Meenakshi Ponnuswami, (English) “British Asian Women in Performance: Stage, Screen, and Stand-Up,” – March 2018

British-born South Asian women are often called upon to decode obscure sexual and sartorial practices of their cultures of origin, such as arranged marriages or burkinis. Presumed to be reliable translators, they have played an influential role in correcting white misperceptions of Asians and in calming mainstream fears of terrorism, clitoridectomy, and other imports.  In her talk, Meenakshi Ponnuswami of the English Department will explore some complexities and contradictions of second-generation women’s positionality as manifest in contemporary theatre, film, and stand-up comedy.  One the one hand, the sight of a woman in a burqua performing stand-up in a pub dismantles the common assumption that veiled women cower passively at home. On the other hand, ethnic minorities who seek the approval of white audiences risk adopting the racist conventions which once derided bodies like their own. To tease out these questions, Prof. Ponnuswami will offer readings of a range of texts including little-known plays, blockbusters like Bend It Like Beckham, and jokes by Shazia Mirza and other comedians.


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