Date of Graduation

7-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

M. Keith Booker

Committee Member

Les Wade

Second Committee Member

Susan Marren

Keywords

Language, literature and linguistics; Communication and the arts; Colonized bodies; Performing women; Politics of the body; Power; Resistance; Women trafficking

Abstract

This dissertation analyzes Pakistani and Indian plays that illustrate the nexus of power relations that operate in Pakistan and India to disempower women and the way women resist by creating dialogic spaces or fissures in the exploitative system. I have selected plays by Ajoka Theater in Pakistan and plays dealing with the similar thematic concerns by notable Indian playwrights to explore common grounds and points of departure. I have chosen four images of women depicting diverse modes of oppression associated with women’s bodies that are dealt with in these plays.

Chapter 1 examines Barri/The Acquittal by Ajoka theater, and Mother of 1084 by Mahaswata Devi, depicting women as victims of state violence during their incarceration. While chapter 2 underscores the issue of women trafficking and commodification of their bodies as a form of modern day slavery. I argue that women’s bodies are harnessed and controlled by patriarchal forces that coalesce with capitalist system. When their voices remain unheard, the female protagonists in the plays, Dukhini by Ajoka, Kamla by Vijay Tendulkar, and Harvest by Manjula Padmanabhan, chronicle their resistance through their bodies in distinct ways.

While chapter 3 examines that female agency in Pakistan and India is either negotiated through motherhood or through an absence of motherhood. The figure of the mother without child in these plays ranges from the harrowing circumstances of a woman who loses or relinquishes custody of a biological child (Bayen) to the traumatic state of a woman who miscarries/ undergoes an abortion (Barri/The Acquittal and Silence!) or one who never becomes pregnant (Kala Meda Bhes/ Black is my Robe).

Chapter 4 illustrates the perception of performing or dancing women as the cultural or societal Other in Pakistan and India. My major objective is to illustrate changes in ideological discourses concerning this issue as the societies along both sides of the border developed after independence. I have examined Tripurari Sharma’s Azizun Nisa and Ajoka Theater’s Aik Thee Nani/ A Granny for All Seasons to elaborate this theme.

While evaluating the dramatic techniques, themes and female protagonists of the plays, I have used feminist critical perspectives, also keeping in view, feminist theater traditions. Thus, the dramatic texts included in this study, explain the power relations and female subjectivity in Pakistani and Indian societies, and reveal the way women employ subtle and overt ways of resistance and attempt to subvert the power structure.

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