Cultivating Friendships in the Foothill Border of Northeast India
Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)
In the 19th century, India’s colonial administration recognized the foothill in the frontiers of Northeast India as a physical and legal border separating inhabitants from hill and valley both politically and culturally. The postcolonial Indian state granted legal recognition to this colonial hill-valley paradigm through the creation of provincial borders. Today, this geographical model has become the basis for re-organizing territorial boundaries in this militarized frontier. Based on fieldwork conducted over 24 months in the foothill border between the federal units of Assam (a valley state) and Nagaland (a hill state) in Northeast India, I describe how coal traders perceive friendship as a convenient tool to navigate the unstable networks and power relationships here. I specifically focus how resource extraction, seasons, the different land ownership regimes in the hills and plains, and the violent landscape all play a role in establishing ties of friendship in the foothills, and explain what these everyday practices of cultivating friendships inform us about the nature of friendships in this militarized frontier.