Centre for Cultural and Community Initiatives

Centre for Cultural and Community Initiatives

Course on Cultural Study and Community Initiatives

Dr Fabian Lyngdoh, HoD, CCI Department

From the inception of the Martin Luther Christian University, there has been a sustained and continuous commitment to culture and community. At the first meeting of the Board of Governors, it was conceived that the role and responsibility of the Church is to transform society in a manner that is relevant in today’s context. The process of transformation must come about in such a way that it solves the problems of unemployment among young people, poverty, health, education and development.  The university has come at the right time and should help our people to help themselves.  North East India has rich potential in nature and the university should help to tap these resources in a proper way.  Hence, the university should help to define the role of the church in this society and should be rooted in the local culture.

Historically, the church has provided school and higher education in Meghalaya but the university will be the crown of our educational efforts in Meghalaya.  The praxis of faith, grace and scripture is education. The University espouses the Christian values of empathy and compassion for the marginalised and deprived and the Tribal values of harmony with one another and with nature, and a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of all.

In the Mission Statement it is stated that the University is to contribute to the sustainable development of Meghalaya, while upholding and conserving its bio-cultural heritage. The University and its departments have already demonstrated significant inclusion of cultural and community components in the syllabus, filed work and research, including at the doctoral level. The University has also received several external grants for conducting research and community projects in the area of culture and traditional knowledge. To achieve this commitment in a formal and systematic manner, the Department of Cultural and Community Initiatives was created at the Board of Governors meeting held on August 1, 2017.

The benefits of cultural studies have been well-documented in the academic literature. A recent much-cited study from Stanford University study demonstrated the academic benefits of ethnic studies courses (2016). The study compared academic outcomes for students enrolled in cultural studies with similar students who did not take them. It was found that students’ attendance overall increased by 21%. The students completed more credits (average increase of 23 credits) and the cumulative GPAs Increased by 1.4 grade points. The study concluded that “culturally relevant pedagogy and ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and a social-psychological intervention.”

A strong emphasis on intercultural education incorporated in universities in Mexico has demonstrated several benefits: First, knowledge integration is believed to contribute to the conservation of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity, collectively called bio-cultural diversity, a process in which appropriate education plays an integral role. Second, the complementarity between indigenous knowledge (IK) and science has been widely used in adaptive co-management of natural resources, i.e., shared management by different stakeholders on the basis of mutual learning, for which intercultural education may be critical. Third, knowledge integration has social justice implications such as affirming the autonomy, sovereignty, and identity of indigenous communities. Intercultural education has been claimed to improve the equity of relations between indigenous and dominant societies; to reduce prejudice and stereotyping; to strengthen democracy; and to assist nonindigenous actors to accept social and environmental responsibilities

In the theory of life span development described by Catell, two types of intelligence are postulated as shown in the diagram below:

During the life span, cultural knowledge is usually acquired in an informal manner, in childhood from family and community. In many tribal societies adolescents and young adults were provided formal cultural learning in the dormitories such as the ïing-khynraw, morung, nokpante and ghotul. With external influences, this formal training has been lost. As a result, young indigenous individuals may have issues with cultural identity and cultural knowledge. The university shall provide this component of education.

In the meeting of the Board of Studies, held on November 17, 2017, the Board was informed that the Academic Council had approved a 4 credit subject for all undergraduate students. The Board endorsed the decision and recommended that the course be named as “Tribal Culture of North East India” and that the following content be included in the course for undergraduate students:

  1. Tribal Mythological Systems
  2. Tribal Land Tenure Systems
  3. Traditional Governance and Conflict Resolutions
  4. Tribal performing Arts
  5. Gender Relations and Women Status in Tribal Society
  6. Contemporary Situations in Tribal Societies

The following pedagogy is recommended:

  1. Lectures and Presentation
  2. Field Trips
  3. Guest Lectures
  4. Guest Performances

Action Items

The Board of Studies recommended the following action plans to undertaken by the Department:

  1. Compiling a list of Community Projects undertaken by all the Departments
  2. Collection of Folklores, Cultural Artifacts and Cultural Symbols
  3. Setting up a Cultural Resource Centre and Cultural Museum.
  4. Preparation of a Five-Year Plan.

