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Dahlem Humanities Center Lecture with Rustom Bharucha

(Fellow at the International Research Center "Interweaving Performance Cultures", Freie Universität Berlin)

"Performing 'Asia': The Affective Affinities of Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin"

This lecture explored the multiple dynamics of affect underlying the idea of “Asia” that provided the meeting ground of Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin at the turn of the last century. It elaborated on how “Asia” was embodied in their presence through distinctive sartorial signatures, and deconstructed how “Asia” was performed at histrionic and rhetorical levels in their lectures and correspondence. Using some rare photographs and audio recordings to highlight the expressive dimensions of performance, the lecture also focused on the politics of performativity through a critical reading of the inter-Asian tensions underlying an ostensibly pan-Asian discourse. In the process, concepts relating to self-Orientalization and the crisis in civilization were juxtaposed against the leitmotif that ran through the entire lecture – the infinitesimal power of affect which complicates ideological differences, operating at subliminal levels through processes of internalization and forged through intimacies and networks of friendship. If the idea of “Asia” needs to rejuvenated, it may need to be infused with a new sociality and aesthetics, wherein emergent affective communities connecting individuals across cultures can counter the hegemonic Orientalist, nationalist, and global associations of Asia in our times.

The lecture was held in English.

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