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25 Years

South Asia Seminar: “Performing Violence: Politics through Feminist Theatre

Wed, 10/26/2016 - 3:30pm
Event Location: 
537 Heller Hall

Presented by A. Mangai 

Department of English, Stella Maris College 

A. Mangai is the pseudonym of Dr. V. Padma and the author of the groundbreaking book, Acting Up: Gender and Theatre in India, 1979 Onwards, (Leftword, 2016). She teaches English at Stella Maris College in Chennai. A leading feminist theatre maker, she has been active in Tamil theater for almost three decades.  Mangai strives to make her artistic, activist, and academic selves meet. She writes bilingually in Tamil and English, and also translates fiction and nonfiction works from Tamil into English and vice versa. 

Abstract: Categories of gender and violence have become vexed.  All too often, discussions around violence and gender deal specifically with sexualized violence perpetrated by patriarchy.  Gendered violence, on the other hand, focuses on how gender intersects with other axes of difference such as nation, religion or caste, and re-formulates the modes of violence.  The most glaring example would be the Hindu fundamentalist slogan of ‘Kill the priest and rape the nun,’ in the case of violence unleashed on Christians in India.  In both discussions—violence against women or gendered violence—the arguments are predicated upon woman/female being the object of violence, and therefore, of victimhood.  In this talk, A. Mangai will question that understanding by discussing the perspectives and critiques of women who have been surviving amidst violence. The talk will explore how theatre has addressed questions of impunity and State violence in Manipur and Assam; communal issues in Gujarat, custodial rape during the Emergency in Tamil Nadu, and the infamous 2012 Nirbhaya sexual violence in New Delhi.  In addition, Mangai will share insights from her work in Eastern Sri Lanka on coping with the havoc wreaked by three decades of war.  As a practitioner of theatre, she will reflect on how to evoke a substantial involvement and participation in theatrical forms that offer sharing of grief, appeasement, and consolation than the ones that evoke the fear of being oppressed?  In the solidarity of grief lays the will to survive.  In other words, can we present violence without valorizing or aestheticizing it, without making it ‘appear’ beautiful, without presenting the victim as helpless in the face of it, without raising a false note of chivalry, and without singling out the trauma as that of an individual? Can theatre and performance provide ways to cope, to survive and to retain sanity?