Michael Heneise, “Agency and Knowledge in Northeast India: The Life and Landscapes of Dreams” (Routledge, 2018)

The Nagas of Northeast India gives great importance to dreams as sources of divine knowledge, especially knowledge about the future. Although British colonialism, Christian missions, and political conflict have resulted in sweeping cultural and political transformations in the Indo-Myanmar Borderlands, dream sharing and interpretation remain important avenues for negotiating everyday uncertainty and unpredictability.

Agency and Knowledge in Northeast India: The Life and Landscapes of Dreams (Routledge, 2018) explores the relationship between dreams and agency through ethnographic fieldwork among the Angami Nagas. It tackles questions such as: What is dreaming? What does it mean to say ‘I had a dream’? And how do night-time dreams relate to political and social actions in waking moments? Michael Heneise shows how the Angami glean knowledge from signs, gain insight from ancestors, and potentially obtain divine blessing.

Based on extensive ethnographic research, this book advances research on dreams by conceptualizing how the ‘social’ encompasses the broader, co-extensive set of relations and experiences – especially with spirit entities – reflected in the ethnography of dreams. It will be of interest to those studying Northeast India, indigenous religion and culture, indigenous cosmopolitics in tribal India more generally, and the anthropology of dreams and dreaming.

Tiatemsu Longkumer is a Ph.D. scholar working on ‘Anthropology of Religion’ at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong: India.

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