Witwatersrand conference on Circus Histories and Theories

On 21-22 June 2018, the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa at University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa organised a multidisciplinary conference on ”Circus Histories and Theories”. It has a striking significance since this is the conference of its kind happening in the Global South and focusing on hitherto unexplored terrains such as India and Africa. The conference, convened by Prof. Dilip M Menon and Dr Nisha Poyyaprath Rayaroth at CISA, aimed to explore an array of ideas such as subalternity, body and performance, spectatorship, itinerant entertainments, animal subjectivity, representations, children, various indigenous and contemporary technologies, emotion, legality and ethics of human-animal relations, transnational migration, global economy and the structural power of race, gender and caste.
Both veteran and young research scholars from around the world presented their work on diverse themes ranging from the representations of Africans in the nineteenth century American Wild West shows to the contemporary social circus. The presentations focusing on Asia will discuss Chinese acrobats in Latin America and the watershed moments in Indian circus such as the State ban on the performance of children and animals. This conference was an important opportunity to discuss current scholarship relating to circus within the humanities and social sciences. 
Dr. Nisha, who is a SSRC Transregional Research Fellow at CISA, holds a keynote lecture. Her doctoral thesis was on the history of circus and circus performances in twentieth century Kerala. Currently she is working on a book on Indian circus to be published by the Oxford University Press, India. Other participants presenting South Asia related papers were Dr. Eleonore Ribault from Chicago University, USA, who spoke about ”Jumbo Stardust: Thoughts on Innocent Beings, Deviance and South Indian Circuses as Arenas for Moral Debates”; and Dr. Aastha Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, India, who spoke about ”Negotiating Laws: Animal, Child and Woman Performers of Indian Circus”. Full information about the conference.