Performance and The Political: Power and Pleasure in Contemporary Kerala

Annotated by Meenakshi Thirukode


Meenakshi Thirukode

The present study undertakes a selective exploration of what (Jon) Mckenzie would call the paradigm of ‘cultural performance’, whereby he marks how performance became an object of study with the formation of Performance Studies as a discipline….While engaging with the globality of performance regime, here I depart from McKenzi’s general theory of performance which categorically marks the substitution of the disciplinary regime by the performance regime. Instead I open up the category of cultural performance as one that has an ontology which is conceptualised in the region, thereby foregrounding how performance offers a distinct lens to understand the political in the contemporary. Organised under five distinct modes of presentation - vision, voice, gesture, mechanic and the animal - I analyse a series of mainstream cultural performances in Kerala across different genres, like theatre, poetry recitals, kathaprasangam ( a popular form of storytelling that emerged in the 1920’s in kerala) and mimics parade. I highlight how performance is at the heart of the workings of the new modality of power, and following different strategies, how these cultural performances foreground what it is to perform, and therefore what it is to live in the contemporary. This book posits performance as a critical site of enquiry to unravel the sensory and affective contours in the transformation of the region into a neoliberal regime.