‘I do not claim this to be an impartial and neutral ethnography; rather, I engage in a politics of intervention along with the subjects of my study to interrogate the dominant power structure in classical culture.
At the same time, I see this work also engaged in a critical postcolonial anthropology that refuses to be contained by easy definitions of the self and other or seamless descriptions of culture and identity. My identity as a native anthropologist and as a dance practitioner unsettles several boundaries, including the one between native/halfie anthropologist and the subjects of her research.’
The first critical study of Kathak dance within the discourses of the modern and the global, tracing the arc of two centuries of Kathak: the colonial nautch dance, classical Kathak under nationalism and postcolonialism and ‘innovation’ and ‘new directions’ under transnationalism and globalization. It blends various approaches from anthropology, ethnomusicology, and performance, media and gender studies to map the journey of Kathak from baijis and tawaifs to the global stage. The book uses dance as a lens to explore the interaction between the actors and forces of cultural change from power and patronage to television and film.
Pallabi Chakravorty, visual anthropologist and Kathak exponent, is founder
and artistic director of contemporary dance ensemble Courtyard Dancers in Philadelphia
and has specialized in Kathak for more than 20 years under guru Bandana Sen.
Chakravorty’s scholarly and choreographic works reflect her long immersion in
Kathak, ethnographic methods and social theory. Author of numerous scholarly
papers, this is her first book. Forthcoming edited volumes include Performing
Ecstasy: The Poetics and Politics of Religion in India, with Scott Kugle, and
Dance Matters with Nilanjana Gupta. She is a faculty member, Department of Music
and Dance, Swarthmore college, USA, where she will be serving as acting director
for dance from Fall 2008.
Part of the second chapter was published in a book titled Culture Studies: An Introduction for Indian Readers (ed. Nilanjana Gupta, Worldview Press: New Delhi, 2004), part of the third chapter appeared in the journal Visual Anthropology [17 (1), January 2004] with the title ‘Dance, Pleasure, and Indian Women as Multisensorial Subjects’ and in the proceedings from a symposium titled ‘Dance in South Asia: New Approaches Politics and Aesthetics’. I have retained the names of the dancers and choreographers I interviewed and interacted with, as this is what they wished.
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