From Humiliation to Christlike Humility: a Phenomenological-Theological Study on the Naga Experiences of British Colonialism, American Western Christianity and Indian Political Statehood

by Villo Naleo
Year: 2020
A dissertation submitted to the faculty in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the International Graduate School of Leadership Quezon City, The Philippines.

From Humiliation to Christlike Humility: a Phenomenological-Theological Study on the Naga Experiences of British Colonialism, American Western Christianity and Indian Political Statehood

Humiliation is as old as human civilization. It is part of the interaction between people from the beginning of human history when men were simple hunter-gatherers to the times of the slaves and underlings until the twenty-first century. This phenomenological study is an attempt to understand the meaning and experience of collective humiliation.

Like several colonized countries and villages, Nagas are influenced predominantly by external influences, namely the British Colonial rule, the American Western Christianity, and the Indian Political Statehood. Nagas have experienced collective humiliation as they interacted with these three forces. These experiences caused the people to adopt their perpetrators’ lifestyle and thinking, accept Christianity as their religion, and live in a political statehood (Nagaland) forced on them. We need to address this phenomenon because if left unaddressed, the humiliation would produce hatred and animosity and create cycles of revenge in any given context.

Several scholars have addressed the issue of humiliation by understanding the behavior of the perpetrators. They examined the damages done to the victim’s perception of self and dignity—individually and collectively. Very few scholars see humiliation to be the result. Most scholars addressed the issue by bringing down the perpetrators, addressing the rights of the victims, and asserting Human Rights and other forms of justice. This research understands humiliation as something that happened in the past or is happening in the present. If we confront humiliation with a positive attitude (Christ-like humility), we can have a tool (forgiveness) that produces a positive attitude in building a healthy community and identity.

We used a qualitative phenomenological approach, wherein we examined the experiences of historical humiliation from the interviews and literary sources. Subsequently, we analyzed the forms of humiliation experienced by the Nagas and transformed these situations into meaningful experiences.

We have seven key informants who were directly affected by the forces mentioned. Their responses and feelings are the primary data for defining the experience and meaning of humiliation. Using the method of “phenomenological reflection” (van Manen 1990, 78), we have grasped the essential meaning of the statements provided by the participants and translated them into the most accurate definition of humiliation as felt by the participants. We analyzed what the participants experienced and how they experienced the phenomenon using structural and textural descriptions.

The data reveal that Nagas experienced humiliation through their interaction with the three foreign forces. These experiences shaped their perception of themselves and others. On one hand, these forces have positive influences. On the other hand, they brought negative experiences that shaped Nagaland’s identity. We should confront these negative influences with a positive attitude. Thus, we can transform humiliation by embracing a virtue (Christ like humility) that is ignored by the modern world.

This research shows that humiliation has various facets (Misrecognition, Non acceptance, and Non-recognition). Humiliation can impair the sense of belonging and create void and confusion if it is overlooked. Nevertheless, Nagas stood as dignified people. They exhibited formidable courage, defying the British colonial rule, and accepted Christianity with honor, abandoning their ancestral practices at the cost of cultural extinction.

Nagas are predominantly Christians, and they will remain a good neighbor and a bonafide state of India. Therefore, they must respond as Christians like the believers in Philippians 2:1-11 and 1 Peter. They should respond with Christ-like humility—a non-violent response in a violated context.