PSi#21 Fluid States - India: Rethinking Labor and the Creative Economy, Workshopping, by Ananda Breed, India Correspondent

Re-thinking Labour: Workshopping,

by Ananda Breed

1 March 2015

PSi#21 Fluid States - India: Rethinking Labor and the Creative Economy - Global Performance Perspectives

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How do performance practices within the workshop space affect labour? If we consider a conference as a workshop space, then what larger forces control that space? JNU has a strong tradition of the Left in India and has held on to its intellectual and political autonomy for many years.  Today it faces new challenges as the Central Government on which JNU is dependent for its finances is pushing for a ‘centralization’ of all universities in India. 

The opening session of Day 3 begins with a panel on trafficking.  Female ex-combatant guerilla fighters are instructed to pick up pieces of paper inscribed with words that they may have identified, then to create a chain to ‘break free’ from their bonds. Maria Estrada-Fuentes’ presentation based on ex-combatant guerilla fighters in Colombia and Urmimala Sarkar’s presentation based on ex-sex workers in India illustrated how workshop spaces have been used for rehabilitation. There is a disparity between narratives that are worked out or re-worked within the workshop environment. The sex workers in India highlight their mental separation from their bodies, so that they can get on with their work. Thus, the rehabilitation concerned here is for sex workers literally to re-inhabit their bodies.

Processes of greater ‘unknowing’ emerge from the often unpoliticised space of the workshop environment: What methodologies are used to rehabilitate the body and mind – into what kind of alternative space? What forms are used for this kind of transmission, from one state of being and political context to another? How are these social and often political processes of rehabilitation controlled and regulated?

 Respondent Natasha Davis raised a critical point that the state is often fought by the guerilla fighter, yet the same government becomes the one to rehabilitate. Workshops are used to rehabilitate ex-combatants or ex-sex workers based on their category of marginalisation from the state, versus the context of their experience. International rights-based discourses are enacted onto the body, often at odds with a local understanding of the economic and social imperatives that bring people to join guerrilla groups or the trade of sex work.

There is a difference in terms of voluntary versus imposed workshopping. Individuals are often paid to attend workshops, creating another kind of market and trafficking. Thus, the construction of the workshop space as a transformative space needs to be further questioned. Nicholas Ridout’s presentation on Walter Benjamin’s ‘Program for a Proletarian Childrens’ Theatre’ offers a workshop model that places child’s play at the centre of work to deconstruct capitalistic notions of labour. Thus, perhaps, the workshopping of child’s play offers an alternative approach to re-thinking labour.


Copyright –  Ananda Breed  (2015) “Re-thinking Labor: Workshopping”, PSi #21 Fluid States: Performances of UnKnowing LOG, ed. Marin Blazevic, Bree Hadley and Nina Gojic, Performance Studies international (PSi), 1 January 2015-31 December 2015, available

Tags: Class Labor Economy and Performance  Community and Performance  Daily Life Daily Rituals and Performance   Performance Studies in Asia  Performance Studies in Languages Other Than English  

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