Harshita Kamath's book, Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance is an ethnography on impersonation, traditionally embedded in the dance-theatre practices of the male brahmins of Kuchelapuram (also known as Kuchpudi) village in Andhra Pradesh. The Kuchipudi dance form derives its name from its traditional association with the Smarta Vaidiki brahmin sampradayam of this village. While stri-vesham, or female impersonation, was widely practiced in dance and theatre performances in India at least until the end of the colonial rule, Kamath prompts interesting arguments on notions of gender performance, more specifically constructs of masculinity, demonstrated within the Kuchipudi brahmin sampradayam. Her book elaborates upon the vital hagiographical notion, ascribed to Siddhendra Yogi (possibly living between 1500 and 1700 CE), that the male Kuchipudi brahmins piously perform/impersonate the lead role of Satyabhama, the queen of Lord Krishna, in his play Bhamakalapam at least once in their lifetime. The...
Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance
PURNIMA SHAH is Director of the Duke University Dance Program and Associate Professor of the Practice of Dance. Shah was the PI crafting the Master of Fine Arts in Dance: Embodied Interdisciplinary Praxis proposal, and established the graduate program at Duke in Fall 2019. She is the recipient of the 2014 Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Teaching Award at Duke University. Her research specialty intersects interdisciplinary areas of Asian dance and theatre, ritual performance, gender in performance, dance ethnography, and South Asian dance in the diaspora. She has produced, directed, and scripted a dance documentary, Dancing with the Goddess. A book project Garba Dancing: From Ritual to Disco is in progress. She has published scholarly articles in the Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle, Theatre Journal, UCLA Journal of Dance Ethnology, Repertorio: Teatro and Danca, Nartanam, Attendance: The Dance Annual of India, and Samipya Journal of Indian Culture, in addition to chapters in anthologies. She acquired her PhD in Performance Studies and Ethnography (with a focus on Asian Performance) from the Department of Theatre and Drama, University of Wisconsin–Madison and is a performer in the Kathak and Bharatanatyam dances of India.
Purnima Shah; Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance. Ecumenica 1 May 2020; 13 (1): 101–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/ecumenica.13.1.0101
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