Tlawmngaihna: Self-Sacrifice

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Mariangela JORDAN, Cornell University, USA
The Young Mizo Association (YMA), an influential parastatal civil society in Mizoram (India) is a central actor in the “dreaming” of a Mizo independent nation is also the architect of virulent moral panic and purging campaigns meant to secure and promote a particular sense of Mizoness, aligned with Tlawmngaihna (“The Unspoken Law” or "Self-Sacrifice"), a hybrid set of traditional Mizo moral codes and Christian-inspired ethics. The YMA runs campaigns against miscegenation in middle schools; criminalizes the LGBTIQ community and the homeless; and fills up informal rehabilitation centers (known as “gospel camps”) ran by self-proclaimed prophets, with alcohol and drug addicts, the mentally ill, and sex workers.

My film, Tlawmngaihna: Self-Sacrifice, attends to the sensorial experiences of a day in the life of such a "gospel camp," namely Thutak Nunpuitu Team (TNT). TNT, seen as one of the most successful gospel camps in Mizoram, is run by Pu Sângthankima a self-declared Mizo prophet and ex-drug addict himself; it serves (solely through faith healing practices) 2,000 individuals (drug and alcohol addicts, orphans, and persons struggling with physical and mental disabilities); is fully self-sufficient (with a farm, school, carpentry shop, and candle factory or its own) and depends only on the work to its 180 volunteers, ex-patients who have chosen to live in the camp to fully dedicate their time to running the place. The film follows the activities of these volunteers, with an explicit focus on their embodied experiences, from 2 AM when they wake up to cook rice for 2,000 patients, through the day as they care for 600 orphans and 300 individuals in its disability center, and until 7 PM when dinner is served and the compound prepares for evening worship and sleep.