Performing “Asia” : This lecture explores the idea of “Asia” that provided the meeting ground of Rabindranath Tagore and Japanese curator and cultural historian Okakura Tenshin at the turn of the last century. It elaborates on how “Asia” was embodied in their performances worldwide at histrionic and rhetorical levels in their lectures and correspondence. Using rare photographs and audio recordings to highlight the expressive dimensions of performance, the lecture will also focus on the politics of performativity through a critical reading of the inter-Asian tensions underlying an ostensibly pan-Asian discourse.
In the process, concepts relating to self-Orientalization and the crisis in civilization will be juxtaposed against the leitmotif that runs through the entire lecture – the infinitesimal power of affect which complicates ideological differences, operating at subliminal levels through processes of internalization, forged through intimacies and networks of friendship. If the idea of “Asia” needs to rejuvenated, it may need to be infused with a new sociality and aesthetics, wherein emergent affective communities connecting individuals across cultures can counter the neo-Orientalist, nationalist, and global associations of Asia in our times.
Rustom Bharucha is Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies in the School of Arts and Aesthetics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He is the author of several books including Theatre and the World, The Question of Faith, In the Name of the Secular, The Politics of Cultural Practice, Rajasthan: An Oral History, Another Asia: Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin, and the forthcoming Terror and Performance. A leading exponent of interculturalism, he has conducted workshops and participated in public art projects in India, the Philippines, South Africa and Brazil. He was the Project Director of Arna-Jharna: The Desert Museum of Rajasthan and the Artistic Director of two inter-Asian festivals devoted to the Ramayana in performance at Adishakti, Pondicherry.