Accepted Paper:

Utopian imaginings: Kutiyattam Sanskrit theatre and heritage in God's Own Country  

Author:

Leah Lowthorp (University of Oregon)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores what role Kutiyattam Sanskrit theatre, recognized as India’s first ICH, plays in the construction of Kerala state as a national and international tourist destination. It thereby critically examines processes of arts commodification and utopian heritage imaginings in an Indian context.

Paper long abstract:

With its lush backwaters and tropical environs, the southwestern Indian state of Kerala is currently one of India's most popular national and international tourist destinations. The performing arts constitute a seminal component of Kerala's emergent brand image as "God's Own Country". This paper explores what role Kutiyattam Sanskrit theatre, recognized as India's first UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2001, plays in the construction of Kerala state as a national and international tourist destination. It critically examines processes of arts commodification and utopian heritage imaginings in an Indian context, posing the following questions: how is Kutiyattam, and Keralite performing arts more generally, commodified in unexpected ways?; what does heritage preservation mean in an Indian context?; and, how do artists conceptualize heritage utopias and simultaneously navigate these imaginings in the face of pre- and post-UNESCO realities?

Panel Heri006
Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource