Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2PS2014

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon

Course Coordinator and Team: Benil Biswas

Email of course coordinator: benil[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: No prior knowledge required. MA Students from any discipline can credit this course as an Elective, provided they demonstrate a keen interest in the course content.

Course Objectives/Description:

This is an elective MA Performance Studies course. It is also open for students of all other disciplines, without any prerequisite. This course is ideally designed for Third semester MA students, however interested First semester students can also take credit it, provided they can demonstrate an adequate interest in the course.

This course will discuss how artistic practices critically engage with concepts of the body and of performance. The discourse around body is pretty old; in fact all disciplines have devoted significant scholarships to the study of body. And if one ponders about performance then the relationship is all the more intimate as it has been just the “body” which has been visible with its varied meanings across ages and cultures. Thus, the role of the body in performance has been comprehensively studied by scholars, thinkers and practitioners.

This consistent study of body in performance and it’s rootedness in socio-political context has brought about various manifestations of body in practice like the “feminist, “queer”, “black”, “post- war”, “disabled” and of course “impure”, “untouchable” and so on. These manifestations center on the body as a signifier and its signified manifestations relate it to other bodies, frameworks, and circumstances.

The course will consider these movements and performances to create a dialogue between these diverse ways of encountering the body. The first half of the semester is dedicated to the understanding of body vis-a-vis the theoretical formulations around it. The second half would be about surveying various performance practices, where one would employ various readings and formulations already developed in the preceding rubrics.

The aim is to develop the knowledge of and consciousness about the presence of “Body” in “Culture” and the “Culture of Body”, which in turn underlines the theoretical, conceptual and structural issues relating to body in performance, enabling students to apply in their own analysis of performances.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Have an intimate interaction with the concept of bodies as physiological, psychological, political, sociocultural, and virtual entities in performance and performative contexts past and present. It would be relevant to students and scholars of literature, history, sociology, theatre, performance, dance, religious, cultural, gender, and ethnic studies, to name a few.
  • Reflect on and respond critically to the various formulations on and around body and the physicality in performance underlining “subjectivity” and “identity”, as and in performance, also the interaction of bodies and history, bodies and space, and bodies in motion.
  • Interrogate the representation and documentation of bodies in performance that will encompass not only artist/practitioners but also those working in discursive fields such as literature and languages.
  • Delve into the Bodies in contemporary performances: Live art, installation performance & site specific, and also investigate the “performative bodies” and “virtual bodies”- Digital performance of 21st century during discussions, readings, practical sessions.
  • Fundamentally grasp and unravel one of the most crucial components of any performance - the performer’s body.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Week I. Introduction to the Course (August 2nd Week)

Preliminary discussion regarding the commonsensical knowledge about body in performance. Before attempting to understand the theoretical formulation, one would want to fathom the depth of the class, so that we can pitch the class/lecture according to needs of each student.

Week II. What is Performance Studies? How Does It Relate to Everyday Life? (Aug 3rd Week)

  • A Student's Guide to Performance Studies [PDF]
  • Phelan, Peggy. The ontology of performance: representation without reproduction in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. pp. 146-192
  • Schechner, Richard. “What is Performance Studies”, “what is Performance” in Performance Studies: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2013 (reprint). pp.
  • Erving Goffman. 1959. “Performances,” in The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, pp. 17-76
  • Conquergood, Dwight. 2002. “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research.” TDR: The Drama Review 46(2): 145-156.
  • Recommended: view interviews with Richard Schechner and Barbara Kirschenblatt Gimblett, “What is Performance Studies?,” at

Part 2. Why Body in Performance or Bodies - some basic assumptions? (Aug 3rd Week)

  • One would question the basic premise of multiple levels of interpretation about body ion performance. One would bring out the Pluralities and set an entry point into the domain of Body.
  • Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Margaret Lock. 1987. “The Mindful Body: A Prolegomenon to Future Work in Medical Anthropology.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1, 1: 6-41.
  • Merleau Ponty, Maurice. Experience and Objective Thought. The Problem of the Body, The Body as Object and Mechanistic Physiology in Phenomenology of Perception, (tr. Colin Smith), London: Routledge, 1965, 2002. pp.77-102
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. Structures, habitus, practices, Belief and the body and The logic of practice in The Logic of Practice. (Tr. By Richard Nice). Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992. pp. 52-97

Further Readings:

  • Eagleton, Terry, Subjects in The Illusions of Postmodernism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996.pp.69-92
  • Scarry, Elaine. The Structure Of Torture: The Conversion Of Real Pain Into The Fiction Of Power in The Body In Pain The Making And Unmaking
  • Of The World, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. pp. 27-59
  • Week III. Tacit Text and Screaming Body: Roots/Routes of/to Body in Performance (Aug 4th week)
  • This Section would explore the various traditions: Classical and Popular, Mimesis and Empathy, Clowning. Various parts of Body in performance- face, limb, torso, Pre-Expressivity!
  • Pure Physicality: Intimacy and Cruelty
  • Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double. New York: Grove Press, 1958.
  • Derrida, Jacques & Thevenin, Paule. The Secret Art of Antonin Artaud. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1998.
  • Bali and Beyond: Eugenio Barba’s Ur-Hamlet, NTQ,n.108,vol.27, part 4, November, 2011. Pp-341-357.
  • Model Student paper: Gauci, Aldith. The Exhausted Body in Performance. Unpublished MA dissertation. University of Aberystwyth, 2010.

