P05
The self in performance: gender, performativity and the autobiographical in South Asia

Convenors:
Anshu Malhotra (University of Delhi)
Shubhra Ray (Zakir Husain PGE College, University of Delhi)
Location:
27H35/36
Start time:
26 July, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

The aim of this panel is to interrogate women's autobiographical practice as a 'self in performance'. It does so by exploring how notions of 'performance' and 'performativity' might be useful in opening up the autobiographical genre by problematising constructions of gender and of the self.

Long abstract:

The aim of this panel is to interrogate women's autobiographical practice as a 'self in performance'. It does so by exploring how notions of 'performance' and 'performativity' might be useful in opening up the autobiographical genre by problematising constructions of gender and of the self. For a genre that is inherently confessional - an artifice insofar as it is about self-fashioning - the idea of performance teases out how choices are made in terms of forms and narrative strategies employed, and the audiences addressed. While Judith Butler's notion of performativity emphasises gender/sex as a representation of the routine and the disciplined, here performativity is used to underscore both the expected and the accepted in gendered behaviour, along with what may surprise and disturb the 'norm'. Some contributors will address autobiographical practices by those for whom life itself is rooted in performance (for instance, actors and musicians); others will consider spiritual writings and activities as autobiographical forms in which the self is performative. This panel thus moves away from the crevices created for women's subjectivity by the nationalist and reformist agendas to focus on women from the edges of society - whether spatially or figuratively so. From these examples, we may begin to appreciate the historical, social and cultural milieu in which the self was imbricated, and what enabled gendered subjectivity and speech in these histories from the edge.