Project Archive

5-10 July 2015

Gendered Citizenship will share their latest research as part of various panels and working groups at the forthcoming IFTR-FIRT conference in Hyderabad, India, 6-10 July 2015. Full abstracts below (more to follow soon):

1. Processing  vulnerability, trauma and recovery for women victims: Rehabilitation through tools from performance – Urmimala Sarkar

Violence against women of all age, and the resultant psycho-social as well as physical trauma – has been a major concern, addressed in different ways by different governmental as well as non-governmental agencies in India. Certain preventive campaigns as well as recovery programs have systematically used strategies utilising theatrical, dance based, cinematic and media based materials specifically developed for generating awareness and community involvement on one hand and facilitating recovery processes on the other.

This paper aims to analyse the works of two organisations – Kolkata Sanved  (working with Dance and Movement Therapy as a tool for recovery) and Breakthrough (campaigning and spreading awareness for common and important issues of violence, early marriage, discrimination against women).

Through an intensive analytical study of the different awareness / empathy generating communication programmes that are developed and used by Breakthrough. and the anti- trafficking / recovery / empowerment  based programmes on dance and movement therapy by Kolkata Sanved – this paper intends to construct a set of possible gendered ideas of ‘being’, ‘well-being’, and ‘becoming’ in the context of  the microcosm of the world of the woman citizens. The study aims to understand whether there is a gendered definition and model of trauma and recovery related to the different stages of prevention of violence to the stages of rescue and rehabilitation for the women who have been victims of domestic violence and trafficking. In this research the focus is on a globalized and (therefore) universalized idea of well being, in which  ‘Process’ emerges as important for survivors, ‘show and tell’ seems unavoidable for NGOs and ‘product’ is a proof for funders. Hence for me in this paper, the meaning of ‘result’ emerges as something that is accessed by the three groups of stake holders differently at the same time within the works of the two organisations.

2. A Second Look at the Third Theatre: Badal Sircar’s Basi Khabar revisited – Shrinkhla Sahai

Theatre and democracy are enmeshed in intricate strands that run through public and private spaces, delving into personal narratives to open up pertinent political questions or looking through the lens of theatre into problematic issues plaguing contemporary politics.

As a leading modern Indian playwright and director, Badal Sircar (1925-2011) explored the politics of creating, doing, watching and accessing theatre. His concept of ‘Third Theatre’ attempted to create an alternative model and at its very core critiqued and questioned the politics existing within theatre-making while also addressing issues of contemporary socio-political realities.

A recent production of Badal Sircar’s iconic play, Basi Khabar(first performed in 1979), directed by Ajith Hande, titled Stale News (2014) offers new interpretations by accessing history through the perspective of the ‘city-bred educated middle class community.’ Through a closer look at this production, this paper seeks to explore questions regarding the efficacy of theatre, media debates regarding contemporary political issues, and the larger politics of production and reception of theatre.

3. Cartographies of the Body – Shared Narratives of Displacement and Democracy – Natasha Davis

Drawing on existing theoretical research and my recent practice-as-research, I will discuss complexities around democratic rights of the displaced body in a constant flux between breaking and repairing. How does crossing borders and living in exile impact on the democratic rights of the body regarding its identity, gender, citizenship and medical status? How is the body defined by its level of access to democracy and freedom? What can the act of performing migration through autobiographic performance and theatre practice reveal about displacement and democracy? According to UN statistics more than 50 million people around the world are displaced at this moment in time. Looking specifically at my recent performance-as-research projects Internal Terrains and Teeth Show, I will document how I have used text, movement, film and original sound to create a space for artistic and theoretical politically engaged exchanges and narratives dealing with democratic rights of displaced bodies. Both performances explore migratory identities in the liminal spaces between and without citizenships. Internal Terrains reflects poetically on the movement between more than forty addresses in less than four decades, as well as on losses and traumas generated in the body through personal histories. Teeth Show is both a playful and harrowing examination of who, and across what borders, may have access to beautiful, healthy and pain-free teeth, and who may be excluded from that right. Who determines the rules of inclusion and what democratic options remain to those in precarious and transient situations and those who are left out? My talk will include visual documentation of selected excerpts from both performances and I will also present Teeth Show live to an IFTR audience in Hyderabad, please check the schedule. This will be a continuation from my last year’s presentation for the Political Performances working group, where I also presented Internal Terrains live.


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Gendered Citizenship at PSi #21, New Delhi, 27 Feb – 1 Mar 2015

Gendered Citizenship presented a panel at PSi #21 with the following abstracts:

When is “Labour” a Coerced Performance? Trafficking, Sex Work, and Consent

Janelle Reinelt, University of Warwick

Among the most complicated and controversial aspects of efforts to combat human trafficking is the relation between sex work and trafficking. In the UN official definition of trafficking, the question of whether or not those trafficked have consented or been coerced is left deliberately ambiguous as the result of a multi-national struggle over the definition. In countries such as the US, prostitution is illegal and many activist groups are ‘abolitionists’, a term used to indicate an anti-prostitution stance against either legalizing sex work or granting employment protections and recognition to sex workers. In other countries such as Australia, where sex work is legal in some parts of the country, trafficking activists have a different perspective on the problem of trafficking and its relation to sex work. Often, feminists and other activists can be sharply divided over this issue, blunting or damaging efforts to combat trafficking and to aid survivors.