Further Readings.

  • Lecoq, Jacques. “The Gestures of Life” in Theatre of movement and gesture david bradby, ed. London & New York: Routledge, 2006, pp. 6-28.
  • Zarrilli, Peter B. ‘What does it mean ‘to become the character’? kathakali actor training and characterization’ in Kathakali dance-drama where gods and demons come to play. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.
  • Barba, Eugenio, Nicola Savarese, and International School of Theatre Anthropology (Holstebro, Denmark). A dictionary of theatre anthropology the secret art of the performer. English-language ed. London, New York: Published for the Centre for Performance Research by Routledge. 1991. Print.
  • Barba, Eugenio. Genesis, Definition and Recurring Principles in The Paper Canoe: A Guide To Theatre Anthropology. Trans. Richard Fowler. New York: Routledge, 1996.
  • New Perspectives on Human Sacrifice and Ritual Body Treatments in Ancient Maya Society. Edited by Vera Tiesler & Andrea Cucina, New York: Springer Science, 2007. Print.
  • Week IV. Body: Baroque, Beauty and Grotesque (Sept 1st week)
  • This section would explore the concepts of body in vicinity and its appreciation. It would gradually develop the discourse about the nature of the beautiful at various junctures of intellectual history- namely the Baroque and the Grotesque.
  • Hutcheson. Francis. ‘Treatise I’ in An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue in Two Treatises. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004.
  • Bloom, Harold. Bloom’s Literary Themes: The Grotesque, New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009.
  • Chakravarty, Sumita S. Reflections on the Body Beautiful in Indian Popular Culture in Social Research, Vol. 78, No. 2, The Body and the State: How the State Controls and Protects the Body, Part I (SUMMER 2011), pp. 395-416


Further Readings:

  • Judovitz, Dalia. ‘Montaigne’s Scriptorial Bodies: Experience, Sexuality, Style’ in The Culture of the Body Genealogies of Modernity. Ann Arbor : The University of Michigan Press, 2001.
  • Kunst, Bojana. The Organization of Happiness and the Exhausted Body. (
  • Week V. ____________ Gaze ! : Exploring Materiality of body in Culture, Culture through body. (Sept 2nd week)
  • This section explores the concept of body and its relationship with the society, which has changed during the late 19th century, after industrial revolution and colonialism (in the Centre and the Periphery) owing to the new formulations in Cultural Materialism.
  • View Coco Fusco and Gomez-Pena, 1993 Couple in Cage
  • Caroline Vercoe. 2001. “Agency and Ambivalence: A Reading of Works by Coco Fusco,” in Coco Fusco, The Bodies That Were Not Ours and Other Writings
  • Coco Fusco. 1994. “The Other History of Intercultural Performance,” TDR: The Drama Review 38, 1: 143-167.
  • Diana Taylor. 1998. “A Savage Performance: Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Coco Fusco’s ‘Couple in the Cage.’” TDR: The Drama Review 42, 2: 160-175.


Week VI: Self as Other? ( Sept 3rd Week)

  • View the works of Cindy Sherman, and Yasumasa Morimura, Kanhailal ( Draupadi)
  • Homi Bhabha. 1994. “Of Mimicry and Man.” The Location of Culture.
  • Rustom Bharucha Politics of Indigenous Theatre: Kanhailal in Manipur. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 26, No. 11/12, Annual Number (Mar., 1991), pp.747-749+751+753-754
  • Rebecca Schneider. 2011. “Still Living.” Performing Remains: Art and War in Times of Theatrical Reenactment. Pp. 138-168
  • Bourguignon, Erika. Suffering and Healing, Subordination and Power: Women and Possession Trance in Ethos, Vol. 32, No. 4, Theme Issue: Contributions to a Feminist Psychological Anthropology (Dec., 2004), pp. 557-574 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American


Further Readings:

