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The Performance of Nationalism
India, Pakistan, and the Memory of Partition


Part of Cambridge Studies in Modern Theatre

  • Date Published: August 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108468565

£ 22.99

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About the Authors
  • Imagine the patriotic camaraderie of national day parades. How crucial is performance for the sustenance of the nation? The Performance of Nationalism considers the formation of the Indian and Pakistani nation, in the wake of the most violent chapter of its history: the partition of the subcontinent. In the process, Jisha Menon offers a fresh analysis of nationalism from the perspective of performance. Menon recuperates the manifold valences of 'mimesis' as aesthetic representation, as the constitution of a community of witnesses, and as the mimetic relationality that underlies the encounter between India and Pakistan. The particular performances considered here range from Wagah border ceremonies to the partition theatre of Asghar Wajahat, Kirti Jain, M. K. Raina, and the cinema of Ritwik Ghatak and M. S. Sathyu. By pointing to the tropes of twins, doubles, and doppelgängers that suffuse these performances, this study troubles the idea of two insular, autonomous nation-states of India and Pakistan. In the process, Menon recovers mimetic modes of thinking that unsettle the reified categories of identity politics.

    • Offers a new way of thinking about nationalism, through the lens of performance
    • Explores the relationship between India and Pakistan through the trope of mimesis
    • Examines a new archive of imaginative and embodied representations of the subcontinental partition
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Menon convincingly demonstrates the political power of aesthetics, and goes on to show that film, theatre, music, and literature potentially undo rigid formations of national identity … The Performance of Nationalism offers a refreshingly interdisciplinary approach to thinking through politics and performance. Menon's book is especially successful in positioning sonic elements of performance as gestures of political critique … Ultimately, Menon's book reminds us that performance is both a tool of nation-making and a medium to critique and undo dangerous forms of nationalism.' Kareem Khubchandani, Theatre Journal

    'Menon's book elegantly executes a performative reading of various aesthetic 'memories' of partition, focusing on 'the affective and performative constitution of the Indian and Pakistani nation' and their continuing effects on the ways in which identities are discursively produced in modern South Asia … Menon's pathbreaking methodological approach challenges the reader to consider the performative implications and connections of big and small actions across genres and mediums within nationalist South Asian milieux.' K. Frances Lieder, Asian Theatre Journal

    'What the book offers, up against conventional histories, are close readings of alternative narratives, carefully chosen instances of public performance that disrupt, unsettle, astonish, and more than anything, provoke us to rethink conventional wisdom about the event, the major parties, and the ordinary people who have lived in its wake … Menon's understanding of mimesis adds to an intellectual lineage spanning Walter Benjamin, Rene Girard, and Michael Taussig.' Pamela Lothspeich, Modern Drama

    'Jisha Menon presents a highly useful scholarly study of the partition of India and Pakistan, analysing this division as fuelled more by political than religious and ethnic forces … She proposes a notion of performance, via 'dramatic and filmic representations of Partition from the 1960s to 2010 ... that trouble the idea of two coherent, autonomous nation-states of India and Pakistan by pointing to the trope of mimetic doubles that suffuse the dramas of Partition'.' Ketu H. Katrak, Feminist Review

    'Jisha Menon's book is an incredible intervention in debates of nationalist identity constitution through an expansive understanding of the categories of performance … This is a powerful book that should be read by all those who are studying performance, representation and the constitution of national identity.' Neelam Mansingh, The Book Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108468565
    • length: 272 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • contains: 13 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. Bordering on drama: the performance of politics and the politics of performance
    3. Ghatak's cinema and the discoherence of the Bengal partition
    4. The poetics and politics of accommodation
    5. Somatic texts and the gender of partition
    6. Kashmir: hospitality and the 'unfinished business' of partition.

  • Author

    Jisha Menon, Stanford University, California
    Jisha Menon is Assistant Professor of Drama at Stanford University, California.

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