ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Japan Laan and unarchiving performance cultures in wartime Manipur


Biswas Debanjali - Research Fellow at Showtown History Centre, Blackpool, UK


44 – New archival traces of the Second World War in the India-Myanmar-Bangladesh borderland


 The paper is geared towards unarchiving performances from materials that were filmed and photographed during the Second World War at the eastern frontier of India. Based on hitherto overlooked visual materials from the colonial archives, the paper charts discourses of performance, everyday life, and leisure near the battlefront in Manipur during Burma Campaign (1942-45). Although the focus remains on the artistic practices as seen in the images – still and moving – the socio-historical contexts of the performances are analysed through ephemera such as war dispatches, letters, newspaper clips, reports, handbills as well as oral history. I argue for historical and ethnographic ways of engaging with the materials, so that archived materials offer a rich tapestry of society and identity, through which indigenous modernities and buried narratives build a history of performance in the region during and after the WWII.