January 25, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

The rise and fall of the courtesans of India

1 min read

Anna Morcom’s book is a detailed study of India’s oldest dance practitioners and how they were relegated to the margins of contemporary performing arts, writes Aishwarya Gupta in Tehelka

CourtesansAt its core, the book is a reflection of the conflict that female public performers have presented to patriarchy over the centuries and how modern India has chosen to respond to these conflicts. Morcom provides a critical understanding of the same:

“As a performing art, dance is an embodied form. A dancer who performs in public or male space is on display and gives pleasure to the male or mixed audience through a living, bodily art form. However, under traditional forms of patriarchy, a woman must be controlled by her father, male relatives and eventually by her husband. Associating with or even being seen by men outside this circle can bring dishonour to her and the family. Dancing in public or for the entertainment of men is, therefore, incompatible with marriage and ‘respectability’.”

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