Popular Theatres and Knowledge Production in Colonial India

Prof. Rakesh H. Solomon
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This paper examines why “knowledge” producers in colonial India created such radically different versions of what constitutes Indian theatre and published such fundamentally skewed and incomplete theatre scholarship. Focusing on the treatment of popular vernacular theatres, especially on the representative case of the Ram Lila performed throughout much of India, the paper analyzes six pivotal books on Indian theatre published between 1827 and 1947. It points to the historic but deleterious role of European Indologists, brahman informants, and nationalist scholars in producing this “knowledge,” which regrettably is still cited both in the West and in India. It concludes that the distortions in colonial knowledge about Indian theatre reflect the impact of changing cultural, intellectual, and political ideologies during each phase of this long period.

Keywords: Theatre, Drama, Colonial, India, Knowledge, Scholarship, Indology, Orientalist, Nationalist, History, Popular Theatre, Vernacular Theatre,Sanskrit Theatre, Modern Indian Theatre, Ram Lila
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Popular Theatres and Knowledge Production in Colonial India

Prof. Rakesh H. Solomon

Professor, Department of Theatre and Drama, Indiana University, Bloomington

Dr. Rakesh H. Solomon teaches in the Department of Theatre and Drama at Indiana University, Bloomington. He specializes in two areas: Indian theatre and American theatre. His other research interests are contemporary British theatre and theatre historiography. He has published on these subjects in scholarly journals such as Theatre Journal, Theatre Survey, TDR: The Drama Review, Journal of Performance Studies, Theatre Research International, American Drama, Religion and Theatre, and Forum for Modern Language Studies. He has also published in several collections of essays, including Cambridge Companion to Edward Albee (Cambridge University Press), Edward Albee: A Casebook (Routledge), Alan Ayckbourn: A Casebook (Garland), Reader's Guide to Literature in English (Fitzroy Dearborn), Writing and Rewriting National Theatre Histories (University of Iowa Press), and Comparative Literature Now: Theories and Practice / La Littérature comparée à l'heure actuelle. Théories et realization (Honore Champion). His articles are also forthcoming in Literary Encyclopedia and Literary Dictionary and Theatre International: Essays on the Theory and Praxis of World Theatre. He is the author of Albee in Performance: The Playwright as Director, forthcoming from Indiana University Press, and a past editor of South Asian Review. He is currently completing a book entitled Culture, Politics, and Performance in Colonial India, 1753-1947. His research has been funded by senior fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has served as an evaluator for the Arts and Humanities Research Board (UK), Theatre Research International, Theatre Journal, and PMLA. He has also served as chair of the nominating committee of the American Society for Theatre Research, as member of the nominating committee of the American Theatre and Drama Society, and as member of the executive boards of the Association for Asian Performance, South Asian Literary Association, and the American Theatre and Drama Society.

Ref: H05P0905