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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan and the Memory of Partition

Book: The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan and the Memory of Partition
Written by: Jisha Menon
Published by: Cambridge University Press, 2013

Using performance studies as a methodological approach Jisha Menon “explores the affective and performative constitution of the Indian and Pakistan nation in the wake of the most violent chapter of its history- the partition of the subcontinent (p.6).” Discussing the representation of the Partition in dramas, films, events, and photographs, the author considers the centrality of performance as a tactic of political power, as an aesthetic and spectacular representation of the state. Menon further proposes the idea of mimesis in three crucial directions: as aesthetic practice, as social relation, and as world makin and analyses the Wagah border ceremonies of India and Pakistan through the concept of mimesis. She argues that, “the Wagah border rituals dramatise the national mimicry between India and Pakistan (p.47).” Through Ghatak’s three films, Meghe Dhaka Tara, Komal Gandhar and Subarnarekha, Menon treats nation as family and family as nation highlighting the film’s focus on the gendered disparities in the wake of East and West Bengal Partition. Addressing various performance texts and films, Menon explores the anxieties regarding belongingness and sexual violence enacted on women’s bodies. “The mimetic rivalry between advocates of community and nation converged on women. The female body served as the terrain through which to exchange dramatic acts of violence (p.121).” At last through ethnographic study of Bhand Pather in Kashmir Menon states that “the Bhand Pather performances, from their music to their stories, disorder the discourses of religious polarities that were foundational to the two-nation theory.” (p.155)

The book “recuperates mimesis to think through the relationship between history and aesthetics as mimetic discourses of the Partition. The Partition’s reemergence into public discourse…signals its resilience in social memory and its analytical usefulness for thinking about religious conflicts and the crisis of secularism on the subcontinent .” (pp.187-188)

The Performance of Nationalism- India, Pakistan and the Memory of Partition