Graduate Seminar Fileona

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Main Reads

  1. Sassone, G (2018) ‘Injury and Repair: Kader Attia,” Mousse Magazine, available at: (Accessed: 2 March 2021).
  2. Devi, M (1994) Imaginary Maps, Routledge
  3. Garroutte, E. (2005) ‘Defining “Radical Indigenism” and Creating an American Indian Scholarship’ in Culture, power, and history: Studies in critical sociology Brill Academic Publishers (pp.169-198),
  4. Hazarika, S. (2011) Strangers of the Mist: Tales of War and Peace in Northeast India. New Delhi: Penguin Books.
  5. hooks, b, (1991) ‘Choosing the margin’ in Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics, Turnaround, London
  6. Hujon, J (2018) Tales of Darkness and Light: Soso Tham’s The Old Days of the Khasis, Open Book Publishers
  7. Kapil, B (2001) Vertigal Interrogation of Strangers, Kelsey Street Press
  8. Miri, S (1988) Khasi Worldview: A Conceptual Exploration, Twenty First Century India Society, Printing Press
  9. Shakespear, J (1912) The Lushai-Kuki Clans, MacMillan & Co, London, p. 62-64.
  10. Tham, S.S (1936) Ki Sngi Ba Rim U Hynniewtrep, Ri Khasi Press, Shillong.
  11. Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on The Origin And Spread Of Nationalism, London, Verso Books
  12. Azoulay, A.A, (2019) Potential History: Unlearning Imperialism, Verso Books, London
  13. Minh-ha, T. T. (1989) Woman, Native, Other. Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism. New York and London: Routledge.
  14. Minh-ha Trinh T (2010) Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event. Routledge. p. 12
  15. Massey, Doreen B. (1994) Space, place and gender, Polity Cambridge
  16. Said, E. (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books.
  17. Kaplan, E. (1997) Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film and the Imperial Gaze. New York: Routledge.
  18. Harney, S and Moten, F (2013) The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, Minor Compositions.
  19. Baruah, S. (2020) ‘In the Name of the Nation: India and its Northeast’, in. California: Stanford University Press, p. 18.
  20. Tuan, YF (1977) Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press

Project Proposal

File:Fileona ProjectProposal 2020-2021.pdf

Thesis Outline

File:Fileona ThesisOutline 2020-2021.pdf


“Healing Scribbles.”

Healing invites the process of internal contemplation that is built around my research practice. Scribbles generate the image of random non-utilitarian strokes, a metaphorical recognition that this thesis is not a dogmatic or theoretical analysis of my practice or identity.

The cadence of my artistic practice flows through loose processes of visually reiterating code, conversations, media and experience. I am a remixer and not an absolute author of visual narratives. The core motivator of this practice is the rootlessness that is my state of being.

Rootlessness is a noun that is defined as “a feeling of not having a home to return to.”

I have never lived in a single place for more than 5 years. My Khasi ethnicity is an indigenous identity without sovereign statehood. I identify as a queer femme. I have not physically seen my parents in 5 years. Despite this lack of absolute definition of place (“where do you come from?”) and personhood (“who are you?”), I am sure I have my own identity (“Fileona”). I am sure I have a home. Even if, as Trinh T Minh Ha says, “home is nowhere else but right here, at the edge of this body of mine.”

For me, rootlessness is a verb. Rootlessness is swimming between absolutes of nationality, race and gender. Rootlessness offers my identity freedom and hybridity. Rootlessness illuminates an internal exploration of the desire to belong. It is precisely this form of exploration that led to the research conducted in this text.

The text hints at my process of internal contemplation, the spine of my artistic practice. Contemplative writing has been necessary ever since I began reconnecting with my indigenous roots to produce art. Specifically, I have been collecting forms of Khasi knowledge: folklore, dreams, rumors, and myths with the intention of using them for a practice in lens-based media, a predominantly western practice with colonial origins. Contemplation is a means to heal, to take care of my voice while I tackle the big questions that come from thinking about identity, history and self.

