RCAH Professor Thobani to speak at the GenCen Colloquia Series September 21

September 9, 2018


 By Kara Dempsey

  • Research highlights image of the Indian dancer from the 18thcentury to present day
  • Thobani uses film and visual art examples
  • Part of the GenCen Fall 2018 Colloquia Series

“Re-Presenting the Indian Dancer: Gender, Sexuality and the New Orientalism” will be the topic of a presentation by Dr. Sitara Thobani of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) at Michigan State University at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, September 21, 2018, in the International Center Room 303. The GenCen Fall 2018 Colloquia Series highlights research on women and gender from a global and local perspective.

Professor Thobani will be presenting research that highlights the image of the Indian dancer from the 18thcentury to present day.

“The figure of the ‘Indian’ dancer – depicted variously in the image of the devadasi, the tawa’if and the bayadere – has long captured imaginations on both sides of the colonial divide,” said Thobani.

Thobani said she uses various examples from cinematic and visual art to analyze the way the Indian dancer is portrayed. Her goal is to ultimately answer the question of how different effects come from different portrayals by actors, how these portrayals represent the producers, and how sensual femininity and the personification of the female sexual agency become attached to the actor portrayals, and what that fulfills?

Thobani explained that her method of research on the topic “allows for a comparative analysis of Indian and Western constructions that sheds light on larger processes of gendered, sexual and racial-cultural identity formation. My paper thus presents an analysis of how gendered Orientalizing discourses grounded in the colonial past are iterated in alignment with the gendered contingencies of the present.”