SAI Sponsored Event - Meherjaan, Aesthetic Solution to Violence: Challenging Patriarchal Nationalism
Thu, October 27, 2011 • 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM • Gebauer (GEB 3.312)
Lecture with director Rubaiyat Hossain.
Meherjaan was created with a conscious effort to bring out a narrative of love to over come man made political boundaries. This so called cliche romantic love story of a Bangladeshi girl falling in love with a deserter Pakistani soldier in the backdrop of Bangladesh's war of independence made for the mass audience and released in mainstream cinemas in six districts of Bangladesh raised major uproar in the left wing, liberal, cultural activists as well as in the current ruling bloc resulting not only a ban to exhibit Meherjaan in Bangladesh, but also establishing a social psyche whereas Meherjaan figures as a taboo word. Clearly, in Bangladesh there are a lot of heavy political, social, cultural and sexual issues regarding 1971 that need to be unpacked to understand the reactions received by Meherjaan.
I want to discuss my initial creative inspirations and intellectual intentions for selecting to depict a love affair between and Pakistani soldier and Bangladeshi woman in the backdrop of 1971. I would also like to discuss the reasons behind such violent reactions in Bangladesh regarding the film in the backdrop of Bangladesh's current trial for war criminals of 1971 and the overall unease of the depiction of the 'enemy,' the Paki soldier as a compassionate human being. Finally by drawing on some sexually charged reactions to Meherjaan in the blog sphere and Facebook, specifically in reaction to the representation of a 'Birangona' (Heroic Woman) or rape survivor among other female characters in the film; I want to demonstrate how the sexual reactions prove the core of my feminist scholarship: the Bangladeshi masculine violent process of authoring a certain brand of female sexuality in order to construct and galvanize a sense of Bangladeshi nationalism, which came to author a past present and future for the women who were raped in 1971.
Hossain is an interdisciplinary researcher. She has completed her B. A. in Women Studies from Smith College, USA, M. A. in South Asian Studies fromUniversity of Pennsylvania, USA, and M. A. in Study of Religion (Islam) from SOAS (Universityof London), UK. Her primary fields of interest are Sufism, Bengali nationalism, formation of Bengali modernity and its correlation with female sexuality. Rubaiyat Hossain has worked for prominent women’s rights NGOs in Bangladesh such as Ain O Shalish Kendra and Naripokkho. Rubaiyat Hossain was the co-coordinator for the first international workshop on Sexuality and Rights organized by BRAC School of Public Health in 2007. She has worked as a part time lecturer in the department of Economics and Social Sciences at BRAC University, Dhaka, Bangladesh since 2006.
An alumnus of MacArthur Award-winning Susan Marshall and Company, Omar has performed internationally at venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Jacob’s Pillow, the Joyce Theatre in New York and the Edinburgh Festival. His choreography has been presented at Dance Theater Workshop in New York, NY, at Wesleyan University and at the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. In 2002, Omar assisted Mary-Ann Kellogg, choreographer of the Hollywood film, the Guru, and had a cameo as the Indian Prince. Omar has choreographed dances for the prestigious stage and television Lux Style Awards shows in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002, 2003, and 2006. In 2008, Omar choreographed and featured in Saqib Malik’s acclaimed music video for Zeb and Haniya’s Aitebar and choreographed Bossy R, a music video for Sesame Workshop in New York with five-time Emmy-nominated Director Koyalee Chanda.