This course explores ancient and contemporary performance practices in India. Our objects of study will include the text and performance of Sanskrit plays, contemporary and experimental theater productions, as well as forms of dance and ritual. We will discuss dramaturgical structure, staging, acting conventions, gender representation, performer training, the experience and role of the audience, as well as mythological and political themes. Thinking historically and ethnographically, we will seek to understand the aesthetics and social purposes of these practices, in addition to the relationship that performance has with everyday life, contested concepts of the nation, and caste. Throughout the semester we will interrogate the ways in which Western categories such as “classical,” “folk,” “religious,” “traditional,” and even the distinction between “dance/theater/music/visual arts” are not indigenous or accurate concepts for organizing thinking about performance in this part of the world.
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on participation in discussion, reading responses, an oral presentation, and one 10-page paper.
Enrollment Preferences: preference for seniors and juniors
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: We will examine British colonial edicts that prohibited performance practices as a form of social control as well as in the name of Christian morality. From here we will explore how upper-caste Independence era artists and leaders sought to reinvent the arts as vessels of "Indian" identity, at the cost of further marginalizing hereditary performance communities. We will also interrogate how the Indian state has promoted narrow visions of "femininity" and how artists contest religious nationalism
Attributes: GBST South + Southeast Asia Studies Electives