Session Abstract: How are memories of the past called upon and ethically reworked as performers, healers, and ritual specialists critique social change and craft new futures? How do their articulations of the past challenge us to rethink the relationship between collective memories and authoritative claims about appropriate future change? This panel explores the interface of expressive practice and modernity in south India. There has been important research on the idealized imagining of the past through expressive arts (Peterson and Soneji eds. 2008). Building on this, the papers in this panel consider how in the process of performers invoking reference to idealized pasts, they articulate and contest future possibilities. Each paper illuminates how skilled practitioners imaginatively revive past memories into the present tense, in order to reshape future authoritative possibilities.
In this panel, we use the term ‘authority’ to refer to the ways that performers and practitioners call upon and challenge caste, education, kinship, and genre as they disrupt, revive, or articulate continuities within idealized traditions. By employing the term ‘expressive traditions,’ we bring together performing arts, ritual theatre and therapeutic practices, insofar as they similarly frame the body as a site of ethical articulation, narrative retelling, and religious belonging. At the same time, they invoke ideals of the past in order to articulate and contest future aspirations. This panel more broadly questions static boundaries between performance, ritual, and healing, as they each grapple with the contradictions inherent in discursive claims and their interpersonal enactments.
Paper Presenter: Helena Reddington – McGill University
Paper Presenter: Victoria Sheldon – University of Toronto
Paper Presenter: Leah Lowthorp – University of Oregon
Paper Presenter: Vincent Brillant-Giroux – University of Toronto