This paper will explore the political stakes in the relations between sex work and trafficked women, especially consequences for citizenship rights such as legal recognition, protection under the law, access to services and benefits, and prospects for recovery. It identifies a number of ‘dramaturgies’ with narratives, characters, and plot devices that serve to mythologize the reality of the trafficking situation. It will also discuss a number of theatrical representations of trafficking to ask how artists can manoeuver through this contested terrain to intervene in public discourse and policy making without falling into and thus reinforcing these myths.

The Maid Vanishes: Performing Gendered Citizenship in the Context of Work-Related Migration

Silvija Jestrovic, University of Warwick

In this paper, the point of departure is the disappearance of an Indian woman, who worked as domestic help for a Saudi family. They arrived together to the UK and took residence in Cryfield Cottages at Warwick University, where the mother of the family was taking a postgraduate course. Around the same time, I too moved to the UK and into the Cryfield Cottages to take up a new job at Warwick University. The Indian maid and I chatted one morning over laundry. Afterwards, I thought how we both were migrants from different parts of the world, who came to the UK to work, yet even though we lived next door, our experiences, legal rights and prospects couldn’t be further apart. A few days later she disappeared. The Saudi family was not surprised as this apparently happened all the time with domestic help in their circles; the police investigated for a short while before it was agreed that the maid had slipped through the immigration net. My Practice as Research project, which I will present in this paper, retraces the steps of this disappearance from the idyllic setting of Warwick University’s family housing to Coventry Police Records (and beyond). In this actual and conceptual investigation of my neighbour’s disappearance, I seek to engage with various aspects of her otherness on a deeper political, ethical, and personal level, which I failed to do at the time the incident happened. My paper will contextualise the PaR project within the existing scholarship on migrant labour and gender, as well as within the frames of labour and immigration laws, to investigate how gendered performances of citizenship are variously shaped and conditioned in the context of work-related migration through different socio-economic circumstances and legal systems.

Mediations around an Alternative Concept of “Work”: Re-imagining the Bodies of Survivors of Trafficking

Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, Jawaharlal Nehru University

The systemic disposability and invisibility that permeate the discourses around survivors of trafficking – surviving in marginal spaces of rehabilitation processes, as their ‘work’ stops, and their ‘skills’ are no longer usable- are mediated through media, state agencies, NGOs or even performers trying to embody or address the trauma and de-humanization. In a market driven world, all rehabilitation, empowerment and recovery efforts around trafficking, become judged, even by the survivor herself, by the economic status that opens up through alternative occupations, after having left the “work” that she used to perform.

Unequal economic relations have been the single greatest push factor in making female children and women vulnerable to trafficking and sex-work as a means of subsistence, where the body is considered as the only available tool for earning a living. Neoliberalism and globalisation have resulted in increased demands for cheap labour including various forms of sexual labour, i.e. prostitution, pornography, trafficking etc. In such a circumstance being born as female citizens in a society which sees them as expendable and redundant creates a severe sense of dispossession.

For survivors of such a severe dehumanized mental and physical landscape, Dance and Movement Therapy has been used as a tool to establish a conversation between the self and body, and readjust the “self-body-work” dynamic. In this, recovery means a realm of possibilities that the therapeutic encounters are able to create by focussing on building a different self-image of the survivor’s body, her relationship with it and her reclamation of the work it can do. In this paper I would like to look at the words heard from many survivors that to dance is to survive, talk of justice and create another definition of work for the previously violated body for shaping the dramaturgy of rehabilitation and a life beyond it.

Touch in the Battlefield: Girls, Love and Sex during Wartime

Maria Estrada-Fuentes, University of Warwick

After the 1989 United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) it is widely accepted that any person under the age of 18 is to be considered a child. Accordingly, Western notions of childhood depict all children as vulnerable, innocent, irrational and incapable of making decisions, and are thus in need of guidance and protection. This Western notion of childhood is rooted in a biomedical framework that omits contextual and cultural factors in the ways in which persons react to their political and social context (Podder, 2011). However, recent scholarship on the involvement of youth in warfare examines the personal volition of children when exposed to violence and armed conflict. Authors like Michael Wessells, Victoria Sanford and Wenche Hauge remind us that in a context of war, joining the perpetrators of violence is in many cases a strategy to avoid victimisation, and is regarded by some civilians as the only available option to survive or make a living (2009; 2006; 2011). Child soldiering is, nevertheless, considered one of the worst forms of child labour (Human Rights Watch, 2003).

Discussing the contested label of ‘child soldier’ Podder argues that this eighteen-year norm is based on Jean Piaget’s assumption ‘that the transition from childhood to adulthood takes place in universal, naturally determined and fixed steps’, disregarding the fact that the conceptualisation of childhood, adulthood and maturity depends on the cultural context (2011: 143). This standardised naming has been crucial for the creation of international treaties, shelters and programmes to assist and rehabilitate former Child Soldiers. The narratives of people under the age of 18 who have been or are involved in warfare challenge assumptions of innocence and vulnerability assigned to children in war contexts. By drawing on in-depth interviews, testimonial and autobiographical narratives of women who have been involved in warfare, this paper explores ideas of love and sex as seen through the relationship between dissident citizenships and child labour in order to contest assumptions on the role of children in war.

Respondent: Natasha Davis, University of Warwick


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