Aaron Huq | 2024 I.S. Symposium

Aaron Huq head shot

Name: Aaron Huq
Title: Garos: A Displaced Community’s Fight for Epistemic Justice
Majors: History; Philosophy
Advisors: Christina Welsch; Elizabeth Schiltz

Garo people are a cultural minority group in South Asia (SA), who were previously known as a “tribal group.” In this paper, I define them as indigenous/ethnic minority (I/EM). Indigenous or ethnic minority are categories that SA governments use to legally recognize so called former tribal groups, which continue to bear the problematic connotations of the colonial term “tribe.” Due to one of the significant connotations being “primitive/savage,” I/EM groups like Garo people are not recognized as rational agents. I use Miranda Fricker’s term epistemic injustice (EI) to investigate this issue. In SA societies influenced by colonial and postcolonial productions of knowledge or epistemology, Garo and the broader I/EM epistemologies are marginalized, and thus, EI rises as a result. I argue in this paper that by reinventing Garoness whether through actions or resistance or words, while keeping a part of the traditional identity alive through evolving rituals, Garo people bring agency to their marginalization, decolonizing indigeneity in the process and creating new epistemology that fights the broader epistemic injustice against I/EM groups in South Asia. I provide a historicist analysis of Garo people combating EI from colonial period to today. I analyze both primary and secondary etic sources such as works of colonial officials and contemporary scholars on Garo people. For emic sources, I utilize scholarly works of Garo authors as well as my field research reflections from conversing with Garo villagers in Bangladesh. This project is significant because there are many conflicts regarding indigeneity within the discourse of SA identities, which ultimately reinforces the mainstream “Hindu/Muslim” narrative where I/EM identities or their epistemologies have no place. Looking at the Garo decolonial project of combatting EI, we can see how I/EM groups like Garo people navigate and find their place in this reality.

Posted in Symposium 2024 on April 24, 2024.