Anita Cherian

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year and four months

Anita Cherian was a doctoral candidate with the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

In the wake of the golden jubilee celebrations of India’s independence, Anita Cherian pointed to projects that attempted to evaluate work done in the sphere of national culture. Her own project, she acknowledges, “is similarly infused with an anniversarial (and millennial) anxiety about the condition and relevance of the theatre arts” in contemporary India. IFA’s grant enabled Anita to undertake fresh fieldwork and archival research in India towards her dissertation titled “Fashioning a National Theatre: Institutions and Cultural Policy in post-independence India”.

Anita, a doctoral candidate with the Department of Performance Studies, New York University, used the grant to complete research towards her dissertation, which attempted to trace the development of the notion of a ‘national’ theatre in post-independence India. She critically examined the use of terms – such as ‘Indianness’, ‘authenticity’, ‘tradition’, the ‘modern’ and the ‘experimental’ – that are frequently used in discussions and writings on theatre arts in present-day India.

Anita hoped to trace and elaborate the changes (and continuities) in policies and methods of institutionalization in the post-colonial period. Further, in inquiring into the reasons for the continued relevance of the iniquitous Dramatic Performances Act of 1876, she saw the possibility of gleaning ‘official’ understandings of the radical/democratic potential of theatre. She was interested in understanding the specific ways in which the post-colonial state deploys cultural policy in its efforts to strengthen itself and maintain the hegemony of a ruling elite.

The research is expected to contribute to the debates on the state’s role in formulating cultural policy that have acquired momentum in the 1990s. The wider concerns of her inquiry include an assessment of the role of international organizations in the sphere of culture. Anita hopes that her research will suggest possibilities for “developing theatres and cultural productions that will remain committed to social and political change while being relevant to the concerns of the community”.