Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Questions of Cultural Hegemony in Indian Classical Dance

In this globalizing world, how does cultural hegemony change the art we see around us?

For those who don't know, hegemony itself is as the *infallible* Wikipedia defines it:

"Hegemony is the political, economic, ideological or cultural power exerted by a dominant group over other groups, regardless of the explicit consent of the latter...The term is often mistakenly used to suggest brute power or dominance, when it is better defined as emphasizing how control is achieved through consensus not force."

There are two things of import to me in this definition: one, that it is about the control of one group over another, and two, that this control is gained quite subversively...

And here is what I am constantly wondering in terms of how cultural hegemony has come to play in Indian Classical Dance culture:

Westerners, eager to preserve and protect culture, end up changing it in ways they never realize – from the simplest of moves such as where an art form is displayed and/or performed to radically changing the use and utilization of a piece of art. How, in turn, do these changes also change the effect of these forms?

Perhaps even more noteworthy is that many artists are unaware it is happening as they change and adjust their work to become more accessible to the world around them in the face of extinction or irrelevance.

Cultural hegemony also plays a role in valuation of art. As art has gone the way of the Western world and dissociated itself with ritual, art has become entertainment rather than spiritual for many. Art does reflect society and vice versa, but again, it must be considered: what is lost in this shift?

Also, are the effects of a traditional form like bharatanatyam, initially danced in temples and watched with complete social interactions, diminished by its transition to the proscenium stage and change to group choreography? Though art will always change because of the world around it, globalization seems to speed it up with such coldness. The speed is a a result of a rush to preserve and protect in order to overcome extinction, resulting in both the minority and majority frantically changing forms and artistic visions in simple ways to keep them relevant to the persons in power…

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