ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012


Traditional and modern art forms in protests and movements

Location Arts and Aesthetics Lecture Hall No. 003, SAA-II
Date and Start Time 05 April, 2012 at 15:00


Srinivas Gurram (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel analyzes varied usages of traditional and modern art forms and community specific repertoirs, and or modern cultural symbols in contemporary social and political movements to understand the process and consequences of approapriation of such traditional art forms of marginal communities by social and political movements.

Long Abstract

In this panel, varied patterns, trends and consequences of usage of traditional art forms and community specific repertoirs, cultural symbols in contemporary social and political movements will be discussed. It primarily focuses on the way in which various political protests and social movements are articulated, communicated and are carried out through such uasage of art forms.

While few papers analyze such processes and thereby the consequences of approapriation of traditional art forms of marginal communities by social and political movements and few others would focus on articulation of protest using new symbols within specific institutions and organizations.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Who Were the 'People' in IPTA?: Revisiting the History of Marxist Cultural Movement in India

Author: Binayak Bhattacharya (Amity University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper tries to interrogate the historical tendency of the Marxist Cultural Movement in India, especially IPTA tradition in Bengal in 1940-50s to ideate the congenital contradiction between the middle class and the folk and traditional cultural practices within its organizational paradigm.

Long Abstract

Marxist cultural movement presumably advocates the ideology of liberation of the toiling masses through their participation and leadership. But, its history in India shows that it was mostly governed by the cultural elitism of urban intellectuals. I want to discuss this particular factor considering the early history of the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA), a mass-cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. Numerous writings on IPTA reveals that though a large number of artists from the downtrodden sections were assembled beneath its organizational canopy, but the but main actors in formulating the decisions were mostly the middle class people. I wish to discuss about two folk artists from Bengal in this context: Gurudas Pal and Nibaran Pandit. Originally, Pal was a bidi-worker and Pandit was a sharecropper. Both were hailed from the remote parts of the province.

Can it be claimed that these artists coming from the marginal and oppressed sections of the society were largely 'used' by the middle class leaders of the organization? Also, there were debates regarding the form of protest between these two tendencies: folk and urban. But, was there any serious attempt to clinch it? Is it not the ubiquitous hegemony of the middle class leadership in left politics that had attenuated the possibility of unfolding a people's cultural practice in India? To address these questions, I would like to mostly engage with the cultural history of the left movement in Bengal in consequence of the genesis of a politically progressive middle class.

Jana Natya Mandali's Gaddarian Approach to Theatre and Performance: The Development of a Revolutionary Aesthetic

Author: Brahma Prakash (Royal Holloway, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

The paper will attempt to understand why the performance of Gaddar and Jana Natya Mandali of Andhra Pradesh made thousands of people to join the movement and participate in armed struggle, a phenomenon which does not see a parallel in the history of theatre and cultural movements across the world?

Long Abstract

Gaddar is a legendary poet, singer and performer from Andhra Pradesh and founder of the JNM. In the history of contemporary and modern Indian theatre and performance no other political artist has achieved that status in India. Gaddar has been associated with the Jana Natya Mandali(JNM), which is often called as the cultural vanguard of the Indian revolution. Gaddar along with JNM played a significant role in reviving the Naxalite/Maoist movement in Andhra Pradesh region and several other parts of India after the backlash of the movements in 70s.

One of the major questions paper ask is why the performance of Gaddar and JNM made thousands of people to join the movement and participate in armed struggle, a phenomenon which does not see a parallel in the history of theatre and cultural movements across the world? Is it simply because Gaddar and JNM are guided by a revolutionary politics? Or is it simply because Gaddar and JNM use popular folk performance in their theatrical performances? The paper argues that JNM under the leadership of Gaddar has developed a new aesthetic approach to address the question of art and culture. In the name of Gaddar, I would like to call this approach as JNM's Gaddarian approach. Gaddarian approach is a revolutionary aesthetic approach to engage with theatre, culture and performance. The paper argues that Gaddarian approach has been successful to resolve several questions, concerns and contradiction of political theatres in India and elsewhere in the world.

Invoking Caste and Occupation in a Political Movement: The Case of Separate Telangana State Movement

Author: Srinivas Gurram (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

The present phase of Telangana movement has helped revive various art forms conventionally associated with castes and traditional occupations and display the same and it has been interpreted variedly as identity assertion; aspiration; backwardness, etc.

Long Abstract

The present phase of Telangana movement has helped revive various art forms conventionally associated with castes and traditional occupations. In the process of showcasing the distinctveness of Telangana culture from that of other Telugu speaking regions of Andhra Pradesh, this political movement has accommodated various castes to display their traditional attire, tools and instruments used in their tradional occupations and performances that signify their caste origin, status and occupation. This revival and display of caste-signifier traditional dress and occupation related tools and instruments has been interpreted variedly as identity assertion; aspiration; backwardness, etc.

In this paper, the ways in which caste and occupation have been invoked and engaged in Telangana movement is analysed. Further a comparison with other political movements will also be made to understand the usage of caste imagery in them.

