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Jana Sanskriti's Theatre And Political Practice In Rural Bengal: The Making of Popular Culture

Title:Jana Sanskriti's Theatre And Political Practice In Rural Bengal: The Making of Popular Culture
Author:Dia Mohan
Publication:South Asian Popular Culture / Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Enumeration:Vol. 2, No. 1 pp. 39 - 53 , April 2004
Abstract:Jana Sanskriti (People's Culture) is a cultural organisation that has worked in the Indian state of West Bengal since it was founded in 1985. In Jana Sanskriti's method of theatre, rural Bengalis not only play scripts but also script plays. Through the study of Jana Sanskriti's political theatre and activism, I contribute to the conceptualisation and analysis of popular culture. Jana Sanskriti's work is unprecedented because it gives the audience and rural subjects the means through which to represent their view of how history and society has treated them. Overcoming the popular fear and the pessimism that letting cultural difference speak leads to political anarchy, Jana Sanskriti's 18-year practice shows that when people are given a space to express their marginalisation they become the 'experts' who should be constructing solutions and alternative futures appropriate to their demoralising experience of neo-liberal processes and patriarchal relations. The fixation of studies on popular culture on those media technologies that have wide distribution and reach their messages to a significant number of people is a narrow starting point for what defines popular culture. Such views are founded upon views of 'globalisation', patriarchy, and state-society relations as pre-scripted realities. Through an analysis of Jana Sanskriti's method of work, I revisit the theoretical question of how everyday cultural practices produce a definition of what comes to be seen as 'cultural', 'political' or 'popular'. In so doing, I challenge the inclination to make normative views of 'globalisation' the definitional core of popular and public culture.

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