Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Victorians

Lately, as part of my research project on the languages of the Tangkhul people (Tangkhuls are a Naga group residing mostly in Northeastern Manipur, India) I've been reading a lot of documents written by British officers and colonial administrators who were working in what is now northeastern India during the 19th century. While I cannot approve of the imperialist agenda which they sought to advance, I cannot help but be impressed by the erudite scholarship, insatiable curiosity, and undaunted resourcefulness with which they they pursued it. Officers like Captain Gordon and Major W. McCulloch energetically gathered ethnographies and linguistic data from a dizzying array of people groups in the Valley of Manipur and elsewhere. Most of these peoples and languages are still intact, but many have remained unstudied since the Victorian era.

While Political Agent, McCulloch put this ethnolinguistic knowledge to use during the Kuki invasion of Manipur (knowing that the Kukis were motivated by pressure from more powerful Chin tribes to the south) and, through some skillful negotiations, saved the throne of Manipur from crisis while at the same time enlisting the invading Kukis in the service of the British Empire. Those who worry that the United States is trying to bring back those old colonial days may draw some comfort from the fact that my nation has never been known for producing scholar-officer-administrators of McCulloch's cast.

1 Comments:

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. I don't know anything about linguistics but I'd love to hear more about language and history. we've got a topic exchange for history bloggers but I can't remember the address at the moment.

Claire www.17th-century.info/timetravel

 

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