Accepted Paper:

Performing Everyday Infinities at the India-Pakistan Border  
Urvi Vora (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

Using the India-Pakistan border ceremony as a case study, this paper explores the role of hyper masculinity, propaganda, and absurdity in surpassing ideology to create a moment of affect during a political performance.

Paper long abstract:

The Wagah-Attari Border Ceremony in the divided region of Punjab stands testament to the presence of Partition in present-day India. Exhibiting a highly choreographed march consisting of high kicks, ludicrous gestures and absurd one-upmanship, this ceremony sees a footfall of over twenty thousand people who watch and participate every single day. The Partition of British India into two countries - India and (East and West) Pakistan in 1947 left behind a trail of undivided resources, fragmented memories and a collection of stories. This ceremony is performed as an attempt to symbolise peace in a region that suffered unprecedented violence in the aftermath of the struggle for Independence. Drawing upon anthropological fieldwork conducted in and around the Wagah-Attari border, I look at the ritualisation of this political performance and its implications for the spectators. This paper specifically deals with the feeling of 'being affected' during this ceremony and the factors that go into creating it. It studies and questions the role of hyper-masculinity, propaganda and absurdity to understand the felt-quality of this ceremony. Using participant-observation, informal interviews, movement analysis, and the experiences of being affected, this paper explores the power and dominion of political performances and their disposition in a mass democracy like India. It provides a critical perspective on the ways in which the ideas of 'the patriot' and 'the other' are used to go beyond ideology for the purpose of mobilisation.

Panel P084
Aesthetics and Performativity: Form and substance in cultural politics