In the first half of the last century, scores of Western artists and art historians traveled to India to have a firsthand experience of its variegated heritage of performing arts . . .

V. Kaladharan1

The more we, and everyone else too, can perform our own and other peoples' cultures the better.

Richard Schechner2

This essay pursues the ambivalent entanglement of three bodies: an institution, a critical discourse, and a critic. The institution is Kalamandalam, a premier school for the instruction of the classical arts of Kerala, India. Located in Cheruthuruthy town, in Thrissur district, in India's southernmost state, Kalamandalam is, at the time of writing in 2022, a "Deemed University of Art and Culture," which means that it offers post-graduate courses and degrees in subjects beyond the temple-based artistic traditions it set out to propagate at the time of its founding in 1930.

The critical discourse is interculturalism. More specifically, it is the intercultural performance theory of the Anglo-American and European artists to whom Kaladharan refers in the first epigraph: scholars and theater practitioners who went East to India, and in particular to Kerala, in pursuit of the "firsthand experience" that Kalamandalam could afford. Richard Schechner (1934-), quoted in the second epigraph, is a key character in this story, along with Victor Turner (1920-1983), Peter Brook (1925-2022), Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), Eugenio Barba (1936-), Farley Richmond (1938-), and Phillip Zarrilli (1947-2020).

These are white and white-presenting men to whom India was open and available. They are scholars who developed what would become world-renowned training programs and theatrical techniques from lessons they learned in Kerala.3 They are "first-wave" interculturalists, whose influential writings have been widely debated, critiqued, and celebrated.4 They are neither heroes nor villains. Rather, they are a cast of characters through and with whom I seek to query the politics of nativity in intercultural performance practice, the legacies of Orientalism, and my own ambivalent positionality as a reader of interculturalism and former student at Kalamandalam.

The third body: the critic, me. In disciplinary terms, I am an outsider to Theater and Performance Studies. I am an English professor and South Asianist who works primarily on Anglophone cultural production. I was trained in what we now call (with a dutifully raised eyebrow) literary studies' hermeneutics of suspicion. I am also an ethnic American, raised to be hyper-vigilant about cultural borrowing and transactions of difference. I approach interculturalism as a literary critic who is wary of claims about any institution, tradition, or text's openness to alterity, and as a student of culture who recognizes that all performances of resistance to a given object risk shoring the object up. In what follows, my aim is not to forward a strong argument about interculturalism. Rather, I seek to perform a critically ambivalent reading of first-wave intercultural criticism in light of the institutional transformations ongoing at one research site, Kalamandalam.

When I say first-wave interculturalism, I am referring to a universalist project premised on the symmetrical representation of asymmetrical exchanges of knowledge and on the projection of one's own openness to the other as a sign of the other's openness. By that same token, I am referring to a utopian vision for reciprocal human intercourse that is as "timeless and ubiquitous" as the fantasy of "good-willed border-crossings."5 I am referring, in other words, to an ambivalent discourse about which I am ambivalent. There will be readers of this essay who have already heard versions of the stories I tell in what follows, and who have gotten over the particular debates I will unpack about intercultural exchange, about adopting the culture of others, about the politics of embodied performance practice.

I can't get over them though. This essay explains why not.

Kalamandalam Calling

Kalamandalam was founded in 1930 by the poet Vallathol Narayana Menon as an effort to ensure the future of kathakali dance-drama in the face of a declining patronage system. Vallathol's efforts were supported by Manakkulam Mukunda Raja and Kakkad Karanavappad, who donated land and buildings on the south bank of the Bharathappuzha River (also called the Nila) for what would become a residential center for arts training.6 With Shantiniketan in Bengal, established by the family of Rabindranath Tagore, and Kalakshetra arts academy in Chennai, founded in 1936 by Rukmini Devi Arundale, Kalamandalam was part of a pan-Indian, nationalist effort to propagate India's cultural heritage by creating more "democratic" spaces for the study of performance arts and ritual forms that had earlier been inaccessible outside of specific communities and castes. Kalamandalam would eventually take on the instruction, preservation, and performance of a wide range of Kerala's music, dance, and arts traditions, including kathakali, kutiyattam, mohiniattam, and drumming.

Over the years, what were once temple-based, caste-bound art forms began, through their institutionalization, to transcend their religious contexts and take on "purely aesthetic" connotations.7 Art critic and former Kalamandalam administrator V. Kaladharan attributes this transformation to the presence of "outsiders" in the institution: "western artists and art historians," as well as ethnographers, folklorists, anthropologists, performance theorists, and interculturalists. Among the seekers of what Kaladharan calls "firsthand experience" of India's performing arts were Alice Boner in the 1930s; Clifford R. Jones and Betty True Jones in the 1950s; Eugenio Barba and Milena Salvini in the 1960s; Jerzy Grotowski, Farley Richmond, Richard Schechner, and Philip Zarrilli in the 1970s; Peter Brook, Brigitte Chataignier, Diane Dougherty, Rolf Groesbeck, Deborah Neff, Marlene Pitkow, and Maya Tångeberg-Grischin in the 1980s; Heike Moser in the 1990s; Coralie Cassassas, Justine Lemos, and Leah Lowthorp in the first decade of the 2000s; and Sarah Sohn in 2010s.8

For nearly a century, Kalamandalam has enabled the meeting of Western student and Indian art; of Western student and Indian student; of Indian student and Western scholar; of Western scholar and Indian scholar. Kalamandalam has called scholars, theater practitioners, and artists from around the world to study within its walls. They, in turn, have experienced a Kalamandalam calling the pull of professional imperative and object enticement, sometimes nursed for years, in other cases spurred by a chance meeting or unexpected funding and they have come calling on Kalamandalam, whether making short visits or settling down, appearing once or returning decade after decade, courting teachers, playing patron, extending (sometimes fulfilling) offers of invitation abroad, and hosting the artists on their tours stateside.9

In the process, Kalamandalam has become a field site that is, to use James Clifford's phrase, "accustomed to ethnography."10 There are always "resident foreigners" studying there, at least "one or two," as Lemos observed during her stay, but perhaps as many as between "three and ten."11 The latter count is Rolf Groesbeck's. Groesbeck conducted ethnomusicological fieldwork at Kalamandalam on a series of trips between 1988 and 2006. He observed that non-Indian students like him were in many respects "treated differently" from the Malayali students studying at Kalamandalam. A new hierarchy had been installed after the ostensible democratization of access to the arts across caste and class lines. Groesbeck and his cohort lived in "foreigner's hostels," studied for condensed periods of time and, in some cases, were graduated to performance-level or allowed to learn advanced items more quickly than their "native" peers. They were escorted "backstage," in other words, where participant-observers aspire to go, but, as foreign, paying students, they had special passes and they did not blend in.12

I, too, have responded to Kalamandalam's call. I studied there in summer 2005, on a small grant from my American university. Kaladharan organized my accommodations at the home of world-renowned kutiyattam exponent, Kalamandalam Girija. Kutiyattam is a form of Sanskrit theater that may be the oldest continuously performed theater in the world. I didn't have the nerve or background to study kutiyattam. Instead, I joined Kalamandalam Leelamma's regular classes in mohiniattam dance as part of my fieldwork. I also received independent training.

Mohiniattam was a new form for me; classical dance was not. Growing up in California, I had trained for over a decade in bharatanatyam, the classical temple dance tradition of Tamil Nadu, and completed my arangetram, or solo stage debut, in 2000.13 Given this background, I admit some part of me hoped I might pass as an insider among the Kalamandalam students. An Indian American child of diasporic Keralites, I fantasized that I was returning "home" to study a tradition that was in some sense already mine.14 Naive expectations, yes. Crass nativism, certainly. But what else explains my lofty goals: not only to learn mohiniattam and improve my Malayalam, but also to understand gurukul pedagogy, the non-transactional mode of instruction in which guru (teacher) and shishya (student) live together on a residential campus, work together, and learn in an "organic" and "holistic" way (these were the kinds of terms I included in my grant application) that is not subject to the strictures of syllabi and schedule that typically characterize Western academic institutions. In between these periods of "discipular immersion,"15 I planned to read and write, spend time with fellow students, and conduct interviews with teachers and Kalamandalam staff. I didn't think much about the fact that as a foreign, short-term student, I would be paying for my classes and disrupting at the outset the relation I sought to inhabit.

I was an undergraduate literature student with no training in ethnographic methods. So, I kept a diary. I recorded hours of interviews on my iPod, only some of which I would ever transcribe. I collected anecdotes that I would later, in the writing of a general interest magazine article, mine for empirical stuff to seed theoretical generalization. I committed to memory scenes and settings that would ultimately serve my narratives as trope.16 Eventually, as Dorinne Kondo writes of the conventions of anthropological note-taking, my diary entries highlighting "sensory impressions, superficial descriptions, and feelings of the strangeness and mystery" of Cheruthuruthy gave way to accounts of my time watching Malayalam serials with Girija Teacher's family and making bus trips with Kaladharan. I described people I had come to cherish and the provisional ways in which I found myself at home.

(And the ways I didn't but more on that later on.)

First-Wave Interculturalism: Aims and Imaginaries

I went to Kalamandalam planning to study other people's cultures: Girija Teacher's and Leelamma Teacher's. But the culture I ended up studying and performing was that of the interculturalists. My amateur efforts to acquire embodied knowledge of the Kerala arts would ironically stand me in a long tradition of professionals like Peter Brook, best known for his 1980s production of The Mahabharata, who once admitted that his "basic method in traveling is never to take any notes" because "after a certain time everything drains through a filter of memory."17 I was following Eugenio Barba, too, who described his writing on Eurasian theater as "a series of anecdotes concerning my contacts with dead and live Indians."18 I make this comparison not to impugn the methods of Brook and Barba so much as to trouble the distinction between professionals and amateurs, initiates and interlopers. Like Brook and Barba, I was enacting forms of encounter and exchange that skimmed the line between formal, goal-oriented observation and spontaneous, unplanned participation.

