Impersonations centers on an insular community of Smarta brahmin men from the Kuchipudi village in Telugu-speaking South India who don strī-vēṣam (woman’s guise) and impersonate female characters from Hindu religious narratives. Impersonation is not simply a gender performance limited to the Kuchipudi stage, but a practice of power that enables the construction of hegemonic brahmin masculinity in everyday village life. This book analyzes the practice of impersonation across a series of boundaries—village to urban to transnational, brahmin to non-brahmin, hegemonic to nonnormative—to explore the artifice of brahmin masculinity in contemporary South Indian dance.
“By charting the complex practices of masculinity through South Indian dance, Kamath deconstructs hegemonic brahmin masculinity and offers an intellectual tour de force that challenges Western epistemologies of gender.” STANLEY THANGARAJ, author of Desi Hoop Dreams: Pickup Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity
“Beautifully crafted and presented, this book fills a lacuna in scholarship on the figure of the brahmin man in relation to his gender identity and makes a compelling contribution to the field of Indian dance historiography, which often overlooks the critical role the dancing male body.” VASUDHA NARAYANAN, Distinguished Professor of Religion, University of Florida
HARSHITA MRUTHINTI KAMATH is Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Assistant Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature and History at Emory University.
Kamath, H. 2019. Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.72
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