This week at the CCL: Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe II: Asia and the Far East (C16th-C18th)

Join us on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th for the second ‘Spectacular Orientalism’ conference organised by the CCL in collaboration with the Society for European Festivals Research.

The conference will be online only, and it will not be recorded.

For programme, abstracts, speakers’ biographies and booking link visit:


Announcing the CCL Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2023: South Asia and the Diaspora

The CCL Postcolonial Theatre series, May 2023: South Asia and the Diaspora

Following the success of the first ‘CCL Postcolonial Theatre’ series in May 2022, this second series of talks will be dedicated to South Asia and the Diaspora. 

The series, on three consecutive Thursdays in May 2023 (11th, 18th and 25th May), will bring together Jerri Daboo (University of Exeter), Prarthana Purkayastha (Royal Holloway University of London) and Sudip Chakraborthy (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and Goldsmiths, University of London).

All talks will be online and will start at 6pm.

Booking is free but it will be necessary for each event to receive a link to attend.

For more information on the series, visit: 


11 May 2023. The Performance of Adaptation as a Postcolonial Strategy

A Talk by Jerri Daboo, University of Exeter

The development of the movement of British South Asian theatre offers a way to examine how diaspora communities create new forms of performance in response to their positioning.

Adaptation has been a particular feature of this movement, and this talk will consider why and how forms of adaptation have been used, leading to new meanings of the plays, as well as new forms of performance with a hybridity of styles. An approach from diaspora studies will show how a postcolonialism can be extended in the context of diaspora to allow for transnational connections and movements of performance forms, leading to the use of the term transadaptation to take into account translation (verbal and cultural), transmedia, and the transnational. 

The talk will examine a number of performances produced by theatre companies Tara Arts and Tamasha, as well as by playwright Tanika Gupta.

The talk will be chaired by Nandi Bhatia.

Read more and book ( 


18 May 2023. Bazaar Art, Bazaari Women: Nautch, Bibis and Courtesans in Nineteenth Century Kalighat Paintings (Bengal)

A Talk by Prarthana Purkayastha, Royal Holloway University of London

This talk examines in parallel both visual and textual narratives that crafted fictions of erotic nautch dancers in nineteenth-century Bengal. The paintings analysed here were produced by indigenous artists in Bengal in the bazaars of Calcutta in the period 1870-1890, and are now renowned internationally as Kalighat art.

From the Victoria and Albert Museum’s archive of Kalighat paintings, I offer a close reading of the bodies of courtesans: exemplars of sexual deviance who posed a threat to the patriarchal institutions of colonial state and native family, in order to shed light on the social and moral anxieties that fed a growing anti-dance discourse in India.

The talk analyses, too, a nineteenth-century Bengali fictional satire by Kaliprasanna Singha and its depiction of illicit performances in Calcutta’s aristocratic milieu. A critical reading of passages from satires such as Hutom Pyachar Noksha (Sketches by an Observant Owl, 1861) shows how racism, casteism and misogyny co-produced the figure of the wanton and excessive subaltern female dancer in colonial Bengal.

Anurima Banerji will chair the talk.

Read more and book ( 


25 May 2023. Performance and the Quest for Identity among Communities of Bangladeshi Heritage in the UK

A talk by Sudip Chakroborthy, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and Goldsmiths, University of London

My current practice research seeks to decode and encode questions of identity among twenty-first-century communities of Bangladeshi heritage in Glasgow, Scotland. I seek to understand how their history of involvement as Lascars (South Asian sailors) in British merchant ships in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been memorialised by local communities. To this end, I have conducted community events including workshops, which resulted in the May 2022 production of LASCARi (Lascar Ami, or I am Lascar), staged on the Tall Ship in Glasgow. Under the aegis of the Bangladesh Association Glasgow and in cooperation with the Glasgow Museum, the show included group-devised dialogue, verbatim based on email exchange, interviews and photographs, and was followed by curated post-show conversations.

LASCARi exposes the discriminatory language with which these sailors were called as well as the exploitation they suffered, since Asian sailors were subject to employment conditions that were inferior to their British counterparts, notably much reduced pay, and far smaller living space and food and fresh water rations than their fellow white sailors. By employing Lascars rather than European sailors the British shipping industry made large savings, thereby increasing their profits: yet another example of the way in which the wealth of the United Kingdom has been built on the back of, and with the backs of, subjects from across its former Empire.

My presentation will reflect both on the history of the Lascars and their migration to Scotland, and their role in the construction of identity for Glasgow-based communities of Bangladeshi heritage today. In addition, it highlights the important part played by theatre and performance in this construction of identity.

The talk will be chaired by Clare Finburgh Delijani.

Read more and book (


We look forward to seeing many of you!

Coming up next week: Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe II: Asia and the Far East (27-28 April, online)

Spectacular Orientalism in Early Modern Europe II: Asia and the Far East (C16th-C18th)

27-28 April 2023 (online)


Join us next week for the second ‘Spectacular Orientalism’ conference organised by the CCL in collaboration with the Society for European Festivals Research.

Following the success of the first Spectacular Orientalism conference in June 2022, largely devoted to the Ottoman Empire and the image of the Turk, this follow-up conference will focus more specifically on Asia and the Far East. These two further days of talks and discussion will explore new perspectives on the representation of the Orient in early modern European art and performance in a period that witnessed the founding of the first Christian mission in Japan by the Portuguese (1549), the establishment of the English, Dutch and French East India Companies at the turn of the seventeenth century, the rise of European travel to Persia under the Safavid dynasty and the resulting spate of publications.

The conference will examine different settings in which the Orient was imagined and talked about. In particular it will interrogate various types of public display common in early modern societies, in which the self-projection of power and identity was often interwoven with the spectacle of the Other: including courtly and public festivals, civic ceremonies and rituals. It will also consider staged productions, notably operas and ballets, whose multisensorial character added to the inherent orientalist tendency towards display, while heightening the attraction of the exotic for their audiences.

Edward Said has argued that the spectacle in Orientalism was meant to substitute for and so mask the crude violence of the colonial enterprise. But was this the case of orientalist representations in the C16th and C17th? On the contrary early modern scholars have shown that, far from arising from a desire of self-enhancement and imperial ambitions, early modern attitudes were in many cases a defensive reaction fostered by a sense of inferiority and vulnerability. Early modern Orientalism was undoubtedly affected by geopolitical factors, notably the expanding Ottoman empire and its advances in Eastern Europe, but also the growing importance of Persia, India, China and Japan in the second half of the C17th. In terms of wealth, power and technology, Europe was inferior to both its Middle Eastern and Far Eastern rivals.

However, it is true that early modern Orientalism relied on genres and aesthetics that allowed for a profound ambiguity towards the imaginary East. Twisted stereotypes, fabrications and misconceptions coexisted with fresh impressions about the Orient and a genuine interest in Eastern cultures, as evidenced in the growing number of travelogues which went to inform performances of the East back in the West. Denigration and fascination were shared in equal measures. Representations also evolved in a way that reflected and revealed Western needs, concerns and agendas, and served as imaginary resolutions of real anxieties about Islamic wealth and might, or a nostalgic feeling of backwardness towards Far Eastern opulence.

We look forward to the papers and follow-up discussions to address the rhetorical multiplicity and instability of early modern Orientalism in the performing arts, sketch its possibilities for change in the C18th or contrast the imaginary construct of the Orient in public spectacle with the real appearance of Eastern envoys, who took the opportunity offered by their official welcome to project their culture and religion to the delight of onlookers. 

For programme, abstracts, speakers’ biographies and booking link visit: