Promona Sengupta is a PhD scholar of Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research interests mainly lie in the field of political movements within Asia from the recent past, particularly those that are led by the youth. She is interested in finding appropriate ways of writing the history of contemporary student movements that could effectively capture the magical impulses of anti-establishment thought and rebelliousness that inflame such struggles. She is deeply influenced by the young political activists she interacts with due to her work and believes strongly in the dream of changing the world. She likes rock music and cats.
Historicizing a Student Movement: Student Activism in the 1960s and 70s and the Cultural and Performative Aftermath
My research identifies and explores performative modes of political dissent, rereading historical events of protest as large-scale political performances involving a narrative, specific cast and crew, mise en scène, and affective efficacies that can be recognized within historiography as well as the cultural aftermath of these events.
In the context of youth movements, the continuum between political movements and their representation within the cultural sphere is significantly facilitated by the space of the university campus. I try to find the exact ways in which political dissent, as a specific historical relationship to power, flows through campus spaces into the larger political and cultural sphere, in the form of a historical consciousness.
I would like to make a case for the continuum between the sphere of the campus and the larger political and cultural sphere of 1960s-70s Germany by focusing on instances of radical political action within the German student movement of the time, such as the Freie Universität sit-in of 1966, the consolidation of the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO), the establishment of the Red Army Faction and the election of Rolf Kreibich, a 30 year old PhD student, as the President of Freie Universität Berlin in conjunction with some of the theatre productions made at the time by theatre directors Peter Stein and Claus Peymann, both of whom came from a background of political student theatre.
Carlson, Marvin, “Claus Peymann and the Performance of Scandal”, Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol. 18(2), 2008, pp. 193 – 207.
Catudal, Jr, Honoré M, “University Reform in the Federal Republic: The Experiment in Democratization at the Free University of Berlin”, Comparative Education, Vol. 12, No. 3, Oct. 1976, pp. 231 – 241.
Fraser, Nancy, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy”, Social Text, No. 25/26 (1990), pp. 56 – 80.
Hughes, Jenny & Parry, Simon, “Introduction: Gesture, Theatricality, and Protest – Composure at the Precipice”, Contemporary Theatre Review, Vol. 25 Issue. 3, 2015 pp. 300 —312.