Let me state again that this essay is a work of discourse analysis that trains its attention on an ambivalent body of critical writing ("ambivalent and strategic," to cite Min Tian's description of Barba's intercultural performance practice19) about which I myself am ambivalent. I went to India to study an Indian art form, but I was hailed into engagement with the work of other Westerners who have studied Indian arts and into recognition of my own participation in a history of outsider-arrival, pedagogical exchange, and scholarly extraction. I contend that this reorientation of aims is one legacy of Edward Said's Orientalism, which had the agenda-setting effect of producing Orientalist discourse as object. What was interculturalism, and why does it continue to "haunt" performance practitioners, generally, and Kalamandalam, specifically?20 How, I ask after Said, are we to read first-wave interculturalism now?

Interculturalism was a specific aim, method, and ethos of Western performance scholarship that achieved disciplinary salience along with the institutionalization of Theater and Performance Studies in the late 1970s and early 1980s.21 A key early exponent was Richard Schechner, widely credited as the founder of the field in its American form. Writing in 1982, Schechner offered interculturalism as a normative description of how things are and ought to be. "People are going to have to learn to be intercultural," he wrote, or "unlearn what is blocking us from returning to the intercultural . . . Borrowing is natural to our species . . . The time is coming . . . when people will practice other cultures the way some people now learn second verbal languages."22 Schechner was referring to those elements of a culture that are available to ethnographic apprehension and study, and which can be modularized, like food, dress, theater, art, and dance.

Interculturalism in this period valorized openness to otherness, openness to "doing" the culture of the other, and openness to celebrating and collaborating with those others who "do" your culture in turn. From anthropologist Victor Turner's claim that performing ethnographic "playscripts" enables kinesthetic understanding of other sociocultural groups, to Susan Leigh Foster's recommendation that we all might benefit from "a few dance classes," interculturalists advanced the idea that the embodiment of other cultures enhances our understanding of ourselves and others.23 In fact, even more than embodiment, first-wave interculturalists advocated "metabolisis"24 of the culture of the other. As Cobina Gillitt writes, Schechner was "an unabashed cultural gourmand . . . interested in partaking and tasting (and ingesting) as much as he's interested in shaking things up."25 In particular, Schechner's theorization of "rasaesthetics" located theatricality in the body "snout-to-belly-to-bowel" and analogized performance practice to eating, intercourse, and defecation.26

The legacies of first-wave interculturalism have been roundly debated within the field of Theater and Performance Studies.27 When does the "skillful" appropriation that has always defined intercultural practice give way to cultural appropriation?28 What is admirably universalizing about interculturalism, and what is nefariously dehistoricizing? Given the "liberal normativity" and "metropolitan insularity"29 of first-wave interculturalism's Western practitioners, how might the theorists of a new interculturalism engage the insights of "unseen/unheard/unspoken/unfelt territories"?30

In recent years, interculturalism has been rehistoricized and reimagined. As the editors of the 2014 volume The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures stressgenuinely intercultural exchanges predate the nomenclature: "if we go deep enough into history, we find that exchanges between the theatrical forms of neighboring and later also of distant cultures occurred wherever we have some evidence of theatre."31 In their assessment, the term "interculturalism" only gained currency in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of the advance of postcolonial theory and critical efforts to decenter the West that, ironically, had the effect of recentering the West. Erika Fischer-Lichte offers "interweaving" as a salutary alternative to the intercultural, arguing that it does not presuppose that "cultures are hermetically sealed, homogeneous entities" or that "a performance's cultural components can always be clearly separated from one another."32

I want to linger over this question of whether first-wave interculturalism advanced essentialist ideas of culture and cultural difference, or deconstructed them. On the one hand, Schechner's interculturalism was premised on the recognition of the unstable, plural, and syncretic nature of all origin stories. "Who remembers that spaghetti was originally Chinese[?]" he mused.33 On the other hand, such a claim arguably preserves the conception of an originary, essential Chineseness, over and above the heterogeneity of the culinary artifact in question. Revisiting this history, Leo Cabranes-Grant observes that first-wave theorists understood intercultural exchanges to be "liminal spaces" and "contact zones" in which "preexistent, naturalized modes of ethnic or national interpellation" influenced each other. He writes: "all these critical models posited hybridity as an effect of intercultural encounters, never as its source; as a result, they repressed the heterogeneous history of those same cultures, enforcing a strategic essentialization of them."34

Thus far, the account I've offered of interculturalism situates it primarily as part of the troubled origin story of Theater and Performance Studies. In fact, interculturalism persists in the field as an ambivalent substrate that must be continually re-metabolized and revitalized as evidence of the discipline's having contained (and disciplined) it and, to cite the subtitle of the 2014 volume, having gotten "beyond" the "postcolonialism" that occasioned its initial articulation. Many contemporary scholars remain invested in interculturalism and champion its possibilities.35 As a theory of the "exchange of cultures across national borders," Rustom Bharucha wrote in 2018, interculturalism is an "extraordinarily tenacious and pertinent . . . life-principle which enables me to live and resist the resurgent nationalisms and sectarian tensions of our time."36 Distinguishing between "hegemonic intercultural theatre" and the philosophical concept of the intercultural "imaginary," Bharucha says that he would rather continue to work through the latter's generative failure than abandon the concept altogether.37

The idea of interculturalism as a principle toward which to aspire, even if it has sometimes failed as method, extends throughout the field. Shortly before his death in 2020, Zarrilli described interculturalism as "a way of seeing the world."38 He distinguished his longstanding intercultural practice of "exchanges of ideas about body, thought and reflection [and] willingness to open up" from the "surface interculturalism" of practitioners like Brook, whose work, Zarrilli charged, simply "brought together people from different cultures."39 For his part, Brook has also decried superficial interculturalism, saying, "There's nothing I condemn more than a cultural salad."40

I note this definitional quibble for what it suggests both about the range of forms of intercultural performance practice and the critical self-consciousness of those practitioners I have been referring to as first-wave. These men (and women) knew very well that interculturalism contained "some very sinister forces"41 and that not all scholars had the privilege of "mixing" and "taking" from the cultures of others. In a later section, I will further unpack some of the key premises of first-wave interculturalism in light of the new interculturalisms of the twenty-first century. While second- and third-wave scholars take varied approaches to reconceptualizing interculturalism (in addition to Fischer-Lichte's "interweaving" cultures, Cabranes-Grant advocates "networking" in the model of Bruno Latour's actor-network theory, and Lei and McIvor offer ecological metaphors of waves, caves, currents, and roots), they share an investment in de-essentializing cultures and hybridizing origins. New interculturalism refers to processes, not essences; to becoming, not identity; to "the flowing nature" of life and art, as opposed to the isolated encounter or "completed object."42

Kalamandalam's History of Institutional Openness

I want to return now to the institution that occasions the present discussion Kalamandalam for my engagement with the discourse of interculturalism is entirely mediated by my research in/on the Kerala school. In braiding Kalamandalam's story together with that of the interculturalists, I seek to model a method of inquiry that is deeply attentive to the extratextual experiences, encounters, histories, and affects that inflect any critical, invested reading of an established body of scholarship.

Kalamandalam's early years were fraught with financial difficulty despite Vallathol's energy and vision.43 He sought to ensure the appreciation of arts like kathakali at a local level, among Keralites, and in the Indian national context, as well as to secure their position among international classical art forms. He organized tours throughout India and abroad for Kalamandalam's artists and sought a sustainable source of funds for the institute. In 1941, Kalamandalam was given over to government control, eventually becoming a state-run academy of arts.44

Stories of artistic traditions are stories of change. In 1965, Painkulam Rama Chakyar, who is credited with the first performance of kutiyattam outside the temple in 1949, began training Kalamandalam students from beyond the hereditary communities. This "scandalized the traditionalists"45 and saw pushback from some members of "traditional performing communities."46 The closing decades of the twentieth century saw numerous further efforts among Kalamandalam artists to modernize their teaching, even at the risk of such pushback. Traditional costumes and makeup were modified for ease of performance outside the temple and school. Students from outside hereditary communities, including women and non-Indians, continued to be taken on as students.47 Kutiyattam plays, which at their full length could require over forty nights of performances at two to six hours each, were reduced to versions of two to three hours, total.48

In the 1990s, Kalamandalam began to offer secondary school certifications. This was the result of student pressure on the institution, coupled with increased "pragmatism" among the faculty. Faced with declining employment prospects for performing artists, students demanded the opportunity to "study the scholastic subjects up to matriculation" in order to increase their "options of livelihood."49 In 2007, Kalamandalam became a degree-granting University of Art and Culture. The institution currently offers high school and BA degree courses in fourteen subjects and MA courses in six.50 MPhil and PhD students are accepted into two programs: Performing Arts and Cultural Studies.

Kaladharan argues that the university designation completed a reconfiguration of the epistemological space of the school from "religious" to "secular," and the pedagogical method from "de-schooling" to "routine scholarship."51 Completed, not instituted: as should be evident from even this brief account, Kalamandalam's history is one of transformations enacted continually since the school's founding. By the 1970s, the discourse within Kalamandalam was already very much about the navigation of shifting boundaries of acceptability among artists, teachers, and students. For example, artists debated the stakes of "performing inside the temple, or outside on a secular stage; being inside the right traditional caste to watch a performance or to perform oneself or being a newcomer, an outsider."52

Well before the university designation, the norms of gurukul pedagogy were giving way to more transactional modes of administering teacher-student relations. After becoming a high school in the 1990s, Kalamandalam started charging fees to most Indian students, with need-based exceptions (foreign students had always paid some form of tuition).53 But such transformations were never totalizing. Different modes of pedagogical exchange continued to intersect at Kalamandalam, and even after the institution of fees, elements of the gurukul system persist. Students sometimes fetch their teacher's meals and, in the case of drumming, "perform lower status musical tasks."54 "Specialist knowledge" remains "a gift from the teacher."55 During his fieldwork, Groesbeck observed that students who did not demonstrate the appropriate levels of dedication were simply ignored. Far from evenly transactional, the relationships between teachers and students remain necessarily asymmetrical.

Meanwhile, the imperative of granting graduate and postgraduate degrees has necessitated specific, new pedagogical rhythms. More time is now required for degree students to achieve proficiency in the art forms.56 In 2000, it took four years of training for a student to reach the first level of qualification in drumming. Post-university designation, students must also take courses in subjects like Hindi language and Malayalam literature. Arts training happens alongside these subjects, so the drumming course now takes eight years. Expectations for students to demonstrate proficiency in what they have learned have also changed. Kathakali and cholliyattam exponent Ettumanoor P. Kannan was Kalamandalam's campus director from 2013-2016 and is currently director of Sangeet Natak Akademi's Kutiyattam Kendra. He faced "resistance from senior teachers" at Kalamandalam when he tried to institute changes like an earlier performance timeline for students who, he rationalized, "need motivation."57 It is now "compulsory" for students to perform kutiyattam after completing just three years of study, and Kalamandalam Girija has had to find "innovative ways" of enabling students to fulfill this requirement, including turning what were traditionally solo performances into group performances, and shortening lengthy pieces to excerpts of as little as 20 minutes.58

Almost all observers of Kalamandalam's institutional transformations describe resistance from artists and teachers, even when fellow artists and teachers are driving the changes. This discourse registers the contradictions of a longstanding, hoary debate on "tradition" versus "modernization" in postcolonial contexts. For every observer who cheers the training of a new generation of instructors from beyond the hereditary, caste-bound communities, there is one who deems some of these instructors little more than "hobby performers."59 For every critic who champions the gain of new audiences for kathakali, there is one who laments the loss of traditional audiences. Kaladharan decries the "ridiculous" commercialization of Kerala's "classical performing arts" including the inclusion of kathakali artists as "props" at beauty contests and in Bollywood films that are now regularly performed for tourists "in capsule form."60 The tourists, presumably, delight in these encounters with "antiquity." As traditional repertoires shrink, teachers innovate fresh choreography; however, critics point out, these new choreographies often fail "to win over the new stages and audiences."61

The positions I'm describing here are not simply "for" or "against" change, which is an untenable binary in any case, because, again, culture is change. Many have argued that categories like the "traditional," "indigenous," and "classical" were colonially imposed in India before they were taken up by Indian scholars.62 In this light, attempts to preserve "tradition" always involve capitulating to the allochronism of an ongoing neo-colonial project that denies non-Westerners their modernity. It may also be the case, however, as Kaladharan charges, that "modern pedagogical orientations," "careerism," and "professionalism" have "obliterated" some artists' "intuitive" grasp of said traditions, and depth of knowledge risks being replaced by "a bird's-eye view of various disciplines."63

At the heart of this debate is a question about agency, and ambivalence about how and where to assign it. Whose fault is it that Kalamandalam is not (now) what it was (then)? Equally, to whose credit is it that Kalamandalam has an illustrious international reputation? Artists have had to be open to transformation and have even had to facilitate it. Do they resent the imperatives of translation, of catering to foreign audiences, and of the degree curriculum? Should they? On the one hand, observers of innovation in traditional forms like kathakali sometimes attribute change to Western influence and the pressures of global capital in ways that undervalue the "bottom-up process" of change that has been happening all along changes made pragmatically, shrewdly, and radically by those whose lives and careers have been forged through these art forms.64 On the other hand, the Western recognition of Kerala arts, over and above material interference, has had observable effects on the itineraries of the arts.

Leah Lowthorp's research on the itineraries of "postrecognition" kutiyattam exemplifies this significant turn in the scholarship.65 In 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated kutiyattam as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity." In the two decades since, with UNESCO's imprimatur, kuttiyattam has reached new audiences in and beyond India. Lowthorp argues that the form has been "hyper-nationalized" since it now represents India on the world stage.66 Artists cheer the fact that they can more often find employment as kutiyattam performers, with the benefits that steady salaries entail. At the same time, they describe inconsistencies in the distribution of funds, an emphasis on institutions over artists, and a tendency for financial security to breed "artistic stagnation."67 Some practitioners are wary of the changes that UNESCO has wrought, including the vulnerability entailed by dependence on outsider-recognition and funding. UNESCO's financial support of kutiyattam has turned performers and artists into "applicants."68 Ritual and temple performances have largely not benefited from UNESCO support, which is primarily for the "traveling" kutiyattam of "showcase festivals,"69 and even then, as one of Lowthorp's artist-informants told her, "UNESCO is like a rain that comes and goes suddenly, but doesn't stay."70 The overall picture, Sudha Gopalakrishnan writes, is "ambivalent."71

Is UNESCO responsible for kutiyattam's entrance into the global cultural marketplace and its so-called "triumph over the globe"?72 How have resident foreigners and international funders transformed the epistemological space of the Kerala gurukul? Writing in 2011, Kalamandalam Girija both cheered kutiyattam's increased prominence and lamented that the UNESCO recognition had been "of no advantage to the artists of Kerala Kalamandalam." She also noted that long before there was UNESCO, there was Painkulam Rama Chakyar: "The prestige kutiyattam now enjoys is ultimately the fruit of [his] selfless and unprejudiced efforts."73

After Interculturalism: Stories of Origin and Influence

I noted above that questions of agency are at the heart of many debates on intercultural exchange. Questions of credit are as well: credit for innovation, inspiration, and influence. There are a number of competing stories about Kalamandalam's founding which variously apportion credit to different players. One is the story of Alice Boner, a Swiss painter and sculptor who lived for over four decades in Varanasi, starting in 1935. Boner was a close collaborator and patron of dancer Uday Shankar, who is sometimes credited with introducing Indian dance to the West.74 Boner and Shankar met in the mid-1920s at his performances in Zurich and Paris; they traveled extensively throughout India together in 1929 and 1930. Boner, critics aver, was "crucial" in Shankar's "process of understanding his own country and culture better"; she enabled for him a "renewed relationship with India and its art."75 She inspired Shankar "to abandon his use of Western orchestration," Ruth Abrahams writes unironically, "and gain detachment from his reliance on Western audience expectations."76

In 1930, Boner and Shankar traveled to the Malabar Coast, where they met Vallathol and kathakali exponent Shankaran Namboodiri, who would eventually take Shankar on as a kathakali student.77 According to some accounts, Boner significantly "encouraged" Vallathol in his efforts "to establish a school for the preservation of [kathakali]."78 The 1930 meeting happened during a critical fundraising period for Kalamandalam, undertaken in part through a lottery, and Boner likely contributed. In the years following, the Uday Shankar Dance Troupe, also referred to as "Uday Shankar's Hindu Ballet," translated Indian arts into a digestible idiom of "solos, duets, and ballets," consolidating "Indian dance" as a category that would be available for marketing, viewership, consumption, and study. In particular, the troupe contributed to the popularization of kathakali in Europe and the United States.79 (Or, almost-kathakali. "Real Kathakali would have been much too complex, too demanding of specialized knowledge, to have such success at this time," writes Fernau Hall.80) Shankar's pan-Indian, syncretic, and decontextualized dance perfectly piqued the interest of Euro-American scholars, many of whom later traveled to Kerala in pursuit of the art.81

The story of Boner and Shankar's possible influence on Vallathol, Kalamandalam, and the fortunes of kathakali is compelling for how it opens telescopically onto other stories: Kerala poet Vallathol didn't just found Kalamandalam; he founded it with the encouragement of Boner, a Swiss painter, who was taken with the dance of Shankar, an Indian-born fusion artist, who had performed with then-London-based Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the early 1920s in her company's production of two nominally "Hindu" ballets, which Pavlova undertook after having been cast as a devadasi temple dancer in a St. Petersburg production of La Bayadère, a ballet written by a French choreographer, Marius Petipa, set to music by the Jewish-Austrian composer Ludwig Minkus, which was inspired in part by the 1838 tour of devadasis from the Perumal temple of Thiruvanthipuram to France and London . . .

To be clear: this is my performative rendition of an origin story for Kalamandalam, not a quote from the archives, and it is inspired by Cabranes-Grant's call for a renewed mode of intercultural storytelling. Stories, Cabranes-Grant argues, "have to be reopened, archives have to be reorganized, and national and social plot lines have to be redrawn" if we are to recognize the ways in which all cultures are "mixed and unfolding articulations."82 As Min Tian also writes, following Homi Bhabha, the story of intercultural exchanges is one of "difference and displacement"; it is anti-universalist, anti-essentialist, and fundamentally ambivalent. My fabricated telescopic tale is thus meant to underscore that the assumption of a history of mutual influence is a key underlying premise of interculturalisms, new and old. The deconstruction of authenticity is fundamental to new interculturalism's critique of first-wave interculturalism's essentialism. By that same token, the deconstruction of authenticity was already present in first-wave interculturalists' avowals of the universal ownership of human culture, the symmetry of cultural borrowing, and the history of impure origins.

In the remainder of this section, I tell three more stories of first-wave interculturalism that put pressure on the premises that cultures can be adopted, exchanged, and embodied. How do these stories land, now, after the critique of interculturalism? Let's reopen the archive and redraw the plot lines.

I. Adoption

In 1963, Eugenio Barba went to Kalamandalam from Italy and, in his words, "discovered kathakali."83 The word "discovery" has many meanings: opening, as a flower bud; disclosing, as a secret; displaying, as a spectacle; unearthing, as treasure. Barba's "discovery" of kathakali resonates at each of these levels, and one more. His stated aim on his trip to India was to discover something "professional useful" for Jerzy Grotowski's Theatre Laboratory in Poland. Frustrated to find that dramaturges in Delhi and Bombay were working within British theatrical traditions, Barba set off for Kerala, where he was advised that he would find something "really unique," which "would not disappoint."84

At Kalamandalam, however, Barba was disappointed: "The teachers were not in the least interested in my presence," he later wrote. "I was a burden, and my questions were seen as pedantic and boring, a pure waste of time."85 The discoverer was at best incidental to the proceedings, and at worst, an inconvenience. He persevered in observing kathakali, though he could neither understand the stories performed nor make out their meaning. He was surprised by his own "incapacity to understand" and the ways in which his assumptions about "theatre and its sacredness" were being contradicted.86 He was also taken with the young boys studying kathakali. They were being trained in "a tradition that transcend[ed] them," he mused, one which they could "interpret and transform, but which was not theirs to dispose of as they wished."87 In this, Barba was echoing Boner's claim that the individual kathakali artist's singular talent or genius is subordinate to "the experience of several generations." "That is why," she wrote in 1934, "[kathakali] can be taught to everyone even if the performance is variously good . . . what we regard as unteachable in art the individual experience and the individual awareness on which, for us, everything is based, exists here only to a limited degree."88

Barba came to Kalamandalam determined "to discover a territory beyond [his] known universe"; he left confident that, with effort, he too could belong to "the culture of the craft[s]."89 On returning to Europe, Barba took what he had learned "the news of the kathakali exercises" and made it available to Grotowski's program of actors' training. He wrote about kathakali in French, Italian, and American publications, and years after, he reflected on that writing:

Those articles attracted attention and generated an interest which, throughout the following years, made Cheruthuruthy into a nearly traditional goal for many theater people.

But it is not important who was first off the mark and why. Nor is it important whether or not there are inaccuracies in my articles about kathakali and its history.

It is even less worthwhile asking oneself what one can take from kathakali, its training and its performance technique.

What is important is that which belongs neither to kathakali nor to me . . .90

How did Barba move from professed fascination with the kathakali student's immersion in a tradition that precedes and exceeds him, to this contradictory and self-indulgent statement? He "made" Kalamandalam into the destination it became, producing not just a tradition of interest in the institution, but the object itself. He disavowed his previously stated goal of deriving use-value from kathakali and dismissed the likelihood of his having contributed to the traffic in inaccuracies because "what is important is that which belongs neither to kathakali nor to me."

Barba was referring to the dedication of the kathakali students. By arguing that his representation did not disturb that which was truly "important," and by including himself in a seemingly equivalent denial ("that which belongs neither to kathakali nor to me"), Barba denied that the boys embodied both a relationship to kathakali that did not include him, which was prior to and beyond his gaze, and a tradition which by definition excluded him, which did not rely on his recognition, and perhaps even confounded it. Barba inserted himself into the familial scene as a co-parent granting autonomy to a child. If the passion of kathakali students did not "belong" to it, then perhaps kathakali did not "belong" to Kalamandalam, either. Fatherless, it would be available for adoption.

II. Exchange

Interculturalism is a theory of adoption that celebrates the performance of not just "our own" but "other peoples' cultures."91 It is also fundamentally a theory of exchange. Reflecting on his longtime collaboration with Odissi dancer Sanjukta Panigrahi, Barba claims that he often "forget[s] that Sanjukta is Indian" and assumes that she "manages to forget" that he is European, in turn.92 Reading suspiciously, we might call this race blindness, color blindness, false universalism, or identitarian appropriation. But perhaps it is genuine forgetting through human connection; ethno-national identity need not be top of mind at all times. It is the insistence on forgetting that is of interest here. For interculturalists like Barba and Brook, this state is "reference zero": that "absolute and pregnant moment [when] geography and history cease to exist."93

In 1968, Richard Schechner had never been to Asia. A chance meeting with Porter McCray, then head of the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Fund, led to Schechner being sent, along with his partner, to India. McCray told Schechner to "go wherever you want" for "as long as you want."94 That's how, in 1972, Schechner ended up in Kalamandalam, where, flipping through the visitor's book, he came across a decade-old message from Barba, thanking the then-Secretary of Kalamandalam for assistance with his research. The message reminded Schechner that kathakali formed "the core" of Grotowski's "poor theatre" exercises,95 and that Barba, too, used kathakali as the basis of his work in the Odin Teatret in Denmark.

Schechner cites the guestbook message as proof that as long as theater practitioners have an "exchange policy," as long as the Western scholar and the Indian artist have a reciprocal relation, there can be no exploitation, appropriation, or wrongful interference. Schechner contrasts Barba's time at Kalamandalam with Artaud's encounter with Balinese theater. "Artaud was influenced," Schechner writes, "but the Balinese didn't care; there was no exchange."96 Schechner then characterizes Kalamandalam:

Whatever the ritual functions of Kathakali within the context of Kerala village life, the Kalamandalam is a professional training school and its troupe performs for pay in India and overseas. Foreigners come to study at the Kalamandalam . . . This training does not eventuate in the establishment of Kathakali troupes outside India rather the work is integrated into existing styles. It remains to be seen how the presence of outsiders at the Kalamandalam, and the frequent tours of the troupe, affect the work in Kerala.97

The phrase "professional training school" desacralizes kathakali, while establishing a functional equivalence between the artists who perform kathakali for pay and the students who pay to learn kathakali. This is not to suggest that kathakali needs to be understood as "sacred" so much as it is to register the significant epistemological transformation enacted by this rhetorical move. Since Kalamandalam's teachers and artists are professionals, Schechner assumes, there is nothing problematic about the integration of kathakali exercises into a Polish actors' training program. Intercultural exchanges are "worldwide, multicultural, and multivocal. We influence each other, we learn from each other."98 Barba, too, emphasizes offering "something in return" to those from whom he learned.99

In reality, the interculturalists often made outsized demands of their Indian interlocutors and informants, who learned in some cases that foreigners don't "know how to give."100 On his research trips to India for The Mahabharata, Brook and his team requested that special, off-season performances be arranged for their viewing, that they be taught steps of ritual dances on the spot, and that their schedule and interests be prioritized. They took photos that they never shared with their subjects, extended invitations that were not fulfilled, and were variously disrespectful to the Indian artists they met.101 Alf Hiltebeitel introduced Brook to his own collaborators so that Brook and his team could watch performances of the terukuttu Mahabharata. At Pakkiripalaiyam in Tamil Nadu, Brook rudely interrupted the performances, creating "a very mad scene in the village"; there was disappointment and "turmoil" among the artists who had been specially commissioned.102 In the mid-1980s, Probir Guha, a longtime collaborator of Grotowski's, was Director of the Living Theater in West Bengal. Guha accommodated Brook's requests because he "thought Brook was being very open" to exposing his company to a wide range of Indian influences; only later, Guha reflects, did he detect the underlying "capitalist attitude."103

I want to underline the significance of Guha's phrase. At stake in this discussion of intercultural borrowing is the question of ownership, undergirded by an implicit theorization of culture as property, or ground on which one might plant a proprietary flag. Growing up in California in the 1990s, I heard so often about Peter Brook's Mahabharata that I began to think of the Indian epic as a product whose market he'd cornered: "Brook's Mahabharata" had the ring of other branded items like "Pond's Cold Cream" and "Lay's Potato Chips." Brook's Mahabharata played on both stage and television in the mid-1980s, and to Indians in diaspora, like my parents, the production's success was a sign of India's global arrival. The show enlisted an international cast of actors, who toured around the world seeking inspiration, including from Kalamandalam, where they went in 1985 to see a night-long kathakali performance.104 To date, Brook's Mahabharata remains the most widely known work of intercultural theater inspired by an Indian text. It was hailed as a masterpiece: "the finest example of something genuinely syncretic," said Schechner.105 It was also critiqued for the universalist pretensions betrayed by statements like this one from Brook, who clearly believed himself to be improving upon the original text: "We had to avoid evoking India too strongly, so as not to lead us away from human identification."106

In a trenchant review, Bharucha described the production's "blatant and accomplished [appropriation] of Indian culture."107 Brook detached the Mahabharata from its Indian and Hindu temporal, historical, philosophical, and theological contexts, Bharucha argued, in order to make it accessible and marketable to audiences in the West. In fact, Brook so effectively removed the Mahabharata from its contexts that critic Georges Banu approvingly credited Brook with wanting "to reunite the Mahabharata with its land of origin."108

Brook's example is one of the more egregious in the intercultural canon, and Zarrilli and Guha have decried its "repercussions."109 But there are countless other scenes of translation and tribute that, in their seeming innocence, also trouble the premise of even intercultural exchange. In 1974, Farley Richmond, who is considered to be "the pioneering figure in Indian theatre scholarship in the United States," went to Kalamandalam to study kutiyattam with Painkulam Rama Cakyar.110 "I knew next to nothing about the elaborate details of this sophisticated art," Richmond wrote years later.111 Of course, there is nothing wrong with admitting that before one knew something, one did not know it. But as Richmond's account continues, another figure appears to complicate (and remedy) the matter of his non-knowledge.

