Asian Theatre Journal 18.2 (2001) 274-275
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Rustom Bharucha in The Politics of Cultural Practice uses the metaphor of theatre as the "laboratory of the world" to consider the emergent issues of globalization, communalism, and culturalism through the paradigms of interculturalism, intraculturalism, multiculturalism, and secularism. Continuing the activist stance of his previous books, Theatre and the World (1990) and The Name of the Secular (1998), he addresses these issues with a series of questions (p. 2): "What are the ethics of representation in the theatre? What are the alternative modalities of representing the other with responsibility and engagement? How does one begin to respect--and not just tolerate--cultural differences? Can economic inequalities be included in one's respect for cultural difference?" He engages these questions by combining personal anecdote with the theoretical perspectives of Homi Bhabha, Arjun Appadurai, and others to reveal "how meanings mutate and metabolize in the course of their transportation, translation, and specific uses in other cultures" (p. 1).
Bharucha's initial chapter, "Interculturalism and Its Discriminations: Shifting the Agendas of the National, the Multicultural, and the Global," sets the stylistic tone for the rest of the book. In this chapter he interrogates common approaches to interculturalism and intercultural practice that focus on the multinational productions of Brook, Mnouchkine, and others. Instead he situates interculturalism within the shifting conceptions of nation, individual rights, global agendas, ethnicity, and multiculturalism. This consistent questioning of basic constructs encourages the reader to contemplate the ongoing negotiations of individual subjects and the equality of exchange implied in the term interculturalism and to consider how both--individual subjects and equality of exchange--are related to global power structures.
The five chapters that follow elaborate on the concept of exchange implicit in the terms "inter" and "intra" through diverse sites of performance in India: a performance at a former factory for the Young Presidents Organization, a global business organization; the intersection of Peer Gynt and the community of Mysore; the politics of sexuality in the film Fire; a theatre improvisation in a schoolhouse; and the festival of Lai Haraoba in Manipur. Each site becomes an opportunity for Bharucha to elucidate the complex configurations of communication and reception as politics, people, and technology are interwoven to create new constructions of subjectivity and community. The central issue, however, remains "the intercultural patronage, across nations, of the intracultural exchange within the boundaries of India, which feeds the globalization of cultural capital through agencies inimical to the ethos of self-sufficiency" (p. 50). In Bharucha's argument, performance in India remains at the center of defining contemporary concerns of minority and human rights, national and community identity, and issues related to transnational conglomerates. Implicitly India therefore provides the theoretical base from which [End Page 274] Asian and European theorists in divergent parts of the world can consider the performative practices and politics of their communities.
The final chapter, "Afterwords: The Body in Crisis and the Future of the Intercultural," is a reflection on the demands of a global community on the individual body. Bharucha personalizes the problematics of being an intercultural body with accounts of his experience coming down with malaria in Slovenia and as a dinner party guest of the Amsterdam theatrical group DAS ARTS. He uses these descriptions to make the argument that the image of the body, although influenced by new media technologies, is contextualized through the reality of its experience, which implies a specific community and set of experiences. Intercultural experiences of the body "interact with memories and sensations that have already been internalized in the body from another space and time" (p. 153). Nevertheless, Bharucha eloquently returns the reader to his primary theme: the necessity to develop an intercultural practice that creates an environment of dynamic exchange that gets "beyond the 'use' of other cultures for the assumed rejuvenation of our inner states of desiccation; instead, we need to develop a more...