  • Prendergast, Christopher. Introduction in Cultural Materialism: on Raymond Williams, 1995.
  • Milner, Andrew. Cultural Materialism and Cultural Theory. Re-Imagining Cultural Studies: The Promise of Cultural Materialism. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: SAGE, 2002.
  • Week VII. Encounter the Body/Bodies/ Survey of Contemporary Practices (Sept 4th week) Movements
  • This module will introduce various modes of body in performance and contemporary practices, students are encouraged to employ the readings and discourse already generated in the pre ceding lectures to the analysis on these bodies and contemporary practices.
  • Cloud Gate Dance Company, Liz Aggiss and Divas Dance Theatre
  • Pina Bausch and the Wuppertal Dance Theatre
  • Bill T Jones
  • This section would be supported with readings from Feminism, sexuality and gendered bodies.
  • Jill Dolan, Practising Cultural Disruptions: Gay and Lesbian Representation and Sexuality in CTP, 2007.
  • Bell, Vikki. ‘Performativity Challenged? Creativity and the Return of Interiority’ in Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. Oxford & New York: Berg, 2007.
  • Foster, Susan Leigh. ‘An Introduction’, ‘Choreographies and Choreographers’ in Worlding Dance. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. pp. 1-13 and pp.98-118 respectively.
  • Essay on specific performances to be discussed.


Further Readings:

  • Butler, Judith. “Gender Is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion.” in Bodies That Matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”, London and New York: Routledge, 1993.
  • Butler, Judith P. Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. New York: Routledge. 1999.
  • Lepecki, André .Exhausting Dance: Performance and the politics of movement. London & New York, 2006.


Week VIII. Movements in India (Oct 1st week)

  • Manjushri Chaki Sarkar
  • Chandralekha/Sharira (Screenings)
  • Uday Shankar
  • Chatterjea, Ananya. ‘Red-Stained Feet: Probing the Ground on which Women Dance in Contemporary Bengal’ in Worlding Dance. pp. 119-143
  • Case Study- Munsi, Urmimala Sarkar. A Century of Negotiations: The Changing Sphere of the Woman Dancer in India, in Subrata Bagchi (ed.) Women in Public Sphere: Some Exploratory Essays. New Delhi: Primus Books, 2011.


Further Readings:

  • Sarkar Munsi , Urmimala. (ed.) Dance: Transcending Borders. New Delhi: Tulika Books.
  • Munsi, Urmimala Sarkar and Stephanie Burridge (Eds.) Traversing Tradition: Celebrating Dance in India. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Carter, Alexandra And Janet O’shea (Eds.) The Routledge Dance Studies Reader, Second Edition, London and New York: Routledge, 1998, 2010.
  • (Students are encouraged to do a bit of research and bring other contemporary practices for discussion.)


Week IX. Bodies and cultures (Oct 2nd week)

  • Annihilation or Manifestation of dissimilarity! (Critically studying the body in culture)
  • This section would focus on how body is rooted in the culture and how at times it becomes the basis to the formation of counter cultures which further problematizes culture itself.
  • Lingis, Alphonso. Potlatch in Body Transformations Evolutions and Atavisms in Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Young, Harvey. Chapter 4, Touching History: Staging Black Experience in Embodying Black Experience stillness, critical memory, and the black body. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2010.
  • Dyer, Richard. IDOL THOUGHTS: Orgasm and self-reflexivity in gay pornography in The Culture Of Queers. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • (Screening –works of Orlan, Bill T Jones etc. )
  • Bodies from other cultures
  • This section would explore three classic examples of the body in performance, where it is visibly beyond the boundaries of any specific culture.
  • Meyerhold- Biomechanics, Artaud.
  • Peter Brook and intercultural theatre
  • Eugenio Barba
  • (Screening- P. Brook’s The Mahabharata, Marat/Sade)
  • Bharucha, Rustom. Collision of cultures and Mahabharata in Theatre and the World: Performance and the politics of culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1990. Print.
  • Martin, John. Intercultural world in The Intercultural Performance Handbook. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.
  • Sue Ellen Case. The Emperor's New Clothes: The Naked Body and Theories of Performance. SubStance, Vol. 31, No. 2/3, Issue 98/99: Special Issue: Theatricality (2002), Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 186-200.


Further Readings:

  • Pavis, Patrice. Towards the theory of culture in Theatre At The Crossroads Of Culture. Loren Kruger (trans). London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Print.
  • Week X: Contemporary Case Studies: Radical Performance (Oct 4th )
  • This section would focus on how the so-called concept of body in performance is challenged by body itself- on the ground of sexuality and disability. Marina Abramovic, Carolee Schneemann, Orlan would be taken up for discussion.
  • Desirable Body
  • Schneider, Rebecca ‘Binary terror and the body made explicit’ in The Explicit Body in Performance. London and New York: Routledge, 1997, pp. 12- 31.
  • Augsburg, Tanya. ‘Orlan’s Performantive Transformations of Subjectivity’ in Peggy Phelan and Jill Lane (Eds.) The Ends of Performance. New York and London: New York University Press, 1998. pp. 285-314.
  • Toepfer, Karl. Nudity and Textuality in Postmodern Performance in Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sep., 1996), pp. 76-91
  • (Screening- Orlan, Ana Mendieta)


