Dr Iliyana Angelova
I completed my DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford in 2016. In my doctoral thesis ('Baptist Christianity and the politics of identity among the Sumi Naga of Nagaland, Northeast India') I explored the processes through which Baptist Christianity has become entangled with identity politics in Northeast India and has become central to the identity constructions of the Sumi Naga - an ethnic community from the state of Nagaland in the Indo-Burma borderlands. The thesis studies processes of cultural revival among the Sumi who have started discussing the need to revive and preserve some 'good' aspects of their traditional culture that were demonised and rejected in the course of Christian conversions. My thesis explores this phenomenon in its discursive and practical manifestations and studies the power dynamics that underpin it. The thesis argues that the cultural revival initiatives do not seek to challenge the centrality of Baptist Christianity to Sumi self-ascriptions but rather attempt to give it a stronger cultural foundation and embed it more firmly in Sumi cultural tradition and history. In this way, the community is attempting to reconcile universal Christianity with the cultural specificity of the local Naga context. This takes place within a broader context of Indian Christian communities seeking to contextualise and creatively reinterpret Christianity as a distinctly Indian religious phenomenon.
In my future research I plan to pursue my longstanding interest in religion, identity construction and social change by exploring the processes and networks through which Christianity proliferates in Asia.