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  • Conclusion: Rewriting the Script for Kuchipudi Dance

    Harshita Mruthinti Kamath

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


    The concluding chapter surveys the arc of the book, which moves from village to urban and transnational spaces, to examine the declining value ascribed to the brahmin male body in vēṣam. Today, Kuchipudi no longer needs the brahmin male body in strī-vēṣam, thereby positing a challenge not only to village performance, but also brahmin masculinity constructed in the process of that performance. The death of Vedantam Satyanarayana Sarma, hailed as the greatest of all Kuchipudi impersonators and the paradigmatic example of hegemonic brahmin masculinity in the village, cements this decline. Once equivalent to white hegemonic masculinity, hegemonic brahmin masculinity is rendered remarkably fragile in the transnational landscape of Kuchipudi dance. The donning of strī-vēṣam in Kuchipudi is read as a form of māyā (constructed artifice) that creates the illusion of gender identity onstage while interrogating norms of gender, sexuality, and caste in quotidian life. Moving away from obvious forms of guising, including the Kuchipudi brahmin male dancer in a woman’s guise, engenders the capaciousness of impersonation, a practice that reflects broader understandings of gender, caste, and sexuality in everyday South Asia.

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    Kamath, H. 2019. Conclusion: Rewriting the Script for Kuchipudi Dance. In: Kamath, H, Impersonations. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.72.g

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    Published on June 4, 2019