Soon after arriving in Kerala, Richmond was invited to attend Madhava Cakyar's performance of "Balivadham." Richmond was "ill-prepared" for the performance, given that his studies of kutiyattam had just begun and his lessons in Sanskrit and Malayalam "were barely under way." "To prepare me each evening for the performance," Richmond recalls, "[my friend L.S. Rajagopalan] painstakingly translated the performance manuals." He continues:

If only [G. Venu's 1989 English-language manual on the production of 'Balivadham'] had been available in 1974 I would have been a great deal better equipped to understand and appreciate kutiyattam, not to mention the fact that it would have saved my friend the trouble of suspending his important office duties to satisfy my insatiable curiosity.112

How generously Richmond's ignorance is attended to! How readily his "insatiable curiosity" is satisfied. Rajagopalan's accommodation of Richmond might well have been the product of their friendship (and that is likely what Richmond intended to communicate with this anecdote), but I also read it as a repetition of the colonial scene in which Indians created as tribute "complicated and complex forms of knowledge" that were then "codified and transmitted by Europeans."113

In other words, we've heard this story before. In his work on colonialism's investigative modalities, Bernard Cohn famously emphasized that underlying the pursuit of Indian knowledge was the assumption that the Western would-be-knower would know better than the Indian what to do with his knowledges. Western scholars would know better than Indians how to preserve and propagate their traditions which were, of course, not strictly theirs to begin with. In her account of meeting kathakali artists Kunju Kurup and Narayan Nayar in Kalamandalam in the early 1930s, Alice Boner neatly betrayed this perspective. "They are remarkable artists," she wrote, "who could have made a brilliant career anywhere. Yet with all their knowledge they seem almost unaware of their real value."114 Boner felt she knew the real value of kathakali in a way that the kathakali artists themselves did not, just as Brook's Mahabharata was credited with returning an Indian story to India in a purportedly more universal form.

III. Embodiment

They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented. They know not the value of their knowledge; we must know on their behalf. These are well-worn tropes in the history of colonial "encounter" and "exchange." Interculturalists take things one step further: through the practice of "doing" the other, of learning to act, dance, and perform the culture of the other. The underlying assumption is that you have to do something in order to know it.

In area studies, anthropology, and other fields utilizing ethnographic methods, language study is the standard means of doing on the way to knowing. Language is the license to participate in and observe the other's culture. Intercultural immersion requires the training of the body as well, not just the tongue. Described variously as experientially based research or "deep embodiment," haptic scholarship has been a component of the research process for most Western scholars of Kerala arts. In the mid-1970s, Zarrilli made his first trip to Kalamandalam, where he "studied/sweated, enjoyed, and learned to appreciate kathakali."115 Marlene Pitkow studied at Kalamandalam in the 1980s and describes her embodied training as a gift: "This invaluable gift to be able to put the dance in and on my body afforded me a far deeper kinesthetic understanding of kathakali movement and expression than I could otherwise have acquired."116 In her 2009 dissertation, Justine Lemos voices what is often an unstated assumption: "My subject position (as a dancer with previous training in classical dance) gives me unique insight into the form that another researcher might not replicate."117

What constitutes knowledge of a culture and how is such knowledge acquired? Why would one need to know for and through one's own body that which is already known by and through the body of another? What does my sweat tell me that your sweat does not? What do my amateur exercises indicate about your virtuosic performance? Is "putting a dance in and on your body" like reading a canonical text for yourself? Or, does performing the culture of the other inevitably lapse into minstrelsy and brownface, even when concealed by the dramatic greens, reds, yellows, and whites of the kathakali artist's makeup? These are questions of method. They are also questions about ownership, singularity, the bounds of the appropriate, appropriation, distance, and respect.118

Doing is of course a vital means of knowing and understanding. The trouble begins when doing serves as a proxy for being or a form of one-upmanship. If Geertzian thick description reveals "the hubris at the center of the anthropological project"119 then embodying another culture reveals the willed amnesia at the heart of first-wave intercultural performance practice. The interculturalist doesn't just imagine or encounter the life of the other but, in the kind of metamorphosis made famous by Jordan Peele's 2017 film, Get Out, crawls into her skin, forgetting for a time the bounds of self and other in the process. Let us recall again Schechner's words: "The more we, and everyone else too, can perform our own and other peoples' cultures the better."120 The interculturalist doesn't just pursue the tradition of the other, but risks believing, as Barba did, that traditions "do not exist . . . Only the people embodying them exist."121

This is how Uday Shankar's French dance partner, Simkie, could be promoted and received in Europe not "as a westerner who had learned Indian dance" but as "an Indian."122 The practice of the dance reconfigured the identity of the dancer.

After Orientalism: Revisiting Bharucha v. Schechner

Postcolonial subjects, ethnic subjects, indigenous subjects; non-Western scholars, marginal critics, native artists; Indians: We are used to being seen through and under Western eyes.123 We are accustomed to the Westerner's practice of what Stephen Greenblatt terms "appropriative mimesis," or "imitation in the interest of acquisition."124 We also know that to speak of "Westerners" or "the West" is to indulge in a fantasy of hyperreality akin to Orientalist constructions of "Asians" and "the East."

From Antonin Artaud's fictions of the "oriental theatre" to Bertolt Brecht's interpretation of Chinese drama's "alienation effect"; from Paul Gaugin's "primitive" Tahitian women to Frederic Jameson's allegorical readings of Lu Xun; from Rudyard Kipling's "India" to Margaret Mead's "Samoa", the Western canons of theater, art, and literature register a formidable history of intercultural encounters and benevolent attempts at "human identification." All have been rightly problematized. Still, they persist in syllabi, anthologies, and much-cited scholarship, as if, having pointed out the offensive nature of their perspectives, we can proceed in airing, hearing, and receiving them without offense.

It's been four decades since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism, and the detection of Orientalist discourse is now a familiar critical move even in undergraduate courses. It is no great act of unmasking, in other words, to call out a representation as Orientalist. As a result, although we recognize Orientalism when we see, hear, and read it, we have gotten used to passing over it, instead of pointing fingers; to shrugging it off, instead of dwelling. To paraphrase Rey Chow, "it's time to have a sense of humor about Orientalism."125

Chow is of course right that there is no undoing the history of Orientalist imagining. So why continue to take umbrage at the likes of Brook's appropriations (he's already been put in his place) and Boner's description of Kalamandalam as a "lost little place in the jungle of South Malabar" (we know just how to read such language), when we might laugh them off instead?

I've been wrestling with a version of this question for years, ever since I began researching the history of interculturalism in Kalamandalam, and, more specifically, ever since my first encounter with the well-known 1984 exchange of essays between Rustom Bharucha and Richard Schechner in the Asian Theatre Journal. Much ink has been spilled on the Bharucha-Schechner debate, and I won't attempt to recapitulate it all here. Rather, I want to draw out some of the affective tension on offer in the exchange, insofar as it both models and inspires the ambivalence that this essay is exploring in response to provocations like Chow's.

The first essay in the exchange is Bharucha's, on Western interpretations of Indian theater, titled "A Collision of Cultures." In it, Bharucha tries to be sensitive to the figure he names the Western theater practitioner. He opens with the disclaimer that while he (Bharucha) will be pointing to "constructs and images of the Orient," he does not "discern any pervasive 'orientalism' . . . in the attitudes" of practitioners Gordon Craig, Grotowski, and Schechner.126 "Exploitation," yes, and also "hypocrisies," "irresponsibility," and "ambivalent ethics," but not "Orientalism."

Note the significance of Bharucha's rhetorical omission given the date of publication in the immediate aftermath of Said's landmark work. Perhaps from the present vantage, the now-routine charge of Orientalism doesn't sting. But in the context of this exchange, to call the interculturalist an Orientalist would have been for Bharucha to step fully into the role of the killjoy, who kills "other people's joy" by exposing both their deep-seated biases and "the bad feelings that get hidden, displaced or negated under [their] public signs of joy."127 At stake was the interculturalist's evident joy in having encountered, studied, and practiced Indian dance and theater forms joy to which he felt entitled.

This is clear in Schechner's response to Bharucha, in which he levels the following charges: "reductiveness"; "incompleteness"; "inaccuracy"; "absurdity."128 What Schechner does not say is just as telling. Plainly, he is hurt; he feels he has been treated unfairly and reads Bharucha's failure "to be happy" with his work as "sabotaging" his own happiness.129 India is Schechner's "second home" and "culture of choice"; being criticized by Bharucha, who purports to speak with greater authority on behalf of India and Indians, is therefore intolerable.130 For his part, Bharucha's response to Schechner's response pulls fewer punches than the original essay. He goes so far as to describe Schechner's demonstration of Indian-theater-inspired "panting and breathing exercises" as so clumsy and lacking in skill that it "travestied some essential principles of the classical Indian dance-theatre."131

Readers familiar with the Bharucha-Schechner debate will remember these fiery lines; they will also know that I am glossing over much that has been discussed in the intervening years. Given the limits of the present discussion, I want simply to highlight the critical ambivalence on offer in this memorable exchange. I also want to put pressure on one of the key first-wave interculturalist assumptions the debate lays bare: Schechner's idea that intercultural performance practice is "a two-way street"132 and a means by which to elide the difference between "'them' and 'us.'"133

As critics of the first-wave have asked, where do we draw the line between the acknowledgement of mutual influence and the assumption of a two-way street? Consider Kalamandalam's example. Its artists have long experimented with influences from the Western theater, including in the 1989 production of Kathakali King Lear and 2010 kathakali performance of Sophocles's Oedipus. But such forays are often at the behest of foreign artists, as in the case of the Australian co-production of King Lear. Non-Indian artists and resident foreigners freely call on the school and dictate the terms of their affiliation; their presence lends the institute international stature. Meanwhile, Kalamandalam assumes all the burdens, including that of adequately representing both kathakali and King Lear.134 This form of unevenness is what motivated Bharucha's initial critique.135 His own "predominantly Western education" was bestowed on him with the legacy of colonialism attached. Schechner's choice of India as "second home" was made without compulsion.

