which began with Indian independence from Britain. The material has been collected from political and religious events, consultations and large public gatherings across the Naga areas.

“It contains important prophecy files, material containing a form of indigenous knowledge that foretells future events through dreams, visions, and prayer. This can help us to understand not only how knowledge is negotiated, but how national futures are understood, especially in moments of uncertainty and crisis.

“Digitising will make this indigenous knowledge widely accessible and open it up to many interpretations. Unlike many archives, these prophecy files are live and ever changing. Given the nature of prophecy and prophetic knowledge, opening them up could have the potential to influence future action and the direction of the national movement in the Naga areas.

“The archive offers the opportunity to study an indigenous movement that has maintained a clear sense of its own national identity against the odds.”

Local network

The work will be overseen by the Kohima Institute, a network of local and international scholars working on Naga issues, based in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland.

Dr Longkumer hopes the five month pilot project will establish a template for future digitisation programmes within the region, and assess the feasibility and scope for a broader programme across multiple sites in a larger geographical area.

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is the University of Edinburgh’s centre for interdisciplinary work in social and data science, the arts, and humanities, with an emphasis on harnessing data, digital and artificial intelligence for social benefit.

Links

Morung Express feature on the project, 'From wooden boxes to steel drawers to digital folders', 28 July 2019

The Kohima Institute

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Dr Longkumer’s profile page