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subject or Subject !!!

With lot of thought on and about ‘Ideology’, ‘Ideologies’ and ‘Apparatuses of the State’, Theatre practice in the University of Delhi has evolved over the time and seemingly is an apt platform for young minds to question, says the noted theatre critic Kuljeet Singh.

“Ideas have disappeared as such (insofar as they are endowed with an ideal or spiritual existence), to the precise extent that it has emerged that their existence is inscribed in the actions of practices governed by rituals defined in the last instance by an ideological apparatus. It therefore appears that the subject acts insofar as he is acted by the following system (set out in the order of its real determination): ideology existing in a material ideological apparatus, describing material practices governed by a material ritual, which practices exist in the material actions of a subject acting in all consciousness according to his belief.”

Theatre, by nature, questions. It questions the basic ones to the logical, need not provide answer to all or some but essentially revolts the illogical, stirs the psyche, provokes the character, terrorises the mind, thrills the notion, at times attacks and leaves one disturbed. Since its inception (Greek Theatre or Morality Plays or Performances in the temples), the medium of Theatre is employed to communicate strong social and political opinions to masses.

Theatre creates consciousness to discriminate between ‘subject’ and ‘Subject’. Individual in the society is a byproduct of capitalist mode of production and theatre examines the ideology, which in turn makes or creates the Individual-subject. The Individual-subject, when tickled reacts and poses a question to the state, which sponsors ‘Subjecthood’ through its ideology through Schools, University, Institutes, Organisation and Establishments. These apparatuses thus proliferate the ideology of the state and create Individual-subjects, according to their whims and fancies, favouring State’s manifesto and desire.    

The State is the kind of governmental formation that arises with capitalism; a state (and you can substitute the word "nation" here to help conceptualize what the "State" is) is determined by the capitalist mode of production and formed to protect its interests. It is historically true (whether you are a Marxist or not) that the idea of nations as discrete units is coterminous with capitalism. It is also possible that democracy, as an ideology and/or a governmental form is also coterminous with capitalism, as democracy gives the "illusion" that all people are equal, and have equal power (and hence masks relations of economic exploitation).

In retrospect, the Individual-subjects have been raising their voice and Universities have been the platform for the same in different genre; theatre being the foremost. Various College Drama groups of the University of Delhi have indulged themselves in raising the repressive voice of the ‘subject’. Not only ably they communicated the idea but also successfully kept a check on the attitude and nature of the governing ideology. Faintly one can think of so many theatre productions; significant ones leave a mark on the memory. Khade hain Lathi tane (Armed to defend), a street play by Kirori Mal College is one of those which clearly articulates the mechanism for insuring that people within a State behave according to the rules of that State, even when it's not in their best interests (in regards to their class positions) to do so.

In another stage adaptation of Barrie Keefee’s SUS, the performers of Gargi College point out what Althusser calls the RSA, or Repressive State Apparatuses, that can enforce behaviour directly, such as the police, and the criminal justice and prison system. Through these "apparatuses" the state has the power to force you physically to behave. ‘Shak’ (Indian adaptation of SUS) is a testimony to communal profiting. The play is essentially political, an outcry not just against communalism but also against emerging neo-fascism. It leaves the audience wondering that how easily laws are moulded to suit the ideologies of people in power when they develop a sense of security in the top wrung of the hierarchical ladder.
More importantly for literary studies, however, the other mechanism Althusser investigates, which he calls ISAs, or Ideological State Apparatuses. These are institutions, which generate ideologies, which we as individuals (and groups) then internalize, and act in accordance with. These ISAs include schools, religions, the family, legal systems, politics, arts, sports, etc. These organisations generate systems of ideas and values, which we as individuals believe (or don't believe). How do we come to internalize, to believe, the ideologies that these ISAs create, (and thus misrecognise or misrepresent ourselves as non-alienated subjects in capitalism). This representation of ‘subject’ is deftly dealt in EIGHT by the students of Lady Shriram College. Eight is a self scripted play with an unusual culmination questioning the possibility of escaping consequences.

Another very pertinent production by Players’ (KMC) is an adaptation of Barrie Keffee’s GOTCHA. Dhappa articulates the incendiary disaffection of those marginalized by a class-bound public school system. It depicts the loneliness of the also-ran., the despair of those who struggle to stay abreast in the race but find their own mediocrity holding them back. On his last day at school, a Class XII student challenges the values by which students are chained to their masters. His protest is against an education system that mainly looks after itself and rewards only excellence, without any concern for the average student. The tables are turned but briefly, as the rebel discovers the difficulty of giving his rage a constructive direction.

With lot of thought on and about ‘Ideology’, ‘Ideologies’ and ‘Apparatuses of the State’, Theatre practise in the University of Delhi has evolved over the time and seemingly is an apt platform for young minds to question…


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