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Women, Culture And Nation-Building: Contemporary Sinhalese and Bengali Theatre

Title:Women, Culture And Nation-Building: Contemporary Sinhalese and Bengali Theatre
Author:Neluka Silva
Publication:Contemporary South Asia / Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Enumeration:Vol. 9, No. 3 pp. 339 - 353 , November 2000
Abstract:This article explores how women are located in the project of nation-building in a form of cultural production; the theatre. The two socio-political contexts under scrutiny are Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Culture, often posited as transcendental and pristine, plays a vital role in ideologically entrenching nationalist politics within the collective consciousness. During nationalist struggles, a large body of literature is produced which, as Benedict Anderson has persuasively argued, is a composite of ideological base of the 'imagined community' The Sinhala theatre in Sri Lanka is vibrant and a vital aspect of culture and society. Likewise, a large body of resistance literature was produced in East Pakistan, and these works offer a point of access into the process of fragmentation and the ensuing euphoria in nation-building. Through an exploration of selected plays from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, I will argue that the struggle for nationhood, and the anxiety of race are most strongly inscribed upon female subjectivity. The ideology of the nation is predicated upon a limited vision of women's roles that are reflected in the theatre. Yet, though women have been assigned limited subject positions, especially of mother and daughter, other possibilities which broaden the spectrum of gender roles, through women's involvement in revolutionary movements, also have emerged in these texts.

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