‘More than merry-making’: Tribal-Indigenous Baptists and their lifeworlds of festivities

Received 16 Aug 2022, Accepted 06 Jan 2023, Published online: 06 Feb 2023

Practical Theology, https://doi.org/10.1080/1756073X.2023.2167262

Image: “Gaan Ngai, 1993” by Poujailung Thaimei

This paper explores how knowledge, ‘beliefs’, and ‘ways of being’ are embedded in the praxes of festivals among upland Rongmei Baptists of Manipur, India. The method used is qualitative ethnographic, coupled with theological analysis. The paper begins with a survey of festivals (Ngai) in traditional narratives and practices, to demonstrate the interconnectedness between narratives, practices, values, and their lifeworlds. With this theoretical insight, the paper analyses ongoing debates among Christians regarding the discontinuity of traditional Gaan Ngai, that results in the loss of epistemological praxes and traditional knowledge embedded in these festivals. Then, it looks at the practice of Christmas Ngai, presenting this as an indigenisation of Christianity, while noting that Ngai as epistemological and pedagogic praxis, becomes significantly modified in this Christian re-articulation. This indicates the generative capacity of Christian Ngai in animating new ‘Christian’ lifeworlds, characterised in part, by disruptions from land and indigenous lifeworlds. Drawing from ethnographic snippets, the paper prioritises vernacular concepts to visibilise indigenous lifeworlds in their own terms, and to unmask the potential violent encounters between lifeworlds. Finally, it proposes that the indigenous sensibilities of interconnectedness and their visions of reconciliation can contribute constructively to enrich global Christianity.

The paper is published open-access by Taylor & Francis. You can read it for free at the link below.

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