Rethinking Satyagraha in the context of Environmental movement in India: a Study of Kashipur block of Orissa

Author: Iswar Chandra Naik (KIIT University )  email

Short Abstract

The purpose of the this paper is to study the Gandhian way of non-violent environmental movement in India for protecting natural resources against big dams and mining industry and their major concerns about the land, water, and forests (Jal, Jamin, Jangal) and all the natural resources of the locality, which are the only sources of their livelihood. It examines poor people’s dependence on limited forest products and to what extent people are losing their basic rights on sources of traditional livelihood due to the process of industrialization and developmental projects.

Long Abstract

Environmental Protest Movement (EPM) of grass root organizations are more likely to succeed through marches, hartal, demonstrations, hunger strike, rallies, meeting, folk plays etc. and the environmental protest movements in India are on the path of Gandhian way of Satyagraha.

Development means that all should live peacefully and happily. However, people do not require the kind of development where they themselves are victimised. Since independence, development projects in the forms of building industries, dams and mining have been a cause of displacement and livelihood loss of millions of forest dwellers, tribals, dalits and peasants in India. While the movements are carried out primarily by those directly affected by the establishment of industries, dams & mines in that localities which include the rural peasant, the forest tribal, dalits, their women folk and so on. It also includes the role of voluntary organization, the media, social activists, professionals, civil and human rights groups and academician who have created a public space that supports the movements to a large extent.

Political socialization through graffiti

Authors: Krishnakali Majumdar (Ferris State University)  email
Roma Dey (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

We propose to explore ethnographically how graffiti on college campuses around the cities of Kolkata and Delhi, India, make visible the spaces of hegemony and conflict. This paper asks how graffiti on college campuses socialize students to a particular political ideology.

Long Abstract

We propose to explore ethnographically how graffiti on college campuses around the cities of Kolkata and Delhi, India, make visible the spaces of hegemony and conflict. By drawing attention to the ways in which graffiti articulate social and political concerns, this research provides an ethnographic account of the material process of hegemony and conflict. Two universities in Kolkata (Jadavpur University and Presidency University) and two in Delhi (Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University) are selected to represent the different axis of student politics and to link it to broader attempts to control the cultural and political hegemonic front by monitoring the politico-ideological discourse among students through graffiti. This paper asks how graffiti comprehends national conflicts and contestations, and in the process socialize students to a particular political ideology.

Drawing, painting and writing resistance: texts of Eduardo Galeano and graffiti in JNU

Author: Pathak Kumar Mangalam (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper dwells on two texts, graffiti in JNU and selected texts of Eduardo Galeano which use the graffiti form of narrative. Anecdotes, popular beliefs along with poetic and visual languages inform these texts. It attempts to understand possible overlapping between the two. This overlapping can be seen both in their forms and issues they highlight. Graffiti in JNU contain revealing phrases and slogans much like the texts of Galeano with both working to bring forth voices of differences and contestations unsettling fixed narratives of discourses of power.

Long Abstract

From the most recent ones in the 'Occupy' movements to social movements in Latin America, graffiti have carried voices of struggling people. Such graffiti act as site which potentiates consensus building, group formations and active subjects. Such subjects, although anonymous and invisible and merging both the makers and viewers as participants, charge the narrative of graffiti towards the production of a counter-narrative of alternative views and visions hitherto suppressed by the dominant views of 'history' through narratives validating and even constructing certain 'realities'. In highlighting historical and other specifics of these views and visions and in thus unfolding of certain issues graffiti can be seen as narratives. Through this process, signification as a process entails a continuous deconstruction of political text and/or images. Far from remaining limited to any local context, as is generally understood of graffiti, they register wider narratives of gender, class, ethnicity, race, etc. This can be seen, I argue, in the context of graffiti in JNU engaging with issues transcending barriers of territory. In their contestation to dominant views they stand in contrast to appropriation of public space by either commercial purposes or forces of political status quo in India.

Grassroot movements and mobilisation for protecting natural resources: some reflections from Rajasthan

Author: Vikas Saharan (JNU)  email

Short Abstract

Successful conservation of natural resources with formation & strengthening of local-level institutions through a mobilisation & participatory approach in rural Rajasthan and multiplier effects in social mobilisation, women empowerment, good governance, community development and livelihood improvement has been witnessed at local level.

Long Abstract

The present paper examines the various examples of conservation and management of natural resources that have been developed and adopted through mobilization of people living in arid and semi-arid areas of Rajasthan. Paper also highlights that how the people movement at grass root level among villages of Rajasthan has transformed things drastically especially in terms of conservation of natural resources, resulting in a sense of collective solidarity by people of the villages to collectively protect their natural resources and construct johads. The emphasis on the formation of gram sabha as the decision making body has ensured that the community, to a large extent, retains the power and responsibility to take decisions. All activities concerning using of natural resource have been kept within the decision making framework of the village, certain individuals have emerged as local leaders and plays the important role of enthusing the village community to rally for a common cause. Emergence of a second level of leadership plays a positive role in sustainability of the initiative. The conservation initiative has been a process of empowerment for the village; it has not only meant construction of water harvesting structures and formulating forest regulations but also the evolution of a new sense of the 'self' based on their successes. Conservation of natural resources in these areas of Rajasthan has evolved as a process of growing self-awareness, self-sufficiency and understanding of the natural world for resident communities under the impact of people movement.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.