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In Session: And Then There Were Hindus, Asiatics and Orientals: Identity Making and Performance in Europe
3: Fear and Loathing in Bruges: Circus Histories, Circus Spaces and Circus Temporalities:
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Shiv Nadar University, India
Ann Laura Stoler in her seminal book, Along the archival grain, remarks about the mixed blood children of Dutch Indies, ‘the fact that they led no revolts and produced no martyrs to their cause had little bearing on the high pitched fears that eddied around them’. Stoler’s work primarily centers around the colonial projects and its slippages, cracks and constant fears around the mixed blood children of Dutch Indies. Drawing on this, my paper attempts to chart the moments of destabilization articulated by Indian circus performers in Europe. These performers constantly negotiated their racialized space in different venues of Europe and often times played on European fears of the ‘savage’. Their self articulation of a colonized identity, invoking fear and awe gave them a space of dissent, for the simple reason that within the fluid circus space these fears could be contained. However, their performative abilities, gestures and mythmaking gave them agency over certain aspects of identity making. These individuals refashioned their fluid circus identities in order to carve out a space for themselves within a highly racialized and gendered public spehere of late 19th century Europe. My paper attempts to stoke these questions of fear, ordering and instability regarding these colonial performers.