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Ameet Parameswaran

Submitted by: Ameet Parameswaran

2nd year PhD, Theater and Performance Studies, UCLA.


Modernist performance practices in the Indian state of Kerala link trance-induced forms of identification with Maoist utopic futures. I am using the term “modernism” here to refer to a mode of aesthetic experimentation that was aligned with a revolutionary practice, specifically practices inaugurated by Indian People's Theatre Association of the 1940s-50s. By looking at a particular moment of such art practice in 1970s in Kerala (a South Indian state) when the most authoritarian face of the Indian State declared a national emergency that suspended the civil and democratic rights of the people, the poetry recitals by Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan, deployed a 'performatic' derived from trance-traditions that were designed to access a realm of 'non-real' where a subalternity could be visualized.

Here trance- the traditional form of identificatory ‘excess’- becomes a process of transgressing the very structures of hierarchy that have disallowed such an excess. While these popular collective identificatory practices are seen as the ‘other’ to the socialist identification based on the model of the rational individual subject, the 'excess' of these practices presented unique possibilities for conceptualizing politics an 'other' to the state—one that was politically engaged, rather than transcendentally removed. Studying closely hugely popular Ramakrishnan's recital of his poem Kuratti, this paper would look at how trance as an idenitificatory model was deployed by this modernist poet as a transgressive tool to visualize and connect politics, collective identity and social transformation. Using theories of excess as articulated by Bataille and notions of transgression, the paper would raise questions about strategies of ‘voicing’ and ‘expression’ in the political condition of state of exception.