Laughter and Fieldwork in Nagaland

A Dialogue


  • Dolly Kikon University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Priya Tamma Azim Premji University


Indigenous, community, research methodology, militarization, decolonization, fieldwork, Northeast India


This is a dialogue and reflection about fieldwork, laughter, and decolonizing methodology. Is there a time to laugh? How and why should researchers laugh? By focusing on the Naga people in Northeast India, an Indigenous community with a deep history of militarization, this dialogue draws our attention to the meaning of laughter, fellowship, and emotional connections. An Indigenous Naga anthropologist in conversation with an ecologist, this dialogue dwells on the meaning of laughter as sharing an experience of fellowship together. Social science methodologies are often structured on examinations, investigations interviews, fieldnotes, and observations. This dialogue opens a space to reflect on fieldwork, research, and decolonization. Laughter, as this dialogue highlights, is about affection, solidarity, and collective vision. For any long-term relationship that one seeks to establish as a researcher, acknowledging and respecting the history of the land, adopting a community-approach, and mentoring Indigenous local scholars to lead the research among their respective communities are important steps towards decoloniality.


Allen, Jafari S. 2022. There is a Disco Ball Between Us: A Theory of Black Gay Life. Durham, Duke University Press.

Bendangsenla, Lanurenla, I. Yashikala Jamir, Moangienla, Imwapangla Imsong. 2021. Gender Narratives: Reinterpreting Language, Culture, and Tradition in Nagaland. Dimapur, Heritage Publishing House.

Dobbs, Cynthia. 2016. “Mapping Black Movement: Containing Black Laughter: Ralph Ellison’s New York Essays.” American Quarterly: 68(4): 907-929.

Hazarika, Sanjoy. 2000. Strangers of the Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India's Northeast. New Delhi, Penguin.

Kikon, Dolly. 2019. Living with Oil and Coal: Resource Politics and Militarization in India. Seattle, Washington University Press.

Kikon, Dolly and Bengt G. Karlsson. 2019. Leaving the Land: Indigenous Migration and Affective Labour in India. Delhi, Cambridge University Press.

Sarania, Bidyut., Tamma, Krishnapriya., Agnihotri, Samira., Krishnan, Subashini., and Lahiri, Sutirtha, “Shifting Our Gaze – Towards a Just, Inclusive Approach to Research in the Field”, The Wire, 2021, June 17.

Sarania, Bidyut, “Community Collaboration in Field Research: Notes from Meghalaya”, Mongabay, 2022, July 12.

Tuck, Eve. 2009. “Suspending Damage: A Letter for Communities.” Harvard Educational Review. 97(3): 409-427.




How to Cite

Kikon, D., & Tamma, K. (2024). Laughter and Fieldwork in Nagaland: A Dialogue. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 23(3), 247–259. Retrieved from