CFP: Colonial Northeast India— Local Histories, Regional Cultures, Global Connections

EXTENDED Call for Papers: Delhi Conference: 1 & 2 December 2014

‘Cane suspension bridge over the Témshang River, in the Khássia Hills’ (Hermann de Schlagintweit, 1855).

‘Cane suspension bridge over the Témshang River, in the Khássia Hills’ (Hermann de Schlagintweit, 1855).

This workshop proceeds from the proposition that northeast India has been in a perpetual state of being repeatedly marginalised, rediscovered and redefined, and that a contemporary appreciation of its complexities must come from a detailed understanding of its historical antecedents, many of which are rooted in colonial ideologies and practices. We hope that it will have the capacity to identify areas of commonality and collaboration in current historical research at both a macro and micro historical scale. We are particularly interested in how new historiographies (for example, of colonial violence, empire and deviance, transnational networks) can throw light on understanding the particular historical experience of the northeast. Our interests are in the practices of governance, but also in the social history of intercultural exchange and the ways in which historians might read against the grain of the colonial archive to recognise the lived experiences of colonised and coloniser. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • boundaries and spatial ideology
  • colonial ethnography and representations of ethnic identity
  • colonial sources as intercultural texts
  • ecological and environmental histories
  • institutional histories
  • oral histories and folklore
  • responses to and the impact of Christian missions
  • the uses of history: museums and memorialisation
  • trade and infrastructure networks
  • tribal policy, ethnic conflict and the colonial state

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from historians working at a local, regional or comparative level. Postgraduate students are particularly encouraged to take part. Please include the following information with your proposal:

  • Paper title and a brief abstract of no more than 300 words
  • Your name, institutional affiliation and email address
  • A short CV, no more than one page

The workshop will consist of single-session discussions; full written papers (6000 words maximum) will be pre-circulated in order to promote dialogue. We aim to bring together a dozen or more presenters over two days, and up to a further thirty participants who wish to attend without giving a formal paper. The EXTENDED deadline for proposals is 11 August, with written papers due by 3 November. Proposals and enquiries should be sent to

The workshop is a collaboration between the Universities of Delhi, Melbourne and Toronto, with financial support from the University of Melbourne’s International Research & Research Training Fund. It will be held at the Indian International Centre in Delhi.

Indian-based participants who are not in Delhi will be provided with some resources for travel and accommodation.


Associate Professor Andrew J. May (The University of Melbourne)

Dr David Zou (University of Delhi)

Assistant Professor Jayeeta Sharma (University of Toronto)

A thousand oranges: colonial authority in the Khasi Hills of north-east India

Associate Professor Andrew May will present a Tiffin Talk at the Australia India Institute, 147-149 Barry Street, Carlton, The University of Melbourne, on 5 September 2013 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm.

This presentation will explore some of the ways in which the Khasi Hills of present-day Meghalaya in north-east India were centrally appropriated into networks of colonial knowledge and the exercise of power in the nineteenth century. Through science, survey, law and religion, British imperialism in the region was situated within a very particular set of interpenetrating historical relationships between various agents including missionaries, botanists, soldiers and administrators. The presentation will also reflect on the process and experience of undertaking historical research in the region.