Response to Prarthana purkayastha’s “The Problem with ‘Dance'”

In a powerful essay, “The Problem with ‘Dance,'” Prarthana Purkayastha carefully analyzes the multifaceted imperial exclusion present in the realm of Indian dance, proposing subversive reclaim and re-impose methods to recover and restore the fading narratives of the marginalized. Through her anthology, she humanizes colonial terms that were established in the 16th century during the Age of European Splendor, as well as the archival erasure of accounts and pieces about dancers of the lesser class. This prompts a critical reflection, and scholars are urged to use a more nuanced approach to honoring the agency of subaltern dancers and addressing historical injustices. (Prarthana,2018) Her study is organized in a thorough manner, presenting readers with the opportunity to rethink the factors inherent in historical decree revision and the inclusion of a more progressive and therapeutic orientation in the thinking about dance studies.

  Through her piece called Kanjak, Purkayastha highlighted the issue of using outside language or stories from another culture even while considering the social background and history. To this, she keenly remarks on how the title “Nautch” that had been offered by the British hastened the occlusion of the abundance of dance traditions and further stigmatized and erased the practice. Trying to restore meaning to the term “naach” by calling the largely marginalized dancers of nineteenth-century Bengal ‘bibis’ (social dancers), Purkayastha pushes the use of native Indian words rather than foreign ones. This asserts the importance of linguistic and cultural sovereignty in getting rid of the colonial notions of dance. Quoting her essay “sareye naachvaley” is the first decolonial tactic. It not only consists of the reclamation of the word naach, but it also involves the recollection of the history of naachwalis. This call to action encourages self-criticism to see how scholars may be complicit in reproducing colonial knowledge systems and instead prioritize the traditionally marginalized voices.

In other words, Purkayastha’s essay highlights the importance of not seeing everything that happened within the colonial archive. In the seventeenth century, right after the London premiership, Aboriginal persons brought their rights to justice to court. It shows that dance could be a retrospective act of resistance and resilience. Through the anointing and quilt depiction of the Forgotten 45, Purkayastha is not merely emblazoning their historical importance but, in a broader context, implicates current institutions in the ongoing task of repentance and atoning for the maltreatment of the past Indigenous Australians. As she affirms, “Giving these 45 personalities back to life via my research is kin to stirring the memories of the Chronicle: dance as a retrospective activity”, (Purkayastha). The focus on agency and accountability compels readers to rethink the basic principles of representation and, very fundamentally, the role of researchers in presenting and tackling colonial legacies.

  In conclusion, Prarthna Purkayastha’s article “The Problem of the ‘Dance'” is a firm urge for modification of the prevailing maneuvers within the field of dance studies with the help of decolonization strategies. Through her sharp analysis and persuasive assertions, she, beyond doubt, calls upon readers for the analysis of colonial sequences, the empowerment of the underprivileged, and the search for reproductive approaches of historical inquiry. More incredible scholars and their peers must answer the Purkayastha’s call to action by striving for a broader and more profound comprehension of which dances are understood in modern situations.

Work cited

For details, see Prarthana Purkayastha, “Decolonizing Human Exhibits: Dance, Re-enactment and Historical Fiction,” SouthAsian Diaspora, vol. 11, issue 2 (2019): 223-238

Prarthana Purkayastha, “Decolonizing Human Exhibits,” Keynote Lecture, Society of Dance Research Annual Conference, Dance in the Age of Forgetfulness, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, April 18, 2018

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