Tony Fisher
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Activist theatre of the conjuncture
Janam and the politics of the street theatre in India
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The chapter disrupts the trajectory of the genealogy of the political theatre by pointing to the essentially Western-centric conception of theatre politics. The taxonomy of the political theatre is incomplete if it fails to account for the political theatre of the Global South. The chapter argues for the conjunctural specificity of the contexts of political theatre by taking an in-depth look at the cultural work performed by the Delhi-based street theatre troupe, Janam (The People’s Theatre Front). It shows that although the emergence of the street theatre in India is closely associated with the international worker’s struggle, it should not be thought as a merely derivative form of propagandistic theatre. On the contrary, what emerges is a theatre attuned to the specific conjunctural circumstances of the post-Independence period in India, in fact, an ‘activist theatre of the conjuncture’. The street theatre is shown to be a militant, agitational, democratic theatre aligned with social movements. It traces the emergence of the street theatre, from the formation of the Indian People’s Theatre Association, through to the crisis of neoliberalism and the rise of Hindu nationalism. Drawing on a range of Indian political theorists and theatre scholars, it shows how an activist theatre of the conjuncture organises itself under conditions of extreme adversity. It develops this idea in relation to theoretical insights derived from Gramsci and Hall, to explain how the theatre of Janam intervenes directly on the immediate terrain of political and democratic struggle.

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The aesthetic exception

Essays on art, theatre and politics

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