Rasatrialogue: the politics of the female body in Asian performance

Nair, Sreenath (2017) Rasatrialogue: the politics of the female body in Asian performance. In: Women in Asian performance: aesthetics and politics. Routledge, pp. 159-172. ISBN 9781138917828

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The dialectical relationship between the text and performance has been a perennial point of debate in theatre and performance studies. For example, gestural elements are considered as one of the foundational principles of epic theatre practice. Similarly, Artaud's "Theatre of Cruelty" (1989) rests entirely upon the body and the somatic imageries of the performer. The text unfolds and physically transforms its structure and meaning when the performer rereads it in a performative context through gestural interventions that include acts, gestures, movements, speech, tonal articulations, visual elements of the body and objects in a performance. As a result, the very involvement of the gestural elements in the process of performance-making allow a reconfiguration of the text, dissolving its dominant ideologies and reiterating its cultural and political meanings. It is, therefore, clear that the performer's gestural intervention is a political act that problematizes the linguistic authority that constitutes the text. Any discussion of the interconnectivity between the text and performance, therefore, will certainly foreground the performer's body as the central locus of negotiations. From a gender perspective, feminist scholars and theatre practitioners have argued that gender, like text, is constructed by the dominant ideologies pervasive in a society in its cultural, linguistic and historical contexts. The text is a masculine property (Butler, 1988; Kristeva, 1980) in which female bodies are represented, objectified and sexualized. In order to challenge this gender bias Butler introduces a new term, expressive acts (1988, 519-531; Price, 1990, 322-331), as an ideologically accurate way to resist and reverse the gender inscriptions in cultural and artistic practices. Placing the term in opposition to performative, Butler argues that expressive is non-logocentric and a corporeal field of cultural play. Extending this argument and asserting a phenomenological critical position of lived experience of the body, I maintain in this chapter that gender identities can be challenged and textual meanings reversed through gestural reconstruction, without rewriting the masculine text. As a performative act, gestural reconstruction subverts the masculine dominance in the text through improvisation, the unscripted and unwarranted in performance that uses kinetic and temporal properties of the body to reiterate the political discourse.

Keywords:Asian Performance, Women in Asian Performance, Rasatrialogue, Rasa theory, Performative, Expressive, improvisation, Pan-Asian performance theory, Technique as knowledge, Gestural reconstruction, Nangiar kuthu
Subjects:L Social studies > L320 Gender studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T300 South Asian studies
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T330 South Asian Society and Culture studies
W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:31092
Deposited On:12 Mar 2018 16:32

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