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In the Una Strike of Gujarat of 2016, India witnessed one of the most powerful and aesthetic modes of protests and strikes in recent history.

The short-lived strike remains unparalleled in its evocation and precariousness. It used actions that were unsettling to the authorities. It brought the subjects and labouring bodies at the centre who are not conventionally seen as the politically "striking subjects." It deployed the art of disgust that was repulsive to the Hindu social order. The artwork of Una stood against the notion of purity. It unleashed danger at a sublime level. It appeared with terror and awe. It exposed the hypocrisy of entrenched caste system and its pervasive performative regime. But its larger significance seemed to be much larger than what it did. It has to do with how you strike to make a strike meaningful in a specific cultural context. While India has seen several such cultural and religious protests that have transgressed the boundaries, the Una strike, has underlined what I would like to term as an anti-performance stance.

While taking the knee as a symbolic mode of protest has been to an extent successful in the Black Lives Matter of the USA, it has symbolically failed in India. It also says that the mode of protest that works for one gender and class may not work for others. Some modes are more accessible to women and so-called lower castes. Some modes of protest only privilege civil society. The Una strike placed the question of cultural significance at the centre. The presentation aims to discuss the notion of strike in a specific cultural context and extending its meaning beyond the material and physical strike.

Speaker's Bio: Dr. Brahma Prakash

Dr. Brahma Prakash is a writer, cultural theorist and an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of critically acclaimed book, Cultural Labour: Conceptualizing the ‘Folk Performance’ in India (Oxford University Press, 2019) and Body on the Barricades: Life, Art and Resistance in Contemporary India (LeftWord 2023). He has also published in various research journals, including Asian Theatre Journal, Performance Research, South Asian History and Culture, Economic and Political Weekly and others. He was a fellow at the South Asia Institute at Heidelberg University, Germany (2021) and the CRASSH at Cambridge University, UK (2018-19). His popular columns on art, culture and politics frequently appear in Scroll, Wire, Outlook, Newsminute, Indian Cultural Forum and other media platforms. His opinions have also appeared in the BBC, Aljazeera, New Arab, Print and other popular podcasts in Hindi and English.

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