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The Poet’s Song: 'Folk' and its Cultural Politics in South Asia by Dr Priyanka Basu explores the cross-border (India & Bangladesh) practices and historiography of the verse-duelling genre of Kobigaan (lit. poet’s song). It is one of the many dialogic genres in South Asia highlighting the verbal virtuosity, bricolage, and storytelling abilities of performers. The book shows how, like many other ‘folk’ practices in South and South-East Asia, the content and format of this genre has undergone vital changes, thus raising questions of authenticity, patronage, and cultural politics. It captures live performances of Kobigaan through ethnographies spread across borders—from village rituals to urban festivals, and from Bengali cinema to television and new media. While understanding Kobigaan from the practitioners’ points of view, this book also explores the crucial issues of gender, marginalisation, and representation that are true of any performance genre. Drawing on case studies, it underlines the issues of artistic agency, empowerment, cultural labour and heritage, rituals, authenticity, creative industries, media, gender, and identity politics. Part of the South Asian History and Culture series, this book is a major intervention in South Asian folklore and performance studies.

This book launch will present a talk by the author, Dr Priyanka Basu, and will feature Professor FBA Ananya Jahanara Kabir (King's) and Professor Emerita Ann R David (Roehampton/King's) as discussants.

The talk will be followed by a drinks reception at the venue.

About the author

Dr Priyanka Basu is a Lecturer in Performing Arts at the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King’s College London. She has previously worked as the Curator of the ‘Two Centuries of Indian Print’ project at the British Library. Her first monograph, The Poet’s Song: ‘Folk’ and its Cultural Politics in South Asia, has recently been published by Routledge (South Asian History and Cultural Series). She was a recipient of the Royal Historical Society Workshop Grant (2023) for her joint project with Prof. Ananya FBA Jahanara Kabir on ‘80 Years of the Bengal Famine: Decolonial Dialogues from the Global South’. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Royal Asiatic Society and Royal Anthropological Institute, a Graduate and Early Career Representative on the British Association for South Asian Studies (BASAS) Council, Working Group Coordinator at TaPRA and Historiography Working Group Co-Convenor at IFTR. Her research interests include cultural histories of theatre and performance, the intermediality of print and performance, gender, cinema, and dance studies.

About the discussants

Professor FBA Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature at King’s College London's Department of English. She researches the intersection of the written text with other forms of cultural expression within acts of collective memorialization and forgetting. For her innovative work in the Humanities, she received the Infosys Humanities Prize (2018), awarded by the Infosys Science Foundation, India, and the Humboldt Forschungspreis (Humboldt Prize, 2018), awarded by the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, Germany. She is currently writing ‘Alegropolitics: Connecting on the Afromodern Dance Floor.’ Her new research projects explore further the concepts of transoceanic creolization through cultural production across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.

Professor Emerita Ann R David was Professor of Dance and Cultural Engagement (Roehampton), and is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London in the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries. Her research and teaching specialisms are in dance anthropology (ritual, migration, diaspora, embodiment) and South Asian classical & popular dance. She has recently published her book - Ram Gopal: Histories of Interweaving in Indian Dance (Bloomsbury, UK). Her current interests are in creating cultures of (mutual) care in the arts that support an ecological dimension. This autumn, she will take up a Distinguished Professor Emeritus position at the University of Bonn, in the Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies.

Event schedule

17:00-17:15: Welcome & introductions

17:15-17:45: Talk by the author

17:45-18:15: Discussion

18:15-18:30: Q&A with the author

18:30-19:00: Drinks reception

At this event

Priyanka Basu

Lecturer in Performing Arts

Ananya Jahanara Kabir

Professor of English Literature

Event details

The Exchange
Bush House North East Wing, Aldwych , WC2B 4BG