Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is a study of theatrical performances of love as anti-colonial resistance in India and on Turtle Island. I study how, both in India and on Turtle Island, colonial forces have suppressed and manipulated women and queer and Two-Spirit people’s love—practices of kinship, self-recognition, sexuality, and desire. I explore how performance artists and activists redeploy love as a decolonizing force. Learning from Indigenous scholars and artists’ articulation of love, I propose a concept called loveformance to read performances of love as active creations of decolonial worlds. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines interviews with artists, autoethnography, close readings of dramatic texts, and critical readings of performance, I explore multiple forms of performative public assembly, including protests, marches, and theatrical productions, as ways of creating worlds that defy colonial heteropatriarchy. Drawing from Kashmiri and Adivasi scholars from India as well as Indigenous artists and scholars from Turtle Island, this dissertation makes a case for examining the Indian state, especially the Hindu nationalist state, using settler colonialism as an interpretive framework. The first chapter studies the political aesthetics of the February 14th Women’s Memorial Marches that commemorate Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women on Turtle Island, and protests in India on Valentine’s Day that resist moral policing of women and violence against inter-caste and inter-religious love. The second chapter explores love as a mode of resistance against recognition by the state and as a practice of self-recognition by reading Rebecca Belmore’s Vigil, Marie Clement’s The Unnatural and Accidental Women, and a theatrical adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s short story “Draupadi” by Kalakshetra Manipur. The last two chapters of the dissertation focus on ways in which performances of love refuse colonial heteropatriarchy through queer and Two-Spirit eroticism, and through relationships with other-than-human worlds. Here, I study Kim Senklip Harvey’s Kamloopa, Girish Karnad’s Nagamandala, Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-size, and Tipi Confessions, produced by Kim TallBear, Tracy Bear, and Kirsten Lindquist. Ultimately, this dissertation aims to uncover political and aesthetic patterns, knowledges, and strategies within decolonization efforts, as well as new technologies and forms of colonial oppression that are made evident when theatrical performances of love in these two contexts are studied together.
Summary for Lay Audience
This dissertation studies contemporary theatrical performances of love in India and on northern Turtle Island (or what settlers know as Canada). I explore love not as a universal feeling of heteronormative romance, but as a form of resistance against heteropatriarchy. How do performance artists present love—specifically queer eroticism, forms of self-recognition and witnessing, kinships, and intimacies with other-than-human animals—as a way of asserting political and cultural sovereignty? Studying how heteropatriarchy has been central to colonial power in Canada and Hindu ethnonationalism in India, I investigate the ways in which women, queer, and Two-Spirit peoples’ love performs anti-colonial and anti-occupation resistance. I explore marches, protests, and theatrical performances alongside each other to study how the impacts of theatrical performances live outside the performance-event through memories and affect, and resist psychological colonization. I borrow from Indigenous scholars’ discussion of sovereignty and self-recognition, as well as Kashmiri, Dalit, and Adivasi artists and scholars’ work, to rethink the “postcolonial” status of India. Similarly, studying performances of love from India and Turtle Island uncovers facets of settler colonial workings within Canada that may otherwise go unnoticed. This project aims to foster critical conversations on decolonization across continents.
Bhat, Sheetala, "Love-Worlds: Performance of Love as Decolonial Worldmaking in India and in Indigenous Theatre on Northern Turtle Island" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8850.
Available for download on Saturday, August 31, 2024
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