The text is a creative report on practice that also serves as evidence of me generating healing in my practice. It includes poetry, scripts, journal entries, reflections and annotations.

To narrativize this text, I begin with a prologue that considers the event that incited the need to rethink my roots. The first chapter is titled “All I’ve Ever Been” and highlights how my practice and writing engage with rootlessness. Rootlessness is handled as a problem of the self in relation to the scale of place and place. The second chapter is titled “Flashbacks and Dreams.” It indicates the workings of a fractured memory when searching for belonging in the imagined identity generated from landscape, folktales and rumors. The third chapter is titled “Making Contact” where I break from memory and the self to interact with the people who live in this place where my imagined identity belongs. English translations of conversations with family and friends who identify as Khasi are combined into one monolithic dialogue. After making contact through this dialogue, I then look back inwards. The fourth chapter begins after contacting “home” and contemplates what it means to forge one’s own identity when one doesn’t belong. It concludes by forging a future in spite rootlessness.


My first trimester at Piet Zwart Institute ended with an attempt at a documentary film about returning to my parents in Meghalaya, India. Around December 11, 2019, I received a phone call from my pa, father, discouraging me from traveling.

On that day, India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, a confusing work of law granting citizenship to immigrants. This act also mandated the National Register of Citizens (NRC) , to be implemented in 2021. The registry documents legal Indian citizens while identifying (legally deporting) illegal immigrants. My social media feed had murmurs of challenging this law along communal lines. In Meghalaya, the legislation brought back resentment about unresolved issues of border infiltration, statehood, indigenous culture and land rights. It made sense to not return. I refunded my plane tickets and celebrated a new year in Rotterdam as the law rippled into violent demonstrations and more militarization of an already militarized region. Then came internet bans, curfews, communal violence, attacks on friends in University campuses (January 6, 2020), arrests, etc. I was almost always on my phone.

Between December 12 and January 5, I could not contact my family because of total communication shutdowns in Meghalaya. For maintaining law and order, the routes to my roots were cut off. In those three weeks, as I celebrated both Christmas and New Years in Rotterdam, my rootlessness was a silent private experience. Experiencing the dissonance of belonging and not belonging, I consumed anything that simulated these roots.

I read… watched…listened to anything in Khasi. I made my father’s eggplant chutney. Burn the eggplant on the stove. Peel skin. Add salt, sugar, chilies, ginger, onion, garlic, mustard oil. Mash. The documentary or any creative project for my masters was forgotten.

I’d always hesitated to call myself fully Khasi and indigenous. Mostly because my last name Dkhar translates to foreigner. For a matrilineal tribe, this name indicates a break in tribal endogamy, a forefather was not Khasi. The explanation is usually an indication of dubious consent… a raid, a war atrocity, etc. Dkhar is also used as a xenophobic slur. My use of rootless as an adjective for my fluid nomadic convictions forgave this historical burden. It also negated any absolute attempt at an identity claim. But as 2020 began, I began to ask…could not dissociate from these roots anymore. I had to consider my own indigeneity explicitly.

Chapter 1 begins before this event. Chapter 2, 3 and the Conclusion occur after.


  1. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. New Delhi. The Gazette of India.
  2. Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003, Ministry of Home Affairs, 10 December 2003.Minh-ha Trinh T. 2010. Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event. Routledge. p. 12
  3. ROOTLESSNESS | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 5 December 2020).
  4. rootless adjective - Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced American Dictionary at (no date). Available at: (Accessed: 5 December 2020).
  5. “Rootlessness Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary.” Accessed December 5, 2020.
  6. “Definition of ROOTLESSNESS.” Accessed December 5, 2020.

Draft 1

File:Fileona Draft1.pdf

Draft 2

File:Fileona 31March2021 Draft.pdf

Final Thesis Draft (Low Res)

File:FileonaDkhar Thesis2021 FocusNearby LowRes.pdf