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Visting Artist Priya Srinivasan Presents “Performing Sweating Saris: Rethinking Gendered Migrant Labor”

Published March 3, 2017

The School of Dance will be hosting visiting guest artist Priya Srinivasan in a performance of excerpts from her award-winning book, Sweating Saris Indian Dance as Transitional Labor. “Performing Sweating Saris: Rethinking Gendered Migrant Labor” will be performed on Wednesday, March 8th from 10:30AM -11:50AM in the Nancy Smith Fichter Dance Theatre.

Dr. Priya Srinivasan (Independent Artist and Researcher, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne) has a dual career as an artist and scholar, committed to the questions of migration, female labor and art, framed by postmodern sensibilities while grounded in Indian “traditional” performance practices. Sweating Saris Indian Dance as Transnational Labor is a groundbreaking book that seeks to understand dance as labor, Sweating Saris examines dancers not just as aesthetic bodies but as transnational migrant workers and wage earners who negotiate citizenship and gender issues.

An exciting and groundbreaking contribution to Asian American Studies, South Asian Diaspora Studies, and Performance/Dance Studies, Sweating Saris will be read with great interest by all those interested in these fields both inside and outside the academy. Srinivasan’s book is highly accessible while being theoretically rich and suggestive. It will be a significant addition to the growing body of scholarship over the past decade on the cultural politics of the South Asian diaspora. Srinivasan compellingly argues that an attention to Indian dance as a form of embodied, gendered labor radically transforms our understanding of the politics of Asian American racialization, citizenship, and migration in from the late nineteenth century to the present. —Gayatri Gopinath, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and Director of Gender and Sexuality Studies at NYU

Srinivasan merges ethnography, history, critical race theory, performance and post-colonial studies among other disciplines to investigate the embodied experience of Indian dance. The dancers’ sweat stained and soaked sari, the aching limbs are emblematic of global circulations of labor, bodies, capital, and industrial goods. Thus the sweating sari of the dancer stands in for her unrecognized labor.

Srinivasan shifts away from the usual emphasis on Indian women dancers as culture bearers of the Indian nation. She asks us to reframe the movements of late nineteenth century transnational Nautch Indian dancers to the foremother of modern dance Ruth St. Denis in the early twentieth century to contemporary teenage dancers in Southern California, proposing a transformative theory of dance, gendered-labor, and citizenship that is far-reaching.

This performance is made possible with support from Opening Nights Performing Arts.
Summary and reviews courtesy of Temple University.