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Tribal Transitions

Tribal Transitions is a collaborative project between the School of Oriental and African Studies, The British Museum, Arunachal University, the Government of Arunachal Pradesh, the Centre for Cultural Research and Documentation in Arunachal Pradesh and the British Council in New Delhi. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK, and runs from October 2002 to October 2007.

Starting from the premise that tribal people are not only guardians of culture but also initiators of change, the project will assess cultural change in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in northeast India. The project will document contemporary culture in three domains (oral traditions, material culture, ritual practices) among five tribes (Monpa, Nyishi, Apatani, Adi, Idu Mishmi) using fieldwork, photography and film; this data will be compared with archival material held in the UK and India.

The planned outcomes of the research are:

  • an exhibition in India, originating in Arunachal Pradesh and travelling to other cities
  • an exhibition at The British Museum
  • a series of documentary films
  • an extensive collection of photographs
  • monographs on cultural change in Arunachal Pradesh
  • a photographic essay on tribal life in the state
  • a volume of essays from an international conference at Arunachal University


The project will also donate copies of historical photographs from the UK and India, copies of contemporary photographs and copies of contemporary films to appropriate instutitions in Arunachal Pradesh

The main goals of the project are:

  • analysis of cultural innovation among tribes in Arunachal Pradesh through the documentation of contemporary culture and the comparison of this data with historical data in the UK and India
  • collaboration between public and academic institutions in India and the UK
  • public dissemination of research results in both countries 4. contribution to public debates about the place of tribal cultures in the modern world