International Conference on “Performance Art and the Prospects of Folkloric Tribal Culture of Eastern India”

Organized by the Department of English, Vidyasagar University, Medinipur, West Bengal, India.

In collaboration with

The Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (www.rupkatha.com)

Date: 20 & 21 March 2018

Sponsored by UGC SAP, DRS Phase II

“The fourth world is at present incipient, not fully realized; seeds, not yet wholly grown. This fourth world of aesthetics needs to organize itself as “non-aligned,” neither capitalist, whether of the US, European, or Chinese brand, nor communist/socialist, nor fundamentalist-religious whether Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or whatever. The vanguard of this new fourth world are — and here I hope you won’t think me too arrogant — performance theorists and performance artists who practice collaborative performance research; persons who know that playing deeply is a way of finding and embodying new knowledge. What would be the manifesto of this Performance Fourth World? It has four axioms:

  • To perform is to explore, to play, to experiment with new relationships.
  • To perform is to cross borders. These borders are not only geographical, but emotional, ideological, political, and personal.
  • To perform is to engage in lifelong active study. To grasp every possibility as a script — something to be played with, interpreted, and reformed/remade.
  • To perform is to become someone else and yourself at the same time. To empathize, react, grow, and change.”

Richard Schechner, from “Performance in the 21st century”

 

Concept Note:
A group of spectators sits around an empty space. An oil lamp hangs from each of the four posts on four corners of the surrounded space. This is how folkloric tribal performances improvise their own stage and create a symbolic stockade to mark off its distance from the viewers. The Mundaris, Kurmis, Shabars et al. continue to represent their folk cultural forms in such spartan conditions. Any piece of behaviour/ doing/action that is marked off or framed can possibly be called performance. Framing contextualizes performance and enables us to comprehend it as an entity. The flexibility of space and décor realizes the community’s potential for adaptation to changing order and fosters re-contextualization of its cultural identity.
Folk memory on the one hand carries over the wisdom of the former age to newer constitutions of identity and on the other seems to be unaffected by institutional forms of inequality based on class, caste and ethnicity. It is the unique capacity of folk culture to address the universal from its vantage form of the local that makes it an indispensable part of contemporary Indian society. In spite of the distinctiveness of the specific tribal ways of life, the spirit of tribal folklore underlines global values that natural religion can offer to other faiths. From performatives of their daily social and religious life to performances of entertainment – all presentations of tribal culture express the organic interrelatedness of god, man, nature and spirit. Representations of these forms appear not to be suitable for traditional models of theatre that – a la Richard Schechner – regard the spectator merely as a customer and divide space into exclusive hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity and aesthetic forms. Folklore in eastern India is a cultural category that accommodates non-confrontational coexistence as much of cultivated and folk traditions as of Brahmanical, caste Hindu, Muslim, tribal and Christian cultural practices. Folkloric performance therefore becomes a tool of cultural intervention or a crucial site for juxtaposition of cultures. It blurs the boundary between the oral and the literary. Mahasweta Devi, for example, re-constructs the “Book of the Hunter” (“Vyaad Kaand”) of Mukundaram’s medieval Bengali epic Chandi Mangala to bring to life the lost oral tradition of the Shabar tribe. Nilakanth Ghoshal uses the folklore of Bhadu to rewrite Bhumi Kanya (Earth maiden). Some of the oral forms are inscribed, creating a gap between the word and the speaker for creative imaginations to fill. A sort of post-modern endeavour is required to ensure that folk forms can be sustained as living traditions in which collective identities are constructively affirmed.
This conference seeks to address issues related to the sustenance of tribal folk art forms of eastern India in performance. It will recognize the necessity of informing these forms with epistemological ideas born of new researches in performance art and theory as well as scour the possibility of how elements of these forms in turn can contribute to the enrichment of performance art in totality. Abstracts (250 words) for papers of 15 min duration are invited on the theme of the conference. Presenters can use the following sub-themes (not inclusive) as guidelines:
  1. Tribal identity, folk art and performance
  2. Performative, Performance and Performativity of Tribal cultural practices
  3. Religious equity and tribal folkloric performance
  4. Gender equity and tribal folkloric performance
  5. Globalization and tribal folklore in performance
  6. Colonization and tribal folk performances
  7. Nation, Resistance and tribal folk performances
  8. Borderlands and tribal folk performance
  9. Psychogeography and tribal folk practices
  10. Traditional history and tribal folklore in practice
Publication:
  • The Conference Proceedings will be published in the Rupkatha Journal (indexed by Scopus, EBSCO, MLA, ERIHPLUS)
  • Selected papers will go into an anthology to be brought out by an international publisher.
Registration Fee:
Rs 500/- per head.
Accommodation:
We cannot provide but we can suggest places to stay in like (name a few hotels etc).
Contact:
Send your abstracts for consideration to any of the following members by 15 Feb 2018:
  • Mr Rony Patra, M: 9434042124; Email: rony.vueng@gmail.com
  • Mr Mir Ahammad Ali, M: 9046425106; Email: mirahammadali1990@gmail.com
  • Ms Anjali Atto, M: 9064898574; Email: anjaliecute91@gmail.com