Talom Rukbo and the Donyipolo Yelam Kebang: restructuring Adi religious practices in Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India

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Scheid, Claire
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University College Cork
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The purpose of this dissertation is to examine and contextualize the recent changes in the articulation of Donyipolo faith among the indigenous community of the Adi from the 1980s until the present. This is achieved by documenting both ‘non-formalized’ and ‘formalized’ belief and ritual within this Eastern Himalayan community. Since the mid-1980s, the Adi – led by indigenous activist Talom Rukbo and the Donyipolo Yelam Kebang (Donyipolo Faith Council) – have been restructuring Donyipolo to fit the model of more mainstream religions via a series of processes that could be called ‘formalization’ or ‘institutionalization’, a reformation blueprint that has subsequently spread to neighboring ethnic groups. This ethnography, exploring both folk practice and the modern reformation, is rooted in radical empiricism – in this context, meaning to collect data and allow analysis to arise organically. Radical empiricism is employed alongside vernacular theorizing to allow for the acknowledgement of indigenous theory through which we can trace indigenous agencies and the construction of indigenous lifeworlds. Facilitating this space for the acknowledgement of ‘religious re-imaginings’ as a means of cultural preservation – and as a representation of creativity – is significant particularly when viewed in the context of contemporary research on similar movements in Northeast India, which sometimes tends toward the negation of indigenous innovation by representing such religious revivals as conversion tools attributed to the Hindu right. It is hoped that the reader will come away from this dissertation with an understanding of the ‘constellations of faith’ that comprise ‘traditional’ Donyipolo and a comprehension of the innovative institutionalization processes that have shaped the new Adi praxis. Donyipolo should be viewed as a complex, nuanced, and independent indigenous faith, whether in its forms of folk expressions or in its new structure as expressed through the Donyipolo Yelam Kebang.
Adi , Northeast India , Religious reformation , Himalayas
Scheid, C. 2016. Talom Rukbo and the Donyipolo Yelam Kebang: restructuring Adi religious practices in Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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