SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Kahlon, Raminder K. (1998) Performative politics: Artworks, festival praxis and nationalism with reference to the Ganapati Utsava in Western India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (34MB)


This study explores regionally based perspectives on the broader nation-wide phenomena of the politicisation of Hinduism (Hindutva) in historical and contemporary times (van der Veer 1987; Basu et al 1993; Pandey 1993; Jaffrelot 1996). However, in contrast to these works, my focus is on the extent to which an annual religious festival, the Ganapati utsava, has been effected by the wider socio-political terrain in the cities of Mumbai and Pune, Maharashtra. The Ganapati utsava is a discursive arena for mutually reliant activities of a devotional, artistic, entertaining, and socio-political nature. The intertwining of the various constituent elements sustain and accentuate each other in the performative milieux of the festival, yet also lie outside of totalising political schemas. I note that the festival has become a site for the hegemonic strategies of several political parties, and sponsored media competitions who all vie for supremacy in the festive context. As a result, the festival represents an uneven field of consent and contestation (Laclau and Mouflfe 1985). The history, and contemporary praxis of the festival necessitates a consideration of the movement of nationalism(s) for which the festival played a significant part, particularly under the auspices of Bal Gangadhar Tilak since the 1890s. I propose that the efficacy of nationalism as a hegemonic strategy relies as much on public performative events, as on constitutional politics and social structures (eg. Gellner 1983), or on the print media, such as newspapers and novels (eg. Anderson 1983). By integrating Habermas' views on the 'public sphere' (Habermas 1991) and perspectives on public rituals or 'public arenas' (Freitag 1989), the study notes the interactive potency of both collective gatherings and media forms as sites for variant nationalist strategies. Mandap (shrine) tableaux, in particular, are considered as performative loci for socio-political variables, particularly in their audio-taped narratives and visualisation of versions of the nation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:15

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item