"Provincializing English," Globalizing Indian English Drama

Nandi Bhatia


Through a discussion of Mahesh Dattani’s Seven Steps Around the Fire, the first full-length play about hijras that was initially commissioned by the BBC as a radio play in 1999 and was performed in Mississauga in September 2013, this essay highlights the contribution of Indian English drama in attempting to raise global awareness about socially marginalized groups such as the hijra across international sites and contexts. The discussion is informed by debates about the position of English in India, debates that emphasize the need to acknowledge English’s plurality and its various registers and that also suggest the importance of "provincializing" it in order to scale down the power it commands. However, while most discussions remain focused on the novel and the written text, the prominence accorded to drama in this essay calls attention to the contradictions that continue to mark this genre: while the English language facilitates its global mobility and provides it with an international presence, it simultaneously results in the relegation of this drama to the edges of the overarching category of “Indian” drama because it is written and performed in a language associated with class privilege and colonization in India and is therefore seen as not “Indian.”


drama, theatre, jijra, Dattani, gender

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