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CfP: Performing South Asia at Home and Abroad

South Asian Literary Association (SALA), Seattle 2012
Date: Wed., January 4, 2012 at 9:00am – Thurs., January 5, 2012 at 5:00pm
Venue: Hyatt Place Downtown, 110 6th Avenue North (at Denny Way)
Keynote Speakers: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Charles Johnson


Given historical and current events that have shaped South Asia, its diasporas, and the complex identity formations that color its languages, identities, texts, etc., we offer the topic of “performativity” in all its complex manifestations as the conference theme for SALA 2012. Peformativity is a concept and act that has always had relevance to language studies: it is applied in the context of characters in fictional and non-fictional narratives, and has also been used to think about reading and speaking as performative acts that produce cultural objects that are open to myriad interpretations. This theme is also central to thinking about the marginalization of theatre and performance studies within South Asian and Postcolonial Studies, and gives us an opportunity to utilize the knowledge of theatre and performance studies as critical supplements to Postcolonial Studies.

The politics of the stage and its space leads us to the many issues surrounding audience, place, space, locality, state, nation, etc., that have been much debated in critical theory and cultural studies. Such interdisciplinary work on fiction, non-fiction, theatre, and autobiographical narrative not only evinces the importance of critically examining “performativity” in all its familiar and new forms, but also opens up avenues of examining how the performativity of South Asia both challenges and transforms dominant models of what performance actually is and can be. How does the geopolitical positioning of South Asia and its myriad diasporas compel us to re-think perfomativity as it has been traditionally conceived in the West? How might social practices, public figures, and religious rituals complicate the ways we think about performativity? What aspects of performances on the stage leak into the social and political discourses regarding colonialism, post-colonialism and globalization? Does theater represent a more effective intervention in the challenges faced by Dalits, Adivasis, and religious minorities? How might South Asian figures like hijras, courtesans, cross-dressers, sex workers, etc., complicate the constraints of current trends in gender and sexuality studies? How does South Asian fashion, including markers of gender like the bindi, sari, dhoti, etc., act as performative agents aside from Western dress conventions? How are oral and theatre discourses performed in South Asia in ways that would distinguish them from the more familiar models?  In what ways does performativity intersect with “actors” on the political stage?

We thus interpret the theme of “performativity” in the broadest and most challenging sense – from performances on the stage to performances in film and media, to performances on the sidewalk, as well as performances of identity and sexuality in fiction, memoir, creative non-fiction, and autobiography. Indeed, the SALA 2012 conference aims to question the very meaning of performance and its multiple possibilities within the network of power relations that attend ethnic or religious identifications, gender, sexuality, and place. Paper topics may include but are not limited to the following:


·       Bollywood and other popular cinema trends in South Asia and around the world

·       Staged Theatre Performances and their Relationship to Nationalism, Caste, Race, Class, etc.

·       Indigenous Traditions of Mourning and Celebration (rudalis, sangeet, bhangra, etc.)

·       Individual Authors, Playwrights, Directors, and Actors

·       Performance and Pedagogy: the South Asian Body in the Classroom

·       Performativity and Politics: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Queer Studies

·       Transnational Performativity in the South Asian Diaspora: The Liminal and the Exotic

·       Performance in Relation to Print Cultures (Novel, Film & Mass Media), Language, & Dialect

·       Courtesans, Cross-dressers, Hijras, Drag, and other forms of genderplay

·       Dalit  & Budhan Theatre, Street Performances, Popular Theater

·       South Asian and Diasporic Music and Performance (M.I.A., Cornershop, Jay Sean, etc.)

·       Comparative Analyses of Performance in Novels, Life Narratives, Plays, and/or Films

·       Identity Performance and Popular and Marginal South Asian Fashions

·       South Asian Poetic Traditions: Ghazals, Mushaira, Kawwali, Humor and Satire

·       Ghazal as a Poetic Genre in North America: The Shadow of Agha Shahid Ali

·       South Asian Comedians in North America

·       Performative Aspects of Language, Speech, and Translation

·       Folklore/Myth in South Asia

·       Re-thinking History and its Representations

·       Representations of South Asia and its Diasporas in Television, Cinema, Animation, and Online Media (OutsourcedThe Simpsons, YouTube videos, etc.).

·       “DesiDesigns” – tone, function, fashion, form, and graphic design in South Asian Studies.

Please e-mail 300-word paper proposals in MSWord format to the 2012 Conference Co-Chairs by Sunday, July 31, 2011.  Proposals for panels, roundtables, and short performances are also welcome.  The Co-Chairs are happy to answer any questions or offer suggestions over e-mail regarding your proposals-in-progress.

Dr. Nandi Bhatia, University of Western Ontario, Canada;

Dr. Rahul K. Gairola, University of Washington & Cornish College of the Arts;

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