Video: Performing theology, heritage, and ‘land’ in the lujam songs of the Rongmei Nagas

Presented at the Yale-Edinburgh Conference, June 2021

The Zeliangrong Nagas (Zeme, Liangmai, Rongmei and Inpui) inhabit the contiguous regions of the present-day Indian states of Manipur, Assam and Nagaland. The Rongmeis first embraced Christianity in the 1920s through converts and evangelists from their neighbouring communities, who were themselves influenced by the American Baptist missions. Through these encounters, indigenous singing practices of their neighbouring Thadou-Kukis were translated and incorporated into Rongmei Christianity as the lujam. The lujam songs have survived in popular practice and print culture, coexisting alongside translations of English hymns and, in more recent years, contemporary Christian worship music. In tracing the journeys of the lujam, this paper presents the gradual indigenisation of Christian teachings and practices among the Rongmeis. It argues that the lujam, as practised among the Rongmeis, embodies an effective mode and method of theologising among the Rongmeis. At the same time, the paper teases out inherent tensions that are managed in the lujam (if awkwardly), between traditional ‘landed’ lifeworld and the lujam’s ‘heavenly’ lifeworld. Thus, the study highlights the theological agency of Rongmei Nagas in their encounters with Christianity as evidenced in the lujam practice.

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