ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Text, Performance and Anti-caste politics : Conceptualizing Postmodern Dalit Performance Aesthetics


Shrimali Maulikraj - Northwestern University, Performance Studies, Evanston, United States


35 – Postmodern Narratives of Caste and Indigeneity


By examining my own performative works with the “Whistle Blower Theater Group” and the works of two other contemporary dalit performers, Jyotsana Sidharth and Sri Vamsi Matta, auto-ethnographically and through analysis, this study seeks to identify the narrative, process, and aesthetic forms and meaning of the Dalit postmodern performance practices in India. The discussion of Dalit aesthetics is predominately based on the literary Dalit movement, and modern discourse has a strong emphasis on art, graphic novels, music, and film. However, there is a dearth of instances of theatrical and performative Dalit aesthetics in this discussion. This essay primarily adds to discussions about Dalit aesthetics by Om Prakash Valmiki, Sharan Kumar Limbale, and others through the realm of theater and performance. In light of such, this essay conceptualizes Dalit postmodern aesthetics using postdramatic and postmodernist scholars and practitioner’s works such as Hans Thies Lehman and Antonin Artaud. This essay focuses on the development of the postmodern Dalit aesthetic idiom and how it manifests the contemporary Dalit experience through text, gesture, object, space, and performance, challenging the Brahmanical and patriarchal notions of performance aesthetics.