As an Indian American for whom India is both given and chosen, I situate myself somewhere in the middle of the two-way street. Daily, I am crossed by its traffic. And I find the interculturalists' declarations of personal-professional choice galling, even now. Despite the fact that they have been critiqued thoroughly by two generations of scholars, I want to flag again their universalist pretensions, to remark on the rhetorical gymnastics they perform in order to transform "the term 'roots'" into "an ethos" which "does not imply a bond which ties us to a place [but] permits us to change places."136 Who can claim a "second home" or a "relational rather than cultural" home?137 Who gets to have a "culture of choice"?138

Typing these words of indignant protest, I am nagged by the feeling that they may sound flat, conventional, and over-familiar. Are these not the same questions Bharucha asked nearly four decades ago? The voice in my head is the voice of the child with whose example Daphne Lei begins her editorial introduction to a 2020 handbook on interculturalism: a child who criticizes Brook's Mahabharata for its obvious appropriation of something "precious" to Indians; a child not unlike the boy who called out the emperor's obvious nakedness. Lei analogizes the child's voice to that of the critic of interculturalism: "too painful to articulate, too embarrassing to acknowledge, too feeble to be heard, or often deliberately silenced when uttered."139

Is it time to get over first-wave interculturalism and to have a sense of humor about Orientalism? I read Lei, and I keep typing.

The Ambivalence of the Proxy-Native

I remember standing roadside with Kaladharan, waiting for the bus that would take us from Cheruthuruthy to Shoranur. I was tired from that morning's training, during which I had tried and failed to shape my body into the back-bending-poses the other students assumed with ease. A packed bus pulled up. Women were up front and men in the back, but I didn't realize that this was the convention when Kaladharan pushed me toward the rear door and into an unexpectedly empty seat in the last row by the window. Grinning, he squeezed between me and the press of mustached passengers. "Women don't sit here," he said. Later, over a vegetarian thali at a roadside canteen, Kaladharan repeated the move, with evident delight: "Women don't eat here." Outsiders evidently didn't count.

And I was undeniably an outsider: hyper-visible as an American-accented, non-resident Indian adult in the children's dance classes, as well as invisible, a woman who was not one, sitting in the back of the bus and eating at the men's canteen. I was participating in an overdetermined ritual of Westerner traveling East in the pursuit of knowledge, scholarly material, the provisional transcendence of self, the exotic, "a firsthand experience," and a good time. I was also participating in another ritual, equally overdetermined, of putative native traveling home in the pursuit of knowledge of, if not quite the self, then the other-self, the mirror self, the self one might otherwise have become.

The confusion and "collapse of identity" I experienced at the bus stop, in the canteen, and in the classroom has been described by scholars like Dorinne Kondo, who writes of misrecognizing herself as a Japanese housewife in Tokyo and then needing, desperately, "to reconstitute" herself as an American researcher.140 Like Kondo, I experienced in Kalamandalam a form of recognition and familiarity that was ultimately distancing. I want to close this discussion with consideration of that distance. I want to consider how it has been produced and implicitly theorized by a collective of scholars writing and thinking after Orientalismafter the first-wave interculturalists, and after the critique and disciplinary metabolism of interculturalism. I want to think about those of us who have been called by the same kinds of objects as the interculturalists, but who, in responding to that call, have been hailed into an ambivalent position proximate, though not equivalent, to that of the native informant.141

Back in the United States, I lost touch with many of my classmates and contacts from Kalamandalam, but I stayed in contact with Kaladharan. In the intervening decade and a half, we have met a number of times in Kerala and in the United States, including during his annual tours of U.S. universities with one or two Kalamandalam artists, generally kathakali exponents. On makeshift stages in repurposed classrooms, Kaladharan, microphone in hand, translates and explains the artists' performances of abridged kathakali dance-dramas. I watch these lecture-demos with a combination of curiosity, recognition, ignorance, and savvy. I approach Kaladharan afterwards with the embodied entitlement of a not-quite fellow Indian, a not-only American, and an almost friend.

During these trips, Kaladharan meets many scholars who have studied at Kalamandalam over the years, and who are now, from their perches in various American universities, his hosts. "Marlene." "Deborah." "Justine." Like me, they dined with Kaladharan at single-sex canteens in Shoranur, both more and less conspicuously out of place because of their non-Indianness. Stateside, they arrange for his travel from the airport and see to the kathakali artists' dietary requirements. The tables are turned.

Over the years, in researching this essay, I have also encountered Kaladharan through scholarship on Kalamandalam. He is quoted in footnotes and parentheticals, via "personal communication" and through his voluminous criticism on the Kerala arts, as scholar, informant, friend, and through possessive descriptors like "my research associate."142 With possessive feelings of my own, however misplaced, I look at others looking at him, look at the outsider-performers looking at the insiders. I want to subject their voices to the same critical lens that they apply to their interlocutors, to make "data" out of their off-hand remarks and digressions, to exhume Kaladharan and for that matter Girija Teacher and everyone else I know from Cheruthuruthy from their footnotes, where, by dint of their receptivity, generosity, and openness, they have become trapped.

What kind of feeling is this; what manner of attachment; what mode of engagement? To paraphrase Jane Hu's description of encountering Orientalist scenes in Victorian literature, because proxy-natives are rarely centered in critiques of native informancy, and because we have few models for reading Orientalism beyond naming it as such, I have been left with only one way to understand my ambivalent interpellation by intercultural performance scholarship: "privately, personally, as a problematic that could only be about me, and thus never sufficiently scholarly."143 As a result, I have nursed ugly feelings: resentment about the mid-century availability of travel funds and fellowships to white male scholars interested in going East (with a plane ticket for the wife!); jealousy of their shamelessness and bravado; anxiety about having to perform both native belonging and scholarly remove. All over the archives, Anglo-American and European performance theorists artlessly narrate their intercultural encounters across Africa, Southeast Asia, and India, including at the Kerala Kalamandalam. I remain vexed about my brief, audacious presence at the school. They ate puttu-kadlai in their kurtas, gave guru dakshina to their teachers, and spoke accented Malayalam confidently, making a mockery of my comparative self-doubt.

This essay returns to first-wave interculturalism not only because of its downstream influence, but because of the methodological example it sets for the ambivalent critic. Alice Boner, for example, was deeply ambivalent about her intercultural experiments with Indian theater. "Often I have the feeling that I'm stealing something that does not belong to me," she wrote. "I know that I have to decide in favour of one or the other. My work will be vital only if I decide to cast my anchor here, otherwise the impressions will remain as romantic traces."144 Ultimately, Boner and her contemporaries found a way to repress their ambivalence, to close it down, while distinguishing between (their) virtuous intercultural practices of respectful exchange and (other people's) intercultural practices of appropriation. Their ways of seeing were allowed to grow into ways of doing.

By contrast, I will probably always be embattled by and ambivalent about my time in Kalamandalam, about interculturalism, and about waging its critique. In Cheruthuruthy, my discomfiting foreignness and entitlement were confirmed for me in ways that would forever shape my relationship to the gurukul and to mohiniattamIt had to. Swallowing my ambivalence would have meant taking for granted Kalamanadalam's openness.

Yes, the ambivalence I feel reading Kalamandalam after interculturalism has been generative, in that it has generated more ambivalence. But it has also attuned me to ambivalence as trap. Emerging from the archives of resident foreigners' anecdotes of arrival and return, I realize anew that we not only need to be vigilant about naming (or not naming) Orientalism. We also have to attend to how the critique of Orientalist practice can rebound into internalized self-critique, self-censorship, avoidance, and fear. Adoption, exchange, embodiment. Incorporation, ingestion, metabolisis. What if these premises and practices are not just the objects of our critique of Orientalist interculturalism, but also the best available methods we have for understanding the stakes of that critique?

In the above discussion, I have presented first-wave interculturalism as the site of a discipline's attempt to narrate as origin an ongoing, structuring, and fundamental conflict around the possibility of cultural exchange. Meditating on the history of responses to Kalamandalam's call established for me the distance I required to both locate myself in the archive and detach myself from traditions I risked mistaking for my own. Practicing the culture of the interculturalists produced for me the critical vantage from which I was then able to read and critique interculturalism itself. And perhaps the critique of interculturalism is worth rehearsing without ambivalence! At least as often and unashamedly as the practice itself.

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan is Assistant Professor of English and affiliate faculty in Transnational Asian Studies at Rice University. She is editor of "From Postcolonial to World Anglophone" (Interventions, 2018), co-editor of "1990 at 30" (Post45/Contemporaries, 2020), and a co-editor of Thinking with an Accent: Toward a New Object, Method, and Practice (UC Press, 2023).


I have been working toward this essay for over a decade, in which time I have benefitted from the critical insights of many readers and audiences. My gratitude to Rey Chow, Lawrence Cohen, and Shannon Jackson, for feedback that has accompanied me throughout the writing. Nasia Anam, Monika Bhagat-Kennedy, Michael Dango, Roanne Kantor, Kalyan Nadiminti, Tina Post, Keerthik Sasidharan, and Akshya Saxena offered vital feedback on penultimate drafts. Thank you, fellow travelers.


