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31 | Song, Dance, and (Con)Texts: Re-Examining Performance Traditions in Medieval and Early Modern South Asia.

This panel considers the production and circulation of performance traditions and texts in medieval and early modern South Asia. By redirecting attention from narratives of syncretism and hybridity, we seek to promote reflections on a processual understanding of these histories.


· Ayesha Sheth University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, United States of America)
· William Rees Hofmann SOAS, University of London (London, United Kingdom)


· 07/26 | 15:30-17:00 UTC+2/CEST
· 07/26 | 17:30-19:00 UTC+2/CEST

Long Abstract

Essentialist readings of the performance traditions of medieval and early modern South Asia have either relied on crystallised notions of religious divides, or idealistic notions of hybridity and syncretism. These readings reduce complex processes to monolithic, unidirectional explanations of multiculturalism. Recent scholarship, however, has stressed the importance of drawing on multilingual sources as well as multi-disciplinary approaches - reading, listening, and visualising the vernacular and the classical/courtly in conversation, rather than through hierarchical relationships. The overlapping and multidirectional networks of patronage and production present a dynamic exchange between desi (local), Sanskrit, and Persian traditions. This has led not only to the creation of new genres of text and performance, but also to the articulation of pre-existing traditions within new intellectual milieux. From the performance of early Hindavi Sufi poetry, to the production of vernacular epics in translation, new strategies of ‘self-fashioning’ were being navigated within new contexts. Moving away from simplistic understandings of multicultural production, this panel emphasises the frameworks of translation and transculturation which posit a processual understanding of histories of production, circulation, and reception of performance traditions. We invite papers examining texts and traditions of performance that negotiate the interaction between different forms, languages, geographies, and aesthetic conventions. Papers may address, but are not limited to, genres of music, dance, and poetry that were being written about or performed within changing cultural contexts.