About the speaker: Heisnam Olivia Devi did her graduation in English Literature from LSR, Delhi University and completed her Masters from IIT, Gandhinagar, and she is currently a research scholar at Tezpur University, Assam. She has written on the Rohingya refugees and the scripts in Manipur and her research interest revolves around cultural studies, trans-border studies, gender and identity politics.
Abstract: This article describes how attention to the uses, attitudes, and perceptions of various scripts may provide a dynamic picture of the construction of ethnic identity beyond the framework of ethnic conflict in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. Currently the languages of Manipur are written in several scripts such as Eastern Brahmi, Roman, Meitei Mayek, and Zo script. Drawing on data collected from interviews of college-age residents of Manipur from different ethnic backgrounds, representatives of cultural organizations in the hills and plains, and from analysis of social, print, and audio-visual media, the article argues that the alignments between script, ethnic identity, and territory are not stable but change in relation to individuals’ or organizations’ positionality towards broader social and political ideologies. In graphically diverse regions such as Manipur, script serves as a semiotic resource through which people can incorporate distinct, but overlapping, ideas of belonging in the construction of ethnic identity.