The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in December 2019 has ushered in a new form of politics in India.
We intend to approach the changes wrought by the CAA through a focus on the multi-layered entanglements between power and performance that have emerged as key nodes and sites of protest cultures and state brutality. Through the establishment of a dialogue with activists, artists, academics, and through a focus on events still unfolding in Delhi, our objective is to demonstrate the productivity of an analytical lens on Indian politics that centres ‘performance’.
Performance is conceptualised at many levels. We take performance quite literally to mean forms of expression such as art, theatre, song, dance, sloganeering, and poetry that have been marshalled to express a range of emotions and political thinking. Furthermore, we study politics itself as a type of performance – with actors, drama, speeches, dialogues, costumes, access to different stages, and careful stage-management and publicity. Finally, we consider the various uses and abuses of state power as a performance. These state performances of power range from outright imprisonment, torture, and the instigation of a pogrom to more subtle forms of censorship through the use of certain words and allusions to who truly belongs to India. Through a critical discussion of how state power is performed so that its threatening force can be seen, felt, and made amply present, and alongside, how these machinations of the state come to be challenged through the performance of resistance, we engage themes of authoritarianism, dissent and rights integral to the framing of Indian democracy today.
Cognisant of the profoundly pan-Indian nature of the protests and repressions ushered in by the new law and its associated bureaucratic instruments of registration and surveillance, the National Registration of Citizens (NRC) and the NPR (National Population Register), we envision this workshop as the first in a series of conversations on politics, power, and performance in contemporary India. In locating these debates in Delhi to begin with, our intention is to bring ethnographic specificity to these entanglements and to focus particular attention on performance as a means to a renewed understanding of politics and power.