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  • “I am Satyabhama”: Constructing Hegemonic Brahmin Masculinity in the Kuchipudi Village

    Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

    Chapter from the book: Kamath, H. 2019. Impersonations: The Artifice of Brahmin Masculinity in South Indian Dance.


    This chapter explores the technologies of power undergirding the practice of impersonation in the Kuchipudi village, particularly in relation to the production of normative brahmin masculinity. Due to an originary prohibition against female performers in early forms of Kuchipudi dance, brahmin dancers from the village would don elaborate costume and makeup to enact both male and female roles from Hindu religious narratives. Drawing on the Kuchipudi lexicon, the chapter analyzes three embodied techniques of impersonation: costume (āhārya), speech (vācika), and bodily movement (āṅgika). In each technique, Kuchipudi brahmin male dancers draw on idealized understandings of “real” women’s bodies while, paradoxically, limiting their female counterparts from performance. The latter half of this chapter focuses on Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, the most famous impersonator of the twentieth century. By excelling in the one factor central to traditional Kuchipudi performance—the donning of Satyabhama’s strī-vēṣam—Satyanarayana Sarma epitomizes hegemonic brahmin masculinity in the Kuchipudi village.

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    Kamath, H. 2019. “I am Satyabhama”: Constructing Hegemonic Brahmin Masculinity in the Kuchipudi Village. In: Kamath, H, Impersonations. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.72.c

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    Published on June 4, 2019