Performance Studies: Between Theatre and Ritual: Sensing the Social Drama in Abhi Subedi’s Bruised Evenings / Making whiteness visible in Cape Town’s Afro-Paradise
Between Theatre and Ritual: Sensing the Social Drama in Abhi Subedi’s Bruised Evenings
Between Theatre and Ritual: Sensing the Social Drama in Abhi Subedi’s Bruised Evenings is a section of a chapter in my PhD thesis in which I am developing an argument that the work of contemporary Nepalese playwrights, actors and theatre directors is informed not only by their exposure to various conventional ‘western’ theatre-making models but also by their deep immersion in a much broader range of local cultural performances, including religious festivals, rituals, myths, legends, folklore, political actions and so on. One way of analysing these links between what Carol C. Davis calls the “formal theatre” of Nepal and the many other genres of performance that lie beyond theatre is to see them as part of a complex set of responses to an underlying “social drama”. In this regard, the foundational theoretical work of Victor Turner and Richard Schechner is proving useful for the development of my thesis. That said, I acknowledge that Turner’s “model” of social drama is, a “broad brush-stroke” heuristic device and there are important critiques to consider (in the interests of time, I will leave these as a possible topic for discussion after the paper). It is worth noting, however, that Turner and Schechner’s work is well known to theatre scholars in Nepal, including the leading playwright and critic, Abhi Subedi. Thus, in this paper, I discuss how Subedi’s play, Bruised Evenings, can be seen, in some respects, as giving sensuous form to the ongoing social drama of Nepalese politics.
Jiva Nath Lamsal is PhD candidate at the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies and causal academic in Units WRIT1001Writing & Rhetoric: Academic Essays and FASS1000: Studying Arts & Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. Before joining the University of Sydney to pursue his PhD study in 2019, he worked as a lecturer at the Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal, where he completed his MA and M.Phil. degrees in Literary Studies. He has published his research in Literary Studies, Crosscurrents: A Journal of Language, Literature and Literary Theory, The Journal of Ritual Studies and Indian Theatre Journal. He is a member of the Association of Progressive Intellectual, Nepal (APIN); Literary Association of Nepal (LAN), Folklore Society of Nepal, Linguistic Society of Nepal, Nepal English Language Teachers Association (NELTA). His areas of scholarly interest include Anthropological approach to theatre and Performance; South/Asian Theatre; Politics, Performance and Power; Theatre for Social Justice; Intercultural theatre; Postcolonial theatre; Theatre history and Performance Theories, Performance and Rhetorics.
Making whiteness visible in Cape Town’s Afro-Paradise
With a 0.65 GINI coefficient, South Africa is considered the most unequal country in the world. Nearly three decades into democracy, the legacy of Apartheid is everywhere apparent, but nowhere explicitly acknowledged. To walk the streets of cities like Cape Town, one of the world’s top tourist destinations, is to traverse the complexities of what Christen A. Smith terms “Afro-Paradise”: a space of ostentatious luxury that is built in and on the pain of Black bodies. This presentation considers two political interventions that exposed the complexities of Cape Town’s Afro-Paradise: one framed as art, the other as activism. Both set out to “make Whiteness visible” through carefully considered performative tactics. Each act(ion) artfully incited a whitelash that elicited confrontational public responses, strategically reversing expectations between performer and audience. This talk considers the spaces between artful politics and political art, as I ask TaPS for some help unpacking ideas for my upcoming book.
Dr Carla Lever is a Research Fellow at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from the University of Sydney, where she explored the connection between performance, embodied anxiety and South African national identity. Her current research at the Mandela School focusses on protest and creative activism, with a particular interest in the intersection between embodiment, commemoration and political spectacle. The co-recipient of a 2018 research award from the American Society of Theatre Research (ASTR) for work on statue-based protest, she recently guest lectured on radical activist connections between the USA and South Africa at the University of Richmond and University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently lectures undergraduate courses in protest and performance, while completing her monograph Acting Up: Performing Contemporary South African Protest, which received a 2021 ANFASA writing grant for academic authorship.
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