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Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance

Theater and Politics in Colonial and Postcolonial India

Nandi Bhatia

Publication Year: 2004

Despite its importance to literary and cultural texts of resistance, theater has been largely overlooked as a field of analysis in colonial and postcolonial studies. Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance seeks to address that absence, as it uniquely views drama and performance as central to the practice of nationalism and anti-colonial resistance. Nandi Bhatia argues that Indian theater was a significant force in the struggle against oppressive colonial and postcolonial structures, as it sought to undo various schemes of political and cultural power through its engagement with subjects derived from mythology, history, and available colonial models such as Shakespeare. Bhatia's attention to local histories within a postcolonial framework places performance in a global and transcultural context. Drawing connections between art and politics, between performance and everyday experience, Bhatia shows how performance often intervened in political debates and even changed the course of politics. One of the first Western studies of Indian theater to link the aesthetics and the politics of that theater, Acts of Authority/Acts of Resistance combines in-depth archival research with close readings of dramatic texts performed at critical moments in history. Each chapter amplifies its themes against the backdrop of specific social conditions as it examines particular dramatic productions, from The Indigo Mirror to adaptations of Shakespeare plays by Indian theater companies, illustrating the role of theater in bringing nationalist, anticolonial, and gendered struggles into the public sphere. Nandi Bhatia is Associate Professor of English at the University of Western Ontario.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. vii

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1. Introduction: The Theoretical-Historical Context

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pp. 1-18

These remarks by the lieutenant-governor of Bengal regarding the regulation of drama in India are indicative of at least two trends. First, they reveal that imperial authorities in India perceived theater and drama as potentially threatening modes of anticolonial expression...

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2. Censorship and the Politics of Nationalist Drama

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pp. 19-50

The Censorship Act of 1876 empowered local government authorities to “prohibit dramatic performances which [were] seditious or obscene, or otherwise prejudicial to the public interests.” Extending to the whole of British India, the act authorized local governments to prohibit any performance...

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3. Multiple Mediations of "Shakespeare"

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pp. 51-75

Baroda, India, 1880. Tara, a Marathi adaptation of Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline, was performed on the occasion of the marriages of “His Highness the Gaekwar,” ruler of Baroda, to a Tanjore princess, and his sister, Tara Bai, to the prince of Savantwari. Translated from English into Marathi by Vishnu...

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4. Performance and Protest in the Indian People's Theatre Association

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pp. 76-94

In 1942, a group of progressive writers who recognized the potential of popular theater as an effective weapon in the fight for national liberation from British imperialism and from fascism and in the struggles of peasants, workers, and other oppressed classes formed a group called the Indian People’s...

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5. Colonial History and Postcolonial Interventions: Staging the 1857 Mutiny as "The Great Rebellion" in Utpal Dutt's Mahavidroha

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pp. 95-110

The subject of “history” constituted a crucial element of anticolonial theatrical movements in India under the British Raj, as is evident in the historical dramas of Girish Chandra Ghosh for the Great National Theatre in the nineteenth century, the Tilak Festivals at the turn of the century, and the...

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Epilogue: Bringing Women's Struggles to the Streets in Postcolonial India

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pp. 111-119

From Dinabandhu Mitra’s Nil Darpan to Harishchandra’s Durlabh Bandhu and the plays presented by the IPTA, the exploitation of women under colonialism and their participation in nationalist struggles were compelling themes. Nonetheless, such themes remained centered primarily around the...

Appendix: A Bill to Empower the Government to Prohibit Certain Dramatic Performances

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pp. 121-123


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pp. 125-167


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pp. 169-187


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pp. 189-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024629
E-ISBN-10: 0472024620
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472112630
Print-ISBN-10: 0472112635

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2004