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Kamran Asdar Ali, Director WCH 4.132, Mailcode G9300, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-3550

South Asia Seminar Series: IMAGE/TEXT/SOUND

Thu, September 18, 2008 • 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM • Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118

The SAI seminar series features lectures by distinguished South Asian specialists from UT and abroad. Regular seminars occur on Thursdays at 3:30 pm, preceded by a reception at 3:00 pm, in the Meyerson Conference Room (WCH 4.118).

This paper analyzes the contribution of dharmik or "mythological” plays in the Parsi theatre to visual culture, religious debate, and political consciousness. Betab’s play is examined as a significant moment in the evolution of the genre, linking the mythic visuals of Raja Ravi Varma to developments in the early cinema. Looking at the play’s lengthy textual and performance history, I argue that Betab embedded within the conventional narrative certain legends and theology from nirguna bhakti traditions then current among low-caste and Dalit groups. In so doing, he converted Draupadi and Krishna into agents of radical social change, creating cleavages within the theatrical public even as he established the popularity of the new genre.

Kathryn Hansen is a scholar of Hindi and Urdu specializing in the history of Indian theatrical traditions. Among her interests are gender and performance, oral genres, and early cinema in South Asia. She is Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where she served as Director of the Center for Asian Studies (2000-04). She has also taught at the University of British Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University. For two years she was a program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C. She has authored Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theatre of North India (1992), winner of the A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies. She co-edited with David Lelyveld an essay volume, A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in Transnational Perspective (2005), and translated and edited The Parsi Theatre:Its Origins and Development by Somnath Gupt (2005). Her most cited articles include "The Virangana in North Indian History: Myth and Popular Culture," "Making Women Visible: Gender and Race Cross-Dressing in the Parsi Theatre," and "The Birth of Hindi Drama in Banaras.”

Sponsored by: South Asia Institute


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