Anirban Kumar is currently pursuing his PhD at the Department of Theatre & Performance Studies at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His MPhil dissertation entitled The Phantom of Transgressive Aesthetics & Missed Possibilities – A Study of Political Theatre in Allahabad: 1975-1985 focusses on the interlinkages between non-linear history, questions of aesthetics and politics. He has presented three papers: “Stretching the Order of Limits: Spatial Practices in the time of Emergency” at X Annual Conference of Indian Society for Theatre Reasearch, 2014; “Work & Value of Strike – Paradox in the performance of Aurat” at the International Interdisciplinary Congress on Women (IICW), 2014; and “Political Theatre in Now Time”at the Annual Conference of the International Federation for Theatre Research, 2015. He has also participated in the International Collaborative Workshop “Writing Theatre History in a Global Perspective”, held at the Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, University of Cologne in 2015.
Political Theatre: Possibilities of Politics/Politics of Possibilities
My research intends to intervene in the discourse of ‘political theatre’ by re-examining the mediation of politics and theatre from an international-comparative perspective. In doing so, the research will move away from the conventional understanding of political theatre that emphasizes exclusivity to theatre or politics. The research will attempt to think through an understanding of ‘politics’ not as a uniform category but as a fragmented fabric, which can be (contingently) activated by what I call missed possibilities. The dynamics of defining political theatre has changed over the years. Whether in the German context or from an Indian point of view, the relationship of political theatre vis-à-vis the State has brought up new subjects that demand a variety of theatres. For example, Theater der Zeit’s articulation regarding political theatre was very distinct from that of Theater Heute’s. Although both these magazines were operating under different political governments, their approach to different expressions of theatre promulgated images of politics through a constitution of new subjectivities with respect to theatre. Similarly, in contemporary Indian theatre, the spectrum of political theatre includes elements of epic theatre, absurd theatre and Third Theatre/Poor Theatre. Since these three modalities are also closely intertwined and aligned with amateur theatre practice in India, it will be critical to interrogate the differences and nuances within their varied definitions as they contribute to varied mediations with the State in constituting new subjectivities. Amateur theatre from an “Indian” theatre perspective can be thought of as a nodal point through which a variant of such mediation might propel a passage for a presentation of paradoxes.
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Translated by Hannah Arendt and Harry Zohn. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968.
Fischer-Lichte, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Ridout, Nicholas Peter. Passionate Amateurs: Theatre, Communism and Love. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press, 2013.
Sauter, William. The Theatrical Event: Dynamics of Performance and Perception. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2000.
Choudhury, Soumyabrata. Theatre, Number, Event: Three Studies on the Relationship between Sovereignty, Power and Truth. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 2013.
Rancière, Jacques. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London : Continuum, 2004.