UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiating shame & honour, caste & class : women in Punjabi theatre of East Punjab Johal, Ranbir Kaur


Few females participated in early forms of Punjabi theatre until the 1940s and there is a dearth of information available on their contributions in the area. This dissertation examines reasons that prevented females from entering this field, and the stories of women who have. I focus on the life stories of four women who have made significant contributions to Punjabi theatre, Neena Tiwana, Rani Balbir Kaur, Navnindra Behl and Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry, whom I interviewed over a period of three months (February to April) in 2017, to understand what enabled and hindered their success. The dissertation begins with the history of women in performance within the Indian subcontinent in general, and the Punjab region of Northern India, in specific. I then investigate gendered norms within Punjabi society and their connection to ideas of shame and honour, which lead to a “script” which traditionally barred women from areas of performance in public spaces. Finally, I consider the success of the aforementioned females, looking again at ideas of shame, as well as the support of male relatives and dynamics of caste and class privilege as factors that enabled their ascendence within Punjabi theatre. Overall the dissertation seeks to understand the presence of shame and stigma for women in the theatre, and analyze how we can understand the emergence of these four women in a field that is otherwise dominated by men.

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