Performing Arts in North East India: Contexts and Challenges

Country: India

City: Guwahati

Abstr. due: 21.08.2018

Dates: 10.10.18 — 10.10.18

Area Of Sciences: Arts; Cultural science;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Damdama College


North east India is rich in its performing arts, with Bihu dances in Assam or Thang-ta in Manipur. Traditions in mime, mobile theater, street plays and puppetry are part of the region's aesthetic oeuvre. They link communities to their environment, shaping and defining who or what they are-in short identities, which in a globalized and economically fuzzy world becomes coterminous with ‘democracy’ and the anti -capital. The challenges of neo-capitalism have however stymied local traditions, so that there is a Bollyowod makeover of most cultural templates. While earlier instances of cinema in India for example, the music of Naushad, drew inspiration from the folk songs of Uttar Pradesh, today it is the other way round. It is mainstream commercial cinema music that audiences want the traditional singers to play. Nonetheless, the ethnic arts have also staged a comeback. Puppetry, once considered dead and useless, now supplement and de-formulate political narratives to expose the insidiousness and gullibility of the master class and the subjects respectively. To the colonialists, traditional performing arts in India were mere imitation in the tradition of a ‘guru shishya parampara.’ But, even the most orthodox forms can take expressive anti-colonial stance and explain why the white oppressors became squeaky and enacted the ‘Dramatic Performance Bill’ in 1876.’ It was their way to ‘discipline’ and ‘punish’ aberrations, as Foucault remarked or what Orwell in his explosive 1984, called the crime of ‘thought.’ It is here that artistic independence becomes important. In Assam and India's North East, attempts at meshing community theatre with the Western idea of a proscenium stage  has been demonstrated recently in the theater of Shukracharya Rabha. Again, the martial dances of Manipur and Nagaland coagulate ethnic history with the flux of a post national and a post human world to comment on the now of existence.

The department of English, Damdama College invites paper proposals that explores these and other related issues of relevance through a state level seminar in its campus on the 10th of October, 2018. Though the special emphasis of this seminar is on north-east India, other related themes may be welcomed provided they add significant new ideas to the platform.

Abstracts, maximum of 250(two fifty) words with three key words along with  full papers(4000) words should reach the college by the 21st of August. Selected papers will be notified by 15th September and will be later published by a reputed publisher with ISBN. References should be as per the 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook. TA/DA is not admissible.  The following are the sub-themes of the seminar:

  1. Mobile theaters and the Imagined Community.
  2. Culture, Globalization and the performing arts
  3. Media, the performing arts and posthumanism.
  4. Performing arts and Urban legends.
  5. Should there be a performing arts curriculum?
  6. Street theater and the rights to perform.
  7. Avant garde and the risks of differance.
  8. Puppetry in the 21st Century.

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