Accepted Paper:

The Kalbeliya dance as an articulated form of community memory  


Ayako Iwatani (Hiroshima University)

Paper short abstract:

Behind the Kalbeliya folk dance in India, there is a discourse that Kalbeliya women began dancing in place of snakes after their snake charming was banned. This presentation examines the discourse, transmission of community memory through art form, and creation of"traditional"art in global era.

Paper long abstract:

The Kalbeliya, the nomadic community in Rajasthan, India, have been known for the art of snake charming. Being called as"Jogis", who are allowed to deal with both sacred and dangerous animal, the snake, they have moved from door to door, villages to villages, asking for alms. However, under the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972, snake charming was banned and the Kalbeliya could not keep snakes any longer in public. Around the same time, the Kalbeliya women came to appear on stage, dancing like snakes swirling to pungi (flute made of gourd) music. Rapidly their dance gained popularity as the State of Rajasthan promoted tourism industry and international media featured their dance as Indian"Gypsy"dance. In 2010, the Kalibelia dance was designated as the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. One of the criteria for the inscription is that the Kalbelia dance shows their creative adaptation to environmental change. This presentation examines the validity and the role of the discourse that Kalbeliya women came to dance in place of snakes as Indian "Gypsies". Then it answers further questions as how community memory has been transmitted through art form, and how various actors have involved in creating a"traditional"art in global era.

Panel P005
The transformation of South Asian performing arts in the age of globalization: an anthropological analysis