My thesis is called “Odissi Dance: Paratopic Performances of Gender, Law, and Nation.” This work traces the transformation of Odissi, a South Asian classical style, from its historical roots in ritual practice to its current position as transnational spectacle, with a focus on the state’s regulation of gender performance in the dance. Three key themes are explored: the idea of law as a choreographic agent; the notion of “extraordinary genders” those identities and acts that lie outside everyday norms; and the original concept of the “paratopia,” or a space of alterity produced by radical performance, to suggest how Odissi subverts dominant cultural norms. I am fortunate that this work has enabled me to connect with scholars and artists in India, as well as in North American diasporic communities.
As a scholar trained in both cultural studies and performance studies, I am committed to interdisciplinarity in my research. My main interest lies in exploring conversations between dance history, architecture, and critical legal studies, since each of these disciplines shares a common concern with the body as it moves through space. An intersectional approach based on the insights of critical race theory, feminist and queer studies, and discourses of class, caste and religion informs my scholarship. Other areas of interest include: the politics of postcolonialism, modernity, and time; philosophies of the body in cross-cultural perspective; biopower, bioethics, and posthumanism; movement, gesture, and racialization; and South Asian performance histories.
At UCLA, I teach courses on Theories of Performance, Introduction to Dance Studies, Histories of Odissi, and issues in Indian Classical Dance. My hope is to encourage students to engage with issues such as myriad modes of writing about performance, the ethics of doing research across the lines of difference, and connecting experiences of embodiment with the production of knowledge. As an Odissi dancer and a poet, I share the faculty’s important goal of bridging the worlds of academe and art.
- BA English Literature with Minor in Women’s Studies, McGill University (1996)
- MA Communications (focus on Cultural Studies), McGill University (1999)
- MA Performance Studies (focus on Dance Studies), New York University (2004)
- PhD Performance Studies (focus on Dance History), New York University (2010)
- “Paratopias of Performance: The Choreographic Practices of Chandralekha.” In Planes of Composition: Dance and the Global, edited by Andre Lepecki and Jenn Joy. Kolkata: Seagull Press (2010)
- “An Intimate Ethnography,” Women and Performance, Vol. 19, No. 1 (2009)
- “Outlaws and Intimates,” e-misferica, Issue 2.2, Fall 2005
- “Notes on the Birth of Asian American Identity,” Special Article, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 40 (October 5-11, 2002): 4143-4163
- Night Artillery. Toronto: TSAR Books, November 2000