Visiting Doctoral Candidates Program

As of October 2015, the Research Center hosts four visiting doctoral candidates from India: Dwaipayan Chowdhury, Ankush Gupta, Anirban Kumar (all three from New Delhi) and Supriya Shukla (Hyderabad), all of whom will stay in Berlin for twelve months. The new initiative was launched in close collaboration with their home universities, the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India and the Sarojini Naidu School of Arts and Communication, Hyderabad, India, both of which have so-called “Primary Partnerships” with the Freie Universität, Berlin. The program is funded by the Center for International Cooperation (CIC), Freie Universität Berlin. From next year onward, the program plans to include doctoral candidates from Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tétouan, Morocco.


This year’s four visiting doctoral candidates have already become an integral part of our IRC-Fellows participating in our weekly presentations, tea times and colloquiums. Two of them, Ankush Gupta and Anirban Kumar, were so kind to share their impressions during their first weeks in Berlin. Both graduated with a Master’s degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and been working on their Ph.D. thesises for the last three years, now continuing with it during their time at our Center.


Ankush: My project deals with two basic questions that stem from the simple question about the connection of music with language – is it/or is it not one? If it is (a), then is this language gendered? If it is not (b), then what is it, and then how does it interact with the language(s), especially of the law? I’m picking up music that is associated with Queer identity as a case study here.


Anirban: The research project “Political Theatre: Possibilities of Politics / Politics of Possibilities” primarily is concerned with the discourse of ‘political theatre’ by thinking through the mediation of politics and aesthetics. While critically approaching the domain of ‘political theatre’, by studying the region of Allahabad, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh from 1970-2005, the research attempts to envisage an understanding of ‘politics’ as a fragmented fabric, which can be contingently activated by missed possibilities.


During our talks and first get-togethers much was shared about travels, home countries and all practical things of arriving in Berlin. Both researchers mentioned the enriching working environment and conditions at our Center that provide, but also how much drawn they are into the city’s vibrant life and art scene. It is not as easy as comparing the two different countries’ cultures and approaches but something that can be specifically found in Berlin:


Ankush: I know it is easy to imagine that I intend to do some ‘comparative’ work here, but actually that’s not true. I’m interested in understanding the strategies of the aforementioned interaction of music with its surroundings, with the artists, with the performers. I’m interested in studying the processes – of bodies, of rituals, performances and lives, and try to find openings through them to the questions that interest me and I think are important for the hypothesis I’m trying to make. I’m interested in Queer musicology, and Berlin stands at the center of a lot of debate around Queer Performances both historically and in the present times, so it was an obvious choice.


And Anirban added:

Keeping in mind an international perspective, it will be invigorating to engage with critical theatre historiography, interact with fellow researches, watch performances and live. Also, work around the archives and participate in events in support of “refugees”.


And of course, our fellow doctoral candidates have thrown themselves into Berlin’s theater world, watching performances and shows all over the city.


Ankush: The last show that I saw was the Berlin premier of Frank Castorf’s production of “Die Brueder Karamasow”. With it’s Bakhtinian elements of Polyphony and Grotesque, and it’s experiment with the form, the ideas of voyeurism, heightened drama and references to popular culture, I found the seven hours long performance certainly thought provoking and discussion worthy.


And Anirban, what was your last show seen on a Berlin stage?

Don Giovanni at Deutsche Oper Berlin. I have scribbled in my diary about the performance as, “contempt of lives in the concert of liberty”…


Sounds promising. We are looking forward to spending the upcoming months with all four visiting doctoral candidates and exchanges about Germany, India and those little and important questions on life and research. Some of them might share a bit of their thoughts here on Textures during the upcoming months.

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