Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Trapezing Across Continents: Transnational Lives and Indian Circus

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

The proposed multidisciplinary exploration is squarely located in the interstices of significant happenings in South Asia and East Africa over the past couple of decades. It explores the case of a particular group of homo performans – circus artistes – tumbling through the sea changes in various regions such as India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Kenya. My attempt would be to look at their “movements, flows, and circulations”, that Isabel Hofmeyr notes as the defining characteristics of transnational histories. This is a complex terrain interspersed with discourses of war, revolution, monarchy, democracy, civil society, non-governmental organizations, children, animals, law, labor, cultural performance and tradition/modernity cutting across national borders and distant continents. A very interesting historical inquiry that presents itself is while many women and men of subaltern castes in early twentieth century South India found liberty from their everyday lives determined by brutal caste and gender proscriptions through the constant motion of circuses, now postcolonial Indian circuses and showbiz industry have become rapid avenues of mobility for skilled performers from war-torn East African countries. Some key areas of exploration would be the concept of ‘social circus’ promoted by non-governmental organizations that led to the mushrooming of circus schools in the East African countries and the social media, whose accessibility and infinite scope appear to be substantively reshaping the physical spaces and substituting human agents in the new global market.

Nisha Poyyaprath Rayaroth

University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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