The Bhānd Mode in Pakistani Performance

Pamment, Claire (2013) The Bhānd Mode in Pakistani Performance. Doctoral thesis, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.


Bhānds are wandering comedians, widely dispersed in Pakistan and North India. While their art constitutes a persistent mode of performed practice in Pakistan, it is not given recognition by dominant culture. The thesis explores the caste, class, ethnic and literary biases that motivate this ostracism, and in turn how bhānds play with these status distinctions in performance. This interaction creates a dynamic mode, which is able to expose, negotiate and subvert hegemonic power structures, and, in so doing, continually adapts itself to changing socio-cultural contexts.
Appreciation of these practices and their effects on the social norm has hitherto been lacking, precisely because of the cultural marginalisation which attempts to place the bhānd within a fixed definition of identity. In order to redress this imbalance, I explicate the bhānd’s aesthetics and socio-cultural mediation through multiple contemporary and historical manifestations. Contemporary reinventions range from stand-up comics in the nuptial rites, to carnivalesque comedians of the popular Punjabi theatre and socio-political commentators on satellite television. By extracting the bhānd from the prejudices of historiography, the thesis explores historical lineages between the bhānd and Sanskrit jesters and Sufi wise fools, arguing that this Indo-Muslim synchronism perpetuates the bhānd's presence in South Asia.
This re-reading aims conceptually to release the bhānd from contemporary and historical constraints as a shape-shifting mode, which may be seen to continue generating innovative forms and practices for theatre and performance in Pakistan today.


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