Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Mumbai | Tuljapur | Guwahati | Hyderabad

TISS Patna Lecture Series on Migration, Lecture - 16


Jan. 23, 2020

Venue: Patna Women's College (Opposite Patna High Court), Bailey Road, Patna

Between Culture and Agriculture: Labour, Aesthetics and the Politics of the ‘Culturally Backward’ Regions in India

Dr. Brahm Prakash



The talk will discuss the foundation of the idea of art, culture and aesthetics on the erasure of labour, agriculture and other sets of materiality. Culture and labour in the present discourse appear as two separate activities remotely connected to each other. However, this was not always the case. The term ‘culture’ earlier implied a range of meanings: inhabit, cultivate, protect, honour with worship (Williams 1977). The culture had a strong association with tending and developing agriculture. Cultural activities included the growth and tending of human faculties too. Culture was very much a laboring activity in the form of cultivation; it was not limited to a civic and intellectual production. At least, it was never limited to the things produced at the time of leisure. But the history of culture is the history of this differentiation. While the talk will discuss the problem of the dissociation of culture from labour that happened in most of the societies with the division of labour, it will particularly examine its ramifications in the caste based society in India where division of labour also mediates the division of labourers.

Thinking through various performances such as bhuiyan puja, bidesia, dugola, Reshma-Chuharmal and the songs of Gaddar and Jana Natya Mandali, the talk brings back the immanent connection of culture and labour that shapes the politics and perception of the culture in the mainstream domain.


About the Speaker

Brahma Prakash is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prakash is the author of Cultural Labour: Conceptualizing the 'Folk Performance' in India (OUP, 2019). He was a Visiting Fellow at the CRASSH, Cambridge University, UK for 2019-20. He is currently working on an anthology of the revolutionary Gaddar's songs and a monograph titled as The Epical Subalterns: The Battle over Memory and Imagination in North India.

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