'Vernacular Traditions:' Popular Performance in Contemporary India

A One-Day International Theatre Conference

Saturday, April 19, 2014 at Barnard College

Vernacular Traditions proposes to explore the many and unpredictable ways in which the popular is performed in India through vernacular, indigenous modes of storytelling. In particular, this conference seeks to pay special attention to the musical rhythms and idioms of everyday spoken language and how they configure regional genres of performance. Such a conversation, currently missing in histories of Indian performance, focuses on the relations, range of influences, and aesthetic commonalities between various genres, rather than measure them against a shifting and uncertain classical canon centered on the 2nd C.E. performance treatise the Natyashastra. Such historiographies challenge accounts of the folk as derivative of the classical or lowbrow in comparison.

Attempting to undercut an a priori hierarchy, Vernacular Traditions seeks actively to dismantle the divide between practice and scholarship, and focuses instead on the vibrant histories of popular forms — both urban and rural in India. This day-long conference brings together lecture demonstrations, student performances, documentary film screenings and academic panels. Practitioners and scholars of baul, nautanki, tamasha, chhau, Bhojpuri cinema, Parsi Theatre, puppetry and political street theatre, will speak to each other on the histories and conditions of possibilities of such folk genres to suggest robust futurities that support and sustain the vernacular imaginary.

Shayoni Mitra, Conference Organizer, Barnard College

 

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