The Newsletter 71 Summer 2015

Renaming as integration

Swargajyoti GohainKerstin Grothmann

Stories define the landscape in oral societies. Where landscape is named, each name expresses a meaning, and embeds a story. When names are changed, stories are forgotten, and histories are erased. This article draws on fieldwork conducted in Tawang and West Kameng districts of west Arunachal Pradesh (by Swargajyoti Gohain) and West Siang district of central Arunachal Pradesh (by Kerstin Grothmann) to show how militarization transforms landscape in the north-eastern border region of India. Physical settlement of military forces and renaming of local place names by the Indian army have symbolically and materially altered the local landscape in these regions. Unlike the majority of the population of Arunachal Pradesh, who follow various indigenous faiths, with a sizeable percentage among them being Christian converts, the inhabitants of the two regions discussed here are culturally Tibetan Buddhist, with a history of association with Tibet through trade, tax, and government.