Anthropology research seminar: Documenting the Karbi Kecharhe Alun Oral Epic in Assam, India

A presentation by Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Michael T. Heneise (UiT The Arctic University of Norway). Chaired by Richard Fraser

This presentation concerns a collaborative project led by myself and Dr Dharamsing Teron since 2017, documenting the Karbi Kecharhe Alun funeral epic in Assam, India. The Kecharhe Alun, a chanted funeral poem that is roughly 35 hours long, with a text twice the length of Homer's Iliad, and largely disappeared from community memory, encapsulates the journey of the soul through ancestral landscapes, embodying the community’s intricate cosmology, notions of personhood, and ecological wisdom. Faced with the challenges of cultural erosion and linguistic assimilation, this project endeavours not just to record, transcribe and archive, but to critically engage with the epic’s thematic depth and regional variations, informed by the gender and social status of the deceased. Through a long drawn-out process involving a team of indigenous historians, anthropologists, linguists, and poets the epic was fully transcribed, translated, and transliterated and is now being turned into a book. The project reveals the epic's continued significance as a cultural and spiritual icon and repository, offering insights into the Karbi people's rich oral tradition, but also how oral literatures importantly register cultural change. 

When: 01.03.24 at 10.15–12.00
Where: SVHUM B-1004
Location / Campus: Tromsø
Target group: Students, Guests, Invited, Unit, Employees
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