Minor papers on cultural study for undergraduates

Course Name: Tribal Culture of North East India

Objectives of the Paper:

1. To create awareness and interest on tribal cultures and identities and to re-awake tribal values of harmony with one another and with nature, and collective responsibilities in the minds of the students.

2. Through knowledge integration, to contribute to the conservation of bio-cultural diversity of North East India, through knowledge of tribal cultural heritage, arts, thoughts, faiths and belief systems.

3. To pave the way for complementarity between indigenous knowledge and science in adaptive co-management of natural resources.

4. To create an awareness of social justice by affirming the autonomy, sovereignty, and identity of indigenous communities and to improve the equity of relations between indigenous and dominant societies.

5. To re-awaken tribal youth dormitory pedagogy for the education of tribal adolescents and young adults through formal cultural learning with the aim to revive cultural identity and cultural knowledge so as to arouse in students a sense of pride in their own cultural identities.

Course Contents:

Unit 1: Culture and Society – Definitions and Basic concepts

Unit 2:

a) Social Values and Norms

b) Socialization:

c) Social Interactions- i) Competition

 ii) Conflict

  iii) Cooperation

 iv) Accommodation

d) Social Change

Unit 3: Tribal Societies

a) Religious Thoughts and Beliefs:

i) Tribal mythological system

ii) Concept of the spiritual world

iii) Religious rituals for the dead

iv) Community religions

b) Social life:

i) Marriage and Family System

ii) Traditional Medicine and Healthcare

iii) Gender relations and women’s status

iv) Tribal pedagogy

v) Tribal performing arts

c) Economic Life:

i) Land and natural resources management

ii) Tribal land tenure system

iii) Tribal economy and system of production

d) Political Life:

i) Traditional Governance Systems

ii) Conflict Resolution Mechanism

e) Contemporary situations in tribal societies:

i) Present Status of Family and Clan System.

ii) Present Status of Land ownership.

iii) Present Status of Traditional Governance Institutions.

iv) Statutory Village Councils.

v) Status of Women in present tribal Societies

Unit 4: Special Study on Khasi Culture and Philosophy


1. Khasi Epistemology

2. Man and the cosmos.

3. God and Spirits

4. The Kur system

5. Marriage and kinship

6. Religious thoughts

7. Spiritual healing

8. Politics and governance

9. Word and covenant,

10. The judicature

11. Ka Rongbiria (archery)

12. Monolithic culture.

Pedagogy to be followed:

1. Lectures and Presentations

2. Field Trips

3. Guest Lectures

4. Guest Performances

5. Group Discussion

Assessment Methods

1. Class Tests (Short Essays)

2. Multiple Choice Questions

3. Quiz

4. Field Report Writing

5. Project Assignments

6. Peer Evaluation

7. Story telling by Students


  • Santrock, John W. Life-Span Development. 13th ed. Tata McGraw-Hill, New Delhi. 2011.
  • Dee, T., & Penner, E. (2016). “The Casual Effects of Cultural Relevance: Evidence from an Ethnic Studies Curriculum.” (CEPA Working Paper No. 16-01). Retrieved from Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: http://cepa.stanford.edu/wp16-01
  • Baltes, P. B. (1987). “Theoretical Propositions of Life-Span Developmental Psychology: On the Dynamics Between Growth and Decline.” Developmental Psychology, 23 (5), 611-626. https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/volltexte/institut/dok/full/Baltes/theoreti/index.htm
  • Burford, G., S. Kissmann, F. J. Rosado-May, S. H. Alvarado Dzul, and M. K. Harder. 2012. “Indigenous participation in intercultural education: learning from Mexico and Tanzania.” Ecology and Society 17(4): 33. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05250-170433
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