Our first workshop meeting of the quarter, this Thursday, Jan 14, features Doctoral Candidate in Ethnomusicology Rehanna Kheshgi. She will be presenting her paper “Performing Youthful Desires: The Gabhoru Body as Creative Force in Assam, India.“ The abstract for this paper is posted below.
We will meet in our regular place at our regular time: Thursday, Jan 14, 4:30-6:00pm in Godspeed Hall, Room 205. As always, our workshop is open to the public, and all are welcome.
Recent studies of popular culture, globalization, and gender in South Asia have recognized the importance of critically engaging with youth culture as a site for debating social values and shaping subjectivities. But few move beyond cosmopolitan centers to incorporate experiences of young people in rural areas. In this talk, I follow a group of young performers from the village courtyard to the proscenium stage, exploring their participation in fertility rituals for agricultural prosperity and aestheticized competitions associated with the springtime bihu festival celebrated in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Bihu festival songs narrate romantic encounters between women and men, offering a set of stock characters for young people to take on through performance. Intimate and illicit encounters that happen during bihu inspire a shared romantic drama that unfolds in village courtyards, on festival stages, and on television screens across the state of Assam. I argue that the blurring of onstage and offstage personas creates opportunities for young performers to experiment with socially determined boundaries of gender and sexuality, but this freedom also constitutes a context in which young women (gabhoru) are especially vulnerable to threats of bodily harm.
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