Author:Kalpana Ram (Macquarie University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper seeks to argue for a version of caste and class formation which is consonant with cosmopolitanism.
Paper long abstract:
The contributions of pioneers in the revival and revisions of the performing arts in India were often perceived, even at the time, as a Brahmanisation of the arts. This was a sharp perception especially in south India in the context of an anti Brahman movement. Newer evaluations have sought to soften this perception by emphasising the new cosmopolitanism of key revivalists and their ability to communicate to a broad audience. This paper seeks to argue for a version of caste and class formation which is not the opposite of cosmopolitanism but where a broadening of the social base is a necessary part of the emergence of new bourgeois forms of taste for the national elite in India.
The paper will begin with the figure of Rukmini Devi who has been at the centre of the interpretation I seek to contest. The unique nature of the "classical" performing arts in India lies not only in their international success in claiming to "represent" India, but in gathering to themselves a whole range of other aspects of a revitalised tradition such as handicrafts, jewellery and textiles. What we are actually exploring is the wider realm of tastes in fashion and bodily dimensions of comportment, especially for middle class women.
Cosmopolitanism, politics, and the (performing) arts