NEH logo
[Return to Query]

Products for grant RA-235170-16

Long-Term Research Fellowships in India sponsored by the American Institute of Indian Studies
Philip Lutgendorf, American Institute of Indian Studies

Grant details:

Embodied Divinities and Professional Dancers on the Ramlila Stage (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Embodied Divinities and Professional Dancers on the Ramlila Stage
Author: Pamela Lothspeich
Abstract: Ramlila is an annual performance tradition in India that tells the story of the Hindu god Ram, typically over 10-15 days but sometimes up to a month. It has evolved from a recitative-pantomime style of ritualized performance on unbounded field(s) to a culturally hybrid form of mimetic theatre on an open-air proscenium stage. Drawing on extensive research at over twenty Ramlilas in the state of Uttar Pradesh, this paper considers the distinctive role of the svarups or those who play the parts of the divine leads. Beginning with the celebrated Ramlila at Ramnagar, this paper argues that conventions at this ‘preservationist’ Ramlila work to performatively replicate existing social and gender hierarchies and normativities in Indian society, ones rooted in the nineteenth century when it was founded. Moving to ‘ordinary’ neighborhood Ramlilas, it further suggests that although such productions are often more progressive in their casting, many of the actors who step onto the Ramlila stage are compelled to simultaneously enact a number of social embodiments, and this is especially true of the men who play the parts of svarups and female characters, and also the professional dancers who are sometimes brought in to entertain and occasionally, signal moral depravity. In sum, this paper shows that those who do the affective work of performing divinity and gender in Ramlila must conform to certain social expectations around class, caste, gender, and even skin tone.
Date: 03/23/2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: web site for the Association for Asian Studies annual conference
Conference Name: Association for Asian Studies annual conference

Lovely Fairies and Crafty Ghosts (Book Section)
Title: Lovely Fairies and Crafty Ghosts
Author: Pamela Lothspeich
Editor: Andrew Teverson
Abstract: not available
Year: 2018
Publisher: Routledge
Book Title: The Fairy Tale World

Impersonation in South Asia (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Impersonation in South Asia
Author: Pamela Lothspeich
Abstract: This symposium brought together seventeen scholars from a variety of ranks, disciplines and countries doing groundbreaking work on the subject of impersonation/guising/embodiment in modern and early modern South Asia. The expected outcome of the symposium is an edited volume on Impersonation in South Asia, which will be the first scholarly source to examine impersonation both in contemporary performative and quotidian contexts across South Asia. We understand impersonation as the temporary assumption of an identity or guise of a group that is not one’s own in social and aesthetic performative contexts, including the same as expressed in literature. Pamela Lothspeich organized the symposium and delivered a paper, "The Affective Work of Performing Divinity in the Theatre of Ramlila."
Date: 10/11/2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: conference program
Conference Name: Madison South Asia Conference