Engendering Performance: Indian Women Performers in Search of an Identity by Bishnupriya Dutt & Urmimala Sarkar Munsi
Book: Engendering Performance: Indian Women Performers in Search of an Identity
Author/s: Bishnupriya Dutt, Urmimala Sarkar Munshi
Published by: SAGE Publications India Pvt. Limited, 2010
Bringing together fragmented, micro histories, Bishnupriya Dutt and Urmimala Sarkar Munshi offer a feminist and critical history of theatre in India from colonial to post-colonial modernism, with special focus on West Bengal. The central question of the book revolves around the role of ‘actress-dancer-performer’ in shaping the colonial and national culture in India by analysing the intersection between gender and performance and decoding the signifiers of identity and body politics enforced and/or imbibed by the women’s body in the cultural sphere.
Employing the estrangement between the identities of ‘actress’ and ‘dancer’, the authors attempt to offer an alternative and critical understanding of the genealogy of gender discourse generated from the colonial Western actresses and the maligned labelling of dancers as ‘nautch’ girls. They argue, “Drawing on the overall historical construct, both the dancer and actress historically follow independent courses, yet with pertinent contact points and commonality of issues. To exclude the marginalized performer would be to deny the gradations and the hegemonic cultural structures emerging out of colonial discourses. Hence, the seemingly divergent subject areas and performers actually come together to construct a coherent history of performance politics, social identity and the marginalized. The marginal, small performances and their shifts challenge the binaries of dramatic texts (the actress domain) vis-à-vis the body text (the dancer domain). The contact points come mainly through the social identity issue and only through such a strategy a meaningful social cultural history can be constructed”. (p. xv)
Elucidating on the social cultural history of women in theatre and dance, this book offers rich ethnographic material on jatra ‘Divas’ and the contribution of Rabindranath Tagore, Uday Shankar and IPTA on the identity formation of women in theatre and dance.38-Engendering Performance- Indian Women Performers in Search of an Identity by Bishnupriya Dutt & Urmimala Sarkar Munsi