'What Good is Poetry in Desolate Times?’
The contemporary socio-political situation in Manipur has been studied in its breadth and depth by social scientists. As a social anthropologist examining the process of militarisation in sacred sites in my PhD thesis I have been facing difficulties in the representation of the field. In doing ‘fieldwork under fire’ the factual contents of ethnography often have to be re-presented through fiction, especially when the lives of informants depend on what factual details are revealed. On the other hand as a poet I have relative ease in capturing the poignancy of violence, which I am unable to represent in my ethnographic research due to disciplinary constraints. It is this schizophrenic tension between the personal and professional, poetry and ethnography, fact and fiction that I wish to explore in this paper. I write thus as a subject struggling between non-hyphenated and yet a necessary marking of boundaries between a poet-anthropologist, an informant-anthropologist, insider-outsider and many such permeable identities.