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Violating Performance: Women, Law, and the State of Exception

Lunchtime Lecture Series

The 1980s was a uniquely decisive decade for feminist politics in India. The women’s movement mobilized around states of exception such as sati and dowry deaths. Defining, delineating, and legislating to prevent crimes against women became a logical and immediate goal for the women’s movement. In this lecture, Shayoni Mitra looks at two women’s ensembles in — Theatre Union and Buland Natya Manch—and how they aided and enlarged the concerns of the women’s movement, specifically through engaging in legislative discourse. These plays on sati and dowry then serve as prime examples of what Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak calls “enabling violation,” or a deliberate strategy whereby the twin identities of women as victims and citizens are called into question through an exploration of the violences enacted against them.

Shayoni Mitra, assistant professor of theatre at Barnard College, received her BA and MA in English from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and her MA and PhD in performance studies from New York University. She teaches courses on traditional Indian performance, modern Asian theatre, political performance, and theatre history. Professor Mitra is also an actor. She has conducted workshops on theatre for social change and has performed with Jana Natya Manch, a street theatre group in New Delhi, extensively in northern India.

Sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women

Mar. 01, 2011 - 12:00PM