  1. V. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning to Impersonal Pedagogy: Reflections on the Transformation of an Indian Gurukula," Qui Parle 20, no. 1 (Fall Winter/2011): 211. []
  2. Richard Schechner, "Intercultural Performance: An Introduction," TDR: The Drama Review 26, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 3-4. []
  3. Zarrilli's "psychophysical" and "transcultural" performance programs are a well-known example. []
  4. I am roughly following Charlotte McIvor's periodization of interculturalism: "emergence and backlash (1970s-late 1990s), consolidation (early 2000s-2010s), and the 'Other' interculturalism(s) (2011-present)." In this essay, I refer to the "first-wave interculturalism" of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, and then to "new interculturalisms", which comprise McIvor's second and third waves. See McIvor with Justine Nakase, "Annotated Bibliography," in The Methuen Drama Handbook of Interculturalism and Performance, ed. Daphne P. Lei and Charlotte McIvor (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), []
  5. Daphne P. Lei, Uncrossing the Borders: Performing Chinese in Gendered (Trans)nationalism (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019), 5, 1. []
  6. Most accounts of Kalamandalam's founding date it to 1930. Kaladharan dates the founding to 1929. Via email, Keerthik Sasidharan told me that Kakkad Karanavappad offered a place for Kalamandalam to begin, which was originally at Kunnamkulam (between Thrissur-Guruvayur) in 1930-31. Thereafter, Kalamandalam moved to Mulakunnathukaavu, a small town closer to Thrissur city. In 1936, the school moved to the old Kalamandalam in Cheruthuruthy, near the Nila River.  []
  7. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning," 210. Cf. Mundoli Vasudevan Narayanan, "Over-Ritualization of Performance: Western Discourses on Kutiyattam," TDR: The Drama Review 50, no. 2 (Summer 2006): 136-153. Narayanan argues that kutiyattam has actually been "over-ritualized" and its "Vedic roots" wrongly emphasized by Western scholars who view the form in isolation and "extracted from its historical and social contexts" (144). []
  8. This is by no means a comprehensive list of Western student-scholars who have responded to Kalamandalam's call. It includes only some of those in the American academy with whose research on the Kerala arts I have become acquainted through my professional and personal exchanges with V. Kaladharan. []
  9. Many European and Anglo-American scholars have been patrons for Indian artists. For example, Diane Daugherty has variously commissioned and financially supported artists including the kutiyattam exponent Usha Nangiar. See Kathy Foley, "Diane Daugherty," Asian Theatre Journal 33, no. 2 (2016): 459-473. []
  10. James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988),77. []
  11. Justine Alexia Lemos, Bracketing Lasya: An Ethnographic Study of Mohiniyattam, PhD diss., University of California, Riverside, 200948; Rolf Groesbeck, "Gift as Devotion, Lesson as Tuition: Transactions Among Temple and Dance-Drama Drummers in Kerala," International Journal of Hindu Studies 22, no. 2 (2018): 221. []
  12. Groesbeck, "Gift as Devotion," 221-222. Groesbeck emphasizes that the inverse is also true: "Yet a number of us, especially those studying drumming, were placed in group classes where our cohorts were Malayali teenagers; we were expected to sit on mats on the ground, like our Malayali classmates, rather than on chairs; and I for one had my ceremonial first performances after about a year of study, which was also (at the time) the norm for the Indian drumming students. And not all of us studied for brief periods; at least four European students I knew devoted years to these art forms are recognized today in Kerala as having achieved impressive mastery." []
  13. I studied under Mythili Kumar, founder of the Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose in San Jose, California. For a discussion of the teaching and performance of classical Indian dance in the diaspora, see Ketu H. Katrak, Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora (London: Palgrave, 2011)especially Chapter 5. See also Davesh Soneji, Bharatanatyam: A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). []
  14. Kirin Narayan, "How native is a 'native' anthropologist?" American Anthropologist 95, no. 3 (1993): 671-686. []
  15. Groesbeck, "Gift as Devotion," 221. []
  16. Dorinne Kondo, Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 7. []
  17. Richard Schechner, Mathilde La Bardonnie, Joel Jouanneau, Georges Banu, and Anna Husemoller, "Talking with Peter Brook," TDR: The Drama Review 30, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 57. []
  18. Eugenio Barba, "Steps on the River Bank," TDR: The Drama Review 38, no. 4 (Winter 1994): 114. []
  19. Min Tian, The Poetics of Difference and Displacement: Twentieth-Century Chinese-Western Intercultural Theatre (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008), 107-108. []
  20. Rustom Bharucha, "Hauntings of the Intercultural: Enigmas and Lessons on the Borders of Failure," in The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism, ed. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Torsten Jost and Saskya Iris Jain (New York: Routledge, 2014), 179-200. []
  21. To be sure, this is not the only story to be told about interculturalism ("Asiacentric" interculturalism, Rustom Bharucha has argued, is no more innocent than the "Eurocentric" varieties), but it is dominant and central to the field imaginary. Rustom Bharucha, "Rethinking the Intercultural Paradigm in Troubled Times" (paper presentation, Changing World, Challenging BoundariesDecember 2018): 6. []
  22. Schechner, "Intercultural Performance," 4. []
  23. Victor Turner, "Performing Ethnography," in The Performance Studies Reader, ed. Henry Bial (New York: Routledge, 2004), 323-336; Susan Leigh Foster, "Movement's Contagion: the Kinesthetic Impact of Performance," in The Cambridge Companion to Performance Studies, ed. Tracy C. Davis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 57. []
  24. Richard Schechner, "A Reply to Rustom Bharucha," Asian Theatre Journal 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1984): 249. []
  25. Cobina Gillitt, "Richard Schechner," Asian Theatre Journal 30, no. 2 (2013): 286. []
  26. Richard Schechner, "Rasaesthetics," TDR: The Drama Review 45, no. 3 (2001): 27-50. []
  27. See Lei and McIvor, eds., Handbook of Interculturalism and Performance, and Ric Knowles, Theatre and Interculturalism (London: Macmillan, 2010). []
  28. Lei, Uncrossing the Borders, 112. []
  29. Rustom Bharucha, "Hauntings of the," 193. See also Marcus Cheng Chye Tan, Acoustic Interculturalism: Listening to Performance (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)[]
  30. Lei, "Introduction," in The Methuen Drama Handbook of Interculturalism and Performance, 2. []
  31. Erika Fischer-Lichte, "Introduction: Interweaving Performance Cultures - Rethinking 'Intercultural Theatre': Toward an Experience and Theory of Performance beyond Postcolonialism," in The Politics of Interweaving Performance Cultures: Beyond Postcolonialism, 1. []
  32. Ibid., 7, 5. []
  33. Schechner, "Intercultural Performance," 3. []
  34. Leo Cabranes-Grant, From Scenarios to Networks: Performing the Intercultural in Colonial Mexico (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2016), 9. []
  35. See Bharucha, "Collision," and Bharucha, The Politics of Cultural Practice: Thinking through Theatre in an Age of Globalization (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2000)[]
  36. Bharucha, "Rethinking," 1-2. []
  37. Bharucha, Hauntings, 181. Bharucha's work importantly extends discussions of the ethics of interculturalism to questions of intercultural aesthetics. He also engages concepts beyond English as well as "East-East" and "South-South" intercultural encounters that do not involve or center the West. []
  38. Quoted in Renu Ramanath, "Theatre person Phillip Zarrilli on adopting and adapting intercultural techniques in his teaching and works," The Hindu, January 23, 2020. []
  39. Quoted in Ramanath, "Zarrilli." []
  40. Schechner et al., "Talking with Peter Brook," 55. []
  41. Schechner, "Intercultural Performance," 4. []
  42. Cabranes-Grant, From Scenarios to Networks, 4, 12. []
  43. Phillip Zarrilli, Kathakali Dance-Drama: Where Gods and Demons Come to Play (London: Routledge, 2000):30-33. []
  44. Visva-Bharati at Shantiniketan became a central university in 1951. See Diane Daugherty, "Fifty Years On: Arts Funding in Kerala Today," Asian Theatre Journal 17, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 237-252. []
  45. Heike Moser, "Kutiyattam on the Move: From Temple Theatres to Festival Stages," South Asian Festivals on the Move, eds. Ute Hustken and Axel Michales (Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 2013): 255. []
  46. Daugherty, "Fifty Years," 241, 249n13. []
  47. In 1995, Moser became the first foreign student at Kalamandalam to perform an arangetram, or "traditional stage debut," in kutiyattam. Other foreign students including Clifford R. Jones and Farley Richmond took classes with Mani Madhava Cakyar and Painkulam Rama Cakyar but did not perform their stage debuts. []
  48. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 257. []
  49. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning," 213. []
  50. The fourteen primary subjects are kathakali vesham (vadakkan kalari), kathakali vesham (thekkan kalari), kathakali sangeetam, chenda, maddalam, chutty and vesham, mohiniyattam, kutiyattam (male), kutiyattam (female), mizhavu, thullal, mridangam. MA degrees can be earned in Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Kuttiyattam, Mridangam, Chenda, and Karnatic music. []
  51. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning," 211, 215. []
  52. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 257. []
  53. Groesbeck, "Gift as Devotion," 229. []
  54. Ibid., 224. []
  55. Ibid., 225. []
  56. Degree students are primarily Indian students. The students I have been calling "resident foreigners" are typically able to separately design, structure, and pay for their own short courses. []
  57. Quoted in T.K. Achuthan, "How Kathakali artiste Ettumanoor P. Kannan is turning theatre egalitarian," The Hindu, February 19, 2020. []
  58. Coralie Cassassas, "Female Roles and Engagement of Women in the Classical Sanskrit Theatre Kutiyattam: A Contemporary Theatre Tradition," Asian Theatre Journal 29, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 20. []
  59. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 264. []
  60. Kaladharan," From Meditative Learning," 214. []
  61. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 258. []
  62. For a foundational discussion of the colonial consolidation of caste as "tradition," see Nicholas Dirks, Castes of Mind: Colonialism and the Making of Modern India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). []
  63. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning," 215. []
  64. Moser, "Kuityattam," 266. []
  65. See Lowthorp, "Folklore, Politics, and the State: Kutiyattam Theatre and National/Global Heritage in India," South Asian History and Culture 8, no. 4 (2017): 542-559; "Kutiyattam, Heritage, and the Dynamics of Culture," Asian Ethnology 79, no. 1 (2020): 21-44; and "Voices on the Ground: Kutiyattam, UNESCO, and the Heritage of Humanity," Journal of Folklore Research: An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology 52, no. 2-3 (2015): 157-180. Cf. Sarah Brouillette, UNESCO and the Fate of the Literary (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2019). []
  66. Lowthorp, "Voices," 167. []
  67. Ibid.,169. []
  68. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 266. []
  69. Ibid., 262. []
  70. Lowthorp, "Voices," 165 []
  71. Sudha Gopalakrishnan, "Kutiyattam: UNESCO Proclamation and the Change in Institutional Model and Patronage," Indian Folklife 38 (June 2011): 8. []
  72. Moser, "Kutiyattam," 261. []
  73. K.N. Girija, "The Development of Kutiyattam at Kerala Kalamandalam after the UNESCO Declaration," Indian Folklife 38 (June 2011): 16. []
  74. Fernau Hall, "Honoring Uday Shankar," Dance Chronicle 7, no. 3 (1983): 326. []
  75. Urmimala Sarkar Munsi, "Boner and Shankar: A Cross-Cultural Creative Dialogue Through Art and Dance," []
  76. Ruth K. Abrahams, "Uday Shankar: The Early Years, 1900-1938," Dance Chronicle 30, no. 3 (2007): 396-397. []
  77. There are discrepant accounts of these events in the literature. See Abrahams, "Uday Shankar" and Joan L. Erdman, "A Comment on Dance Scholarship," Dance Chronicle 31, no. 2 (2008): 308. []
  78. Nandini Majumdar, "Remembering Alice Boner, a Swiss Artist in Search of Form in India," The Wire, September 1, 2016). []
  79. Kathakali artist Madhavan toured with the troupe from 1935 until Shankar's move to India in 1938. Anita Ratnam, "India's Special K," American Theater (May/June 2005): 30-31, 72-73. []
  80. Hall, "Honoring," 333-334. []
  81. Kaladharan, "From Meditative Learning," 211. []
  82. Cabranes-Grant, From Scenarios to Networks, 12. []
  83. Barba, "Steps," 108. []
  84. Ibid., 111. []
  85. Ibid., 112. []
  86. Ibid., 113. []
  87. Ibid., 112. []
  88. Boner, "Diaries," 228. []
  89. Barba, "Steps," 117, 115. []
  90. Ibid., 113. []
  91. Schechner, "Intercultural," 3-4. []
  92. Barba, "Steps," 113. []
  93. Schechner et al., "Talking," 55. []
  94. Gillitt, "Schechner," 281. []
  95. Schechner, Performative Circumstances, 147. []
  96. Ibid.149. []
  97. Ibid. []
  98. Schechner, "Reply," 252. []
  99. Barba, "Steps," 117. []
  100. Phillip Zarrilli, "The Aftermath: When Peter Brook Came to India," TDR: The Drama Review 30, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 99. []
  101. See Zarrilli, "Aftermath." Brook's story may be an outlier, but certain aspects of it are familiar. Swiss photographer Werner Bischof (1916-1954) visited Kalamandalam in the early 1950s and took photographs of kathakali exponent Vadakke Manalath Govindan Nair, known as Kalamandalam Gopi, at age 8 or 9. In 2014, Keerthik Sasidharan uncovered Bischof's photos at the New York Public library and, through his father, kathakali artist Kottakal Sasidharan Nair, shared them with Kalamandalam Gopi, who had no idea of their existence. One of the photos was later featured on the cover of Kamila Shamsie's 2015 novel A God in Every Stone. Via email, Sasidharan told me that the photos have been wrongly credited to Bischof's fellow Magnum Photos-photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004). []
  102. Alf Hiltebeitel, "Transmitting 'Mahabharatas': Another Look at Peter Brook," TDR (1988-) 36, no. 3 (Autumn 1992), 136. []
  103. Zarrilli, "Aftermath," 93, 98. []
  104. Schechner, et al. "Talking," 59. []
  105. Ibid. "Talking," 57. []
  106. Ibid. "Talking," 68. []
  107. Rustom Bharucha, "Peter Brook's Mahabharata: A View from India," Economic and Political Weekly 23, no. 32 (6 August 1988): 1642. []
  108. Schechner et al., "Talking," 68. []
  109. Zarrilli, "Aftermath," 99. []
  110. Richmond came to his study of kutiyattam serendipitously. In the early 1960s, he was pursuing a PhD in theatre direction at Michigan State University. There, he happened to take a class with the newly hired James Brandon, a scholar of Asian theater, who encouraged him "to study Indian theatre for his dissertation instead of restoration drama." See Arnab Banerji, "Farley Richmond," Asian Theatre Journal 30, no. 2 (2013): 298. []
  111. Farley Richmond, "Review of G. Venu's 'Production of a Play in Kutiyattam,'" Asian Theatre Journal 9, no. 2 (Autumn 1992), 260. []
  112. Ibid., 261. []
  113. Bernard S. Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996)16. []
  114. Alice Boner, "Kathakali," Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art 3, no. 1 (June 1935): 68. Boner refers to Kunju Kurup as "Kunjan" and "Kunjun" Kurup here and in other writings. []
  115. Zarrilli, Kathakali, xv. []
  116. Marlene Pitkow, "Putana's Salvation in Kathakali: Embodying the Sacred Journey," Asian Theatre Journal 18, no. 2 (Autumn 2001): 239. []
  117. Lemos, Bracketing Lasya, 46. []
  118. Tina Post aptly describes this as the distinction between moving/breathing/dancing "appropriately" and "appropriatively." []
  119. John L. Jackson, Jr., Thin Description (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013)14. []
  120. Schechner, "Intercultural," 3-4. []
  121. Barba, "Steps," 113. []
  122. Joan L. Erdman, "Performance as Translation: Uday Shankar in the West," TDR: The Drama Review (Spring 1987): 68. []
  123. For an example of this mode of seeing, consider how Boner recounted her first trip to the "lost little place in the jungle of South Malabar" that became Kalamandalam:

