An IASH Work-in-Progress seminar, delivered by Dr Navaneetha Mokkil (Jawaharlal Nehru University):
Bodily Encounters: Scenography of the Political in India
Since the 2000s, in different parts of India, we see the proliferation of political protests that interrupt the ordering of sensory regimes. For example, the Tamil Nadu farmers' protest in Delhi in 2017 involved acts such as biting dead mice, drinking urine and exhibiting the skulls of other farmers who had committed suicide due to agrarian crisis. My research undertakes a study of protests in different parts of India since the 2000s and cultural practices from the same time period that explore the dynamics of dispossession and bodily encounters. I argue that in order to map contemporary formations of the political we have to account for how and why the body and sensory energies confront us even as we speak of the predominance of digital technologies.
Through the use of the term scenography, I seek to see how political protests and cultural practices, such as cinema, literature and visual art, create interactive zones that break customary boundaries between bodies, object and spaces. The practices of artists, activists and spectators are interlinked in this project because I examine the labor and modalities of co-creating sensory worlds. This research pulls together a wide range of sites such as reportage of protests, first-person narratives, contemporary fiction and news photography. I suggest that we have to pay attention to the zones of sensory inhabitation that these sites open up to trace the transformations of the political at present.
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