Temporary Exhibits: The Cultural Politics of South Asian ‘Folk’ Performances in Contemporary Fairs and Festivals

This talk navigates rural, peri-urban, and urban contemporary fairs and festivals as sites of displaying South Asian ‘folk’ performances. As displays alongside other tangible cultural objects and artefacts, such performances often negotiate ‘authenticity’ both through the performers’ role-playing as well as the audiences’ reception. In this sense, these performances at once become truncated prototypes, showcases, and souvenir acts. More importantly, the sites of contemporary fair and festival performances are sought after by marginal performers as objectified capital. Focussing on the cultural politics of folk genres in South Asia, this talk underscores the issues of authenticity, cultural heritage and cultural memory that inform our perceptions of ‘folk’ performances.

Dr Priyanka Basu is a Lecturer in Performing Arts at the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London. She has previously worked as the Curator of the ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project at the British Library. Her first monograph, The Poet’s Song: ‘Folk’ and its Cultural Politics in South Asia came out in October 2023 from Routledge UK (South Asian History and Cultural Series). Her work focusses on performance and print histories, gender, and cinema.