    Were we really going to witness a genuine and still living form of the primeval religious drama, which we could only dream of, but not full visualize? Or were we going to find an already degenerate art, like those mythological displays sometimes seen in Madras and elsewhere? Was it after all not too fantastic to expect the religious mystic drama, as it was in the beginning of history, to survive, unknown and unspoilt, in this our time of scientific materialism? . . . It seemed almost impossible . . . we jolted on and on in our primitive vehicle through the silent jungle . . .

    The primitive vehicle, the silent jungle, and the dream of the mystic are all well-hashed tropes in the Western imaginary of India. Alice Boner, "Theatre in the Jungle," Indian Arts and Letters 7, no. 1 (1933): 37-39.[]

  124. Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991): 99. []
  125. Chow made this comment at a virtual event hosted by the University of Arizona's Graduate Program in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory on April 21, 2022. The event was titled "The World According to Rey Chow" and part of a special lecture series on "Epistemic Demeanors" organized by myself and Reid Gómez. []
  126. Rustom Bharucha, "A Collision of Cultures: Some Western Interpretations of the Indian Theatre," Asian Theatre Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 1984): 1-2. []
  127. Sara Ahmed, "Happiness and Queer Politics," World Picture 3: Happiness (Summer 2009): 5. []
  128. Schechner, "Reply," 245-248. []
  129. Ahmed, "Happiness,"5. []
  130. Schechner, Performative Circumstances: From the Avant Garde to Ramlila (London: Seagull Books, 1983):xi. []
  131. Rustom Bharucha, "A Reply to Richard Schechner," Asian Theatre Journal 1, no. 2 (Autumn 1984): 259. []
  132. Schechner, "Reply," 252. []
  133. Schechner, "Intercultural Performance," 3-4. []
  134. Diane Daugherty, "The Pendulum of Intercultural Performance: 'Kathakali King Lear' at Shakespeare's Globe," Asian Theatre Journal 22, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 52-72. []
  135. Keerthik Sasidharan speculates that the asymmetry wherein the Kathakali King Lear must be faithful to "the original," whereas productions like Brook's Mahabharata are free to be experimental, arises from the fact that the Western plays are "fundamentally limited in scope since they are the consequences of one author's imagination" and have been subjected to a "top-down" process of aesthetic canonization. By contrast, the "textual expansiveness" of works like the Mahabharatha results in "greater interpretative space." He shared these thoughts with me over email. See also Sasidharan, "The Epic Epiphany," Open, November 15, 2019).. []
  136. Barba, "Steps," 118. []
  137. Brook states that his home is not Paris, where he is based, but rather "at the intersection of cultural energies." Quoted in Schechner et al., "Talking," 58. []
  138. "Culture of choice" is Schechner's phrase, but the sentiment is widely shared. Traditions do not choose those who practice them, argues Barba, "rather it is us who chose them." See Barba, "Steps," 118. []
  139. Lei, "Introduction," 1. []
  140. Kondo, Crafting Selves, 16-17. []
  141. See Kamala Visweswaran, Un/common Cultures: Racism and the Rearticulation of Cultural Difference (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010);Kareem Khubchandani, Ishtyle: Accenting Gay Indian Nightlife (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020). []
  142. Rolf Groesbeck, "Disciple and Preceptor/performer in Kerala," in Theorizing the Local: Music, Practice, and Experience in South Asia and Beyond, ed. Richard K. Wolf(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009): 286. []
  143. Jane Hu, "Orientalism, Redux," Victorian Studies 62, no. 3 (Spring 2020): 464. Hu experiences "a simultaneous overidentification and disidentification" with works of Victorian literature that is akin to what I have experienced reading the interculturalists. []
  144. Alice Boner, Alice Boner Diaries: India 1934-1967, eds. Georgette Boner, Luitgard Soni, and Jayandra Soni (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishing, 1993), 233. []