Following the success of the first 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, 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.
(The first event originally planned to open the series, Jerri Daboo‘s talk on The Performance of Adaptation as a Postcolonial Strategy, has been rescheduled to 1 June at the same time of 6pm due to unavoidable circumstances. Details below.)
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.
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.
1 June 2023. The Performance of Adaptation as a Postcolonial Strategy
(rescheduled from 11 May)
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.