Fellow 2010/11, 2011/12, 2015/16
Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin and Terror and Performance. The last publication was researched while he was a Fellow at the International Research Center/Interweaving Performance Cultures between 2010-2012. A former advisor of the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development in the Netherlands, he has served as a consultant for the Arts Council in Ireland and Ford Foundation in the United States. More recently, he was the Project Director of Arna-Jharna: The Desert Museum of Rajasthan and the Festival Director of the Inter-Asian Ramayana Festival at the Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Research in Pondicherry.
This study attempts to explore different epistemologies of the ‘self’ in the interface between spirituality and worldliness. Drawing on the lives of three pivotal figures – the Bengali mystic-saint Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886), his foremost disciple and proselytizer of Hinduism in the West, Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), and Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda of the Vedanta Society in Southern California – the narrative will intersect the ways in which the teachings and lessons of Advaita philosophy are performed through specific practices of spiritual transformation, public rhetoric, social and political debates, and cults of charisma.
Apart from theorizing how the genres of hagiography, diaries, lectures and letters shape the shifting performances of the self, this study will draw on archives of photographs to study how Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Isherwood performed themselves through iconic gestures, poses and stances, covering a range of expressions from camera-conscious narcissism to candid informality. Combining the semiotics of visual culture with illuminations of cultural history through the transnational outreach and networking of the Ramakrishna Mission, this study will move towards an understanding of how sexuality and homosocial intimacy mediate – and complicate – performances of the self that aspire towards celibacy, non-attachment and states of spiritual immanence.