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India Research Centre

Anthropology 360: India: Power and Performance



Instructors, Associate Professor Kalpana Ram and Ms Monica Dalidowicz 

The course India, Power and Performance is run every second year. It is to be found under the generic title of Asian Cultures, a unit in the Anthropology undergraduate curriculum. It will be taught again in 2012. It introduces you to India through the practices that have been central in the production and dramatisation of authority, power and its contestation. These have also changed over time. We open with a succession of lectures that blend history and anthropology, taking you through Indian history with a power/performance focus in mind. Many will focus on religion as a field of power and performance. So we will look at broad cultural themes such as: 'sacrifice'  in Hindu India, the performance of charismatic power in courtly and popular traditions in Muslim India, and the new and old meanings in nationalist constructions of India. Equally, the resistance and challenge to authority, the existence of counter-cultures of gender and caste has also worked through dramatic performances that use narrative, song, dance, and, right through the twentieth century, cinema.   We will look at the counter-traditions of bhakti (devotionalism with an emphasis on intimacy and affectivity), as well as the more local traditions of Dalits, of rural women, of Adivasis or indigenous (" tribal") people. Once again, our focus will be on the performance of this contestation through songs, rituals, re-tellings of dominant epic narratives. There is a strong aesthetic focus to the treatment of all issues of power in this course, but this is also an emphasis on human practice, on the doing of identity and subjectivity.  Contemporary issues of performing sexuality and gender in postcolonial India are treated through cinema, TV, performance of dance and music. The course tries to teach through the senses - we will try to have as many direct forms of experience as possible - with food, with music, and excursions off campus if necessary. A live web page of events going on in Sydney - concerts, films etc. - is therefore a vital part of the course and will be updated as we go.

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Dance 220 Contemporary Dance

Instructor: Ms Shruti Ghosh

What is a Bollywood film? A Bollywood film is one with a hero, a heroine, a villain, some fights and definitely few songs and dances. True enough. But Bollywood is much more. This course seeks to problematize the term "Bollywood" by focusing on its aspect of 'dance'. Bollywood dance is a hybrid form as much as it is an Indian form. Thereby introducing the students to the basics of some of Indian dance movements and techniques this course attempts to trace the process of how a movement, a gesture, an expression is worked upon to make it suitable for the film, specifically a Bollywood film. How do we recognize a dance as Bollywood? When does it become a Bollywood dance? We address these questions through discussions, debates, watching Bollywood dance clippings, and doing a lot of dance on the floor.

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