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Research presentation by Rehanna Kheshgi

Date: 9:00am - 10:00am PST January 22, 2016 Location: Evans Hall

Evans Hall

Please join us for a research presentation by visiting scholar Rehanna Kheshgi on January 22 in the Evans Music Center, room 129, 9-10am. The subject of Dr. Kheshgi’s talk will be Performing Youthful Desires: The Gabhoru Body as Creative Force in Assam, India.


Description: Recent studies of popular culture, globalization, and gender in South Asia have recognized the importance of critically engaging with youth culture as a site for debating social values and shaping subjectivities. But few move beyond cosmopolitan centers to incorporate experiences of young people in rural areas. In this talk, I follow a group of young performers from the village courtyard to the proscenium stage, exploring their participation in fertility rituals for agricultural prosperity and aestheticized competitions associated with the springtime bihu festival celebrated in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. Bihu festival songs narrate romantic encounters between women and men, offering a set of stock characters for young people to take on through performance. Intimate and illicit encounters that happen during bihu inspire a shared romantic drama that unfolds in village courtyards, on festival stages, and on television screens across the state of Assam. I argue that the blurring of onstage and offstage personas creates opportunities for young performers to experiment with socially determined boundaries of gender and sexuality, but this freedom also constitutes a context in which young women (gabhoru) are especially vulnerable to threats of bodily harm.