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Playing Nativized Bodies: Performative Body as Disjuncture in the Indian Liberalization Regime


This dissertation takes the performative body as the site of analysis to critically interrogate the contradictions in the space-time of India in the liberalization regime. By the term liberalization regime, I refer to the unprecedented changes that have occurred in India starting from the late 1980s: the deregulation and opening up of the economy with the signing of "Structural Adjustment Programs," privatization initiatives, the rise of transnational media resulting in the proliferation of consumerist images in the public space, and the "free" flow of information across national borders. These changes have transformed India from a nation driven by state developmentalism to a nation organized by the "free market." Throughout the dissertation, I analyze diverse cultural objects that emerge from and embody this transformation, such as the popular performance form of mimicking called "Mimics Parade," the photo-performance project of the artists Clare Arni and N. Pushpamala, ad-films of Multi-National Companies on national television channels, and an Indo-Japanese theatrical production titled Sahyante Makan: the Elephant Project.

I read these cultural objects as instances of the performative use of the trope that I have termed "nativized bodies." I use the term nativized bodies to draw attention to a representational schema that, rather than invoking an already found authentic native or instituting a modern bourgeois humanist subject completely negating the specificity of the native, self-referentially highlights the complex intersections in the construction of native as recognizable bodies. Nativized bodies reiterate and point to the colonial-modern representational apparatus that constructs them as native bodies through disciplining apparatus and commodification. I posit that the nativized bodies is a seminal way of illustrating the contradictions in the liberalization regime, as the trope foregrounds and brings into tension the "body" as constituted at the intersection of the theorizations of corporeality and deployment of "body" in state-practices, the nationalist discourse, and commodification.

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