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Politico-ritual variations on the Assamese Fringes: Do social systems exist?

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Chapter Summary

The discrepancies, in Assam and adjoining areas in Northeast India, between ethnic labels, social patterns and cultural features, the internal differentiations within groups, the overlapping of political and ritual models, all make the social scientist doubt whether any assertion can be put forth, whether any social system exists at all. The area experiences multiple identity claims, the discourses as well as consequences of which may be usefully analysed with the tools provided in Edmund Leach's Political Systems. This chapter briefly presents three cases taken from Tibeto-Burmese speaking people living at the fringes between hills and plains in Central Assam. These cases are drawn from research that focuses mainly on the historical and anthropological foundations of ritual geography in an area that, before the British Raj, was alternatively or conjointly under the political authority of three main states: the Ahom, the Jaintiya and the Dimasa.

Keywords: Central Assam; Edmund Leach; Political Systems; social systems



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