Contextualizing Dance: An Analysis of Role of State and Society in Socio-Political Construction of Kalbeliya Dance

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:34
Oral Presentation
Ruchika RANWA, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
The analysis of dance has predominantly found mention in fields of anthropology, cultural history and dance history while sociology of dance remains a relatively unexplored field. In this backdrop, this paper focuses upon Kalbeliya dancers of Rajasthan and traces the trajectory followed by them from being entertainers earlier to earning status of folk dancers and intangible cultural heritage recently. The transformation reveals deep contrast between their elevated institutional status and socially defiled status owing to strongly-believed demeaning association of Kalbeliya women with dance, their lower caste status and nomadic lifestyle. The paper examines this disjuncture as situated in broader socio-political structures which reflect upon hegemonic role of state and market in legitimization and promotion of kalbeliya dancers on the one hand and intersection of gender, caste, nomadism and dance degrading their status at societal level. The analysis of processes of negotiation adopted by these dancers through their dance to confront these dual contrasting statuses is another point under consideration in this sociological inquiry. The paper ascertains that dance which acts as medium for assertion of national identity and glory can simultaneously act as source of degradation at social level.

The paper further stresses that state’s role is not limited to shaping institutional status of kalbeliya dancers but also their social status. The discourse propagated by state, in conjunction with market, around glorification of kalbeliya dancers and their promotion as icons of national identity at institutional level is accompanied with discourse of chastity disseminated by state after independence which continues to defile association between women and dance at ground level. The analysis of this socio-political construction and regulation of kalbeliya dance and dancers has relied upon secondary sources, concepts such as ideology, cultural hegemony and cultural capital, analysis of kalbeliya songs and dance along with ethnographic fieldwork in kalbeliya dominated areas.