Week XI: Disabled Body ( Nov 1st Week)

  • Sandahl, Carrie & Auslander, Philip. (eds.) ‘Disability Studies in commotion with Performance Studies’ in Bodies in Commotion: Disability & Performance.[BCDP] AnnArbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005. Pp.1-12
  • Ross, Janice. Illness as danced urban ritual in Ritual and Event Interdisciplinary perspectives. Mark Franko (ed.). London and New York: Routledge, 2007, pp.138-158
  • Ann Millett-Gallant. The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2010.
  • Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Staring Back: Self-Representations of Disabled Performance Artists, American Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 334-338


Further Readings:

  • Michael Taussig. “His Master’s Voice.” In Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. 1993.
  • Week XII. Virtual Bodies and BioFutures (Nov 2nd week)
  • View artworks of subRosa, Critical Art Ensemble, Micha Cardenas, BITELABS, and Institute for Figuring Octavia Butler interview “’Devil Girl from Mars’: Why I Write Science Fiction.”
  • Donna Haraway. 1991. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Pp. 149-181.
  • Karen Barad, 2003, “Posthuman Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Signs 28(3): 801-831.Virtual Body
  • Zerihan, Rachel ‘Intimate Inter-actions: Returning to the Body in One to One Performance’, Body, Space and Technology, 6 (1), online: (2006).
  • Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies In Cybernetics, Literature, And Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2009.
  • Cybersex: Outercourse and the Enselfment of the Body. Dennis Waskul, Mark Douglass and Charles Edgley. Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 23, No. 4 (2000), pp. 375-397


Further Readings:

  • Anne Burdick Johanna Drucker Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner Jeffrey Schnapp. Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England: The Mit Press, 2012.
  • Week XIII. Conclusion: Disappearing Bod_e_....... (Nov 3rd week)
  • This would close the program summing up various preceding rubrics and looking at the body in the contemporary performance scholarship, ends of Performance after death, Body worlds.
  • Phelan, Peggy. Reconsidering Identity Politics, Essentialism, and Dismodernism An After word in BCDP. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005. Pp- 319-326
  • Norman, D. E. Performing that-which-will-become Posthuman and Queer Bodies in the Works of Heinrich von Kleist and Oscar Wilde (unpublished PhD Thesis)
  • Walter Tony. Plastination for Display: A New Way to Dispose of the Dead. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Vol.10, No.3(Sep.,2004,pp.603-627.
  • Wickstrom, Maurya. Exhibited Bodies, Mr Biopower and the Inhuman: A Brief Continuation and a Coda in Performance in the Blockades of Neoliberalism Thinking the Political Anew. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.


Assessment Details with weights:

This course requires a substantial amount of reading, writing, viewing performance (video and live). Each week we will read, respond to theoretical approaches and address some specific issues about studying Body in Performance.

As a 4 credit course, it will run for 2 hours per day for 2 days a week. Every fortnight, one of the 2 hours session may be conducted as a seminar/workshop, where students are required to make presentations/have performance workshop.[1] The activities for each week will include four important steps:

1. Lecture and assigned readings
2. Weekly presentations
3. Class discussion and critique of assigned readings and presentations.
4. Discussion and analysis of video screenings and performances watched/experienced.

Assessment:* 3 take home assignments and Presentations, and one end- semester paper (Tentative).

One significant assignment would be a reflective essay on your experience about your own body, where it was/is taken out of your everyday context (1000 words) 20 points.
Some such experiences can be:

  • Going on a week long Summer Trek.
  • Attending a month long Yoga workshop.
  • Attending a 10 Days Vipassana Meditation Course.
  • Attending a month long physical theatre/dance workshop.
  • If you have been hospitalised for a considerable stretch.

(There could be other experiences/situations too; please consult the course coordinator before embarking on any of above mentioned courses/other courses/experiences or need clarification regarding this assignment. Ideally, if you want to attend some course or workshop, you should do it over the summer vacation)

2 Graded Mid Length Papers (Performance or Book Review): Each paper will count for 15 points. (1500 to 2000 words) (Total 2 papers = 30 points)

Term Paper/Performance: A research paper written by students over an academic term, submitted at the end of the term, generally intended to describe an event, a concept, or argue a point linking it with the larger thematic of the course. (3000 to 3500 words) (30 Points)

Presentation, Punctuality and Classroom Participation: 20 points will be based on the entirety of one’s class presentation, discussion and general participation during class. This grade also reflects the student’s ability to be present, on time and prepared for class.

Reading List:

See Above.