Two rare collections of essays on Interdisciplinary scholarship and transnational performance research
Guest-Editor: Sreenath Nai
University of Lincoln
The Intellect journal of Studies in South Asian Film and Media brings out two extraordinary volumes on Indian Theatre with special focus on the body (Vol.4: 2 & 5:1)
The body is central to Indian discourse and practice. From religion through philosophy, aesthetics, martial arts, medicine and performance practice, Indian knowledge is about the knowledge of the body. Indian systems of knowledge give great emphasis to the objective and corporeal aspects of physical techniques, training and performance practice. Similarly, the body is understood equally as a site of ‘symbolic appearance’ in everyday life as well as in performance practice, where the presence of the body is marked by the absent ‘real’. The consumption of the body as a symbolic appearance is deeply embedded in Indian thoughts and performance practice: in the religio-spiritual traditions, the body is a means of attaining enlightenment; in the Natyasastra it is an illusory mechanism for the actor’s symbolic appearance and allows the audience to access rasa, the aesthetic experience of performance; in medicine, the body is the site of pleasure, and sickness and disease are hindrances to the pleasures experienced by the bodily organism. The body is always about practice and the practice is the only way to access the body. The practice provides techniques and principles that are objects of symbolic exchange in performance. In this way, the performer’s body is a site of techniques and corporeal principles that generates and reorganizes the artistic (symbolic) practice. The world of performance, therefore, is a scheme of bodily practice constituted by the corporeal techniques and principles that are systematically inscribed in the actor’s body. Training is a bodily involvement of practice, and a process of inscribing the ‘illusory’ drive’ in the performer’s body. Training is a pre-performative process, which formulates the ‘expressive order’ of the body, and stimulates and prepares it for the performance. The body is the only medium to access the body. Practice helps the very functioning of the corporeal logic and the perceptual demand of the body in performance.