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South Asia Department

Ms Priyanka Basu

BA (Honours) English Literature (Calcutta); MA English (Jawaharlal Nehru University); MPhil (Jawaharlal Nehru University)


Priyanka Basu
Department of the Languages and Cultures of South Asia

PhD Candidate

Ms Priyanka Basu
Email address:
Thesis title:
‘Cockfight in Tune: Reading Nations, Communities and Performance in the “Bengali” Kobigaan’
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


Having done my MA and MPhil in English Studies, I have developed a continuing interest in performance and Performance Studies which reflect upon the PhD research that I have undertaken at SOAS. My training in English Studies and related areas has acquainted me with African, Australian, American and Indian Literatures along with cultural histories of theatre, dance and music. My areas of interest revolve around Performance Studies, Dance Studies, Literature and Gender in Performance, Cultural Histories (with special emphasis on Bengal and India), and Nineteenth Century Bengal.

PhD Research

My PhD research looks at a specific form of performance—the ‘Bengali’ Kobigaan, a late 18th century- early 19th century form of urban popular entertainment that emerged in the transition period between the gradual waning of Vaishnavite culture and the burgeoning of both Bengali prose and Bengali theatre, faded out slowly in western Bengal to continue in a rejuvenated religious package in Bangladesh.

The proposed research on Kobigaan aims to look at the form from a three-fold perspective so as to re-read into the dynamics of change within an art form:

  1. the ‘original’ form of Kobigaan, that sprang in the parlours and streets of late eighteenth-early nineteenth century colonial Calcutta, under the regular patronage of the ‘bhadrolok’ and the vexations of the English missionaries and was accompanied by allied forms of popular performances like the Jatra, Panchali, Kheur, Tarja, Akhrai, Half Akhrai and so on
  2. the ‘continued’ form of Kobigaan that still finds a niche in the rural/urban space of Bangladesh—the Baishakhi fairs of the Bengali New Year of Bangladesh (Pohela Biashakh)

the ‘popular’ notion of Kobigaan, that has been ‘romanticized’ through films like Anthony Firingi and Bhola Moira and have remained the crux of the Kobigaan entertainments in the performance spaces of the winter fair (Poush Mela) in Shantiniketan every year.

PhD Publications

  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘Book Review’ of Urmimala Sarkar Munsi (ed.), Dance: Transcending Borders, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2008, Contemporary Perspectives: History and Sociology of South Asia, Vol. 3, No. 1, January-June, 2009, pp. 171-175.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘Bollywood Item Numbers: A Carnival out of Everyday’ in the Proceedings of Re-Searching Dance: International Conference on Dance Research, 28.11.09-01.12.09, New Delhi.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘Bollywood Item Numbers: A Carnival out of Everyday’ in the Proceedings of C PRACSIS International Conference on Body, Space and Technology in Performance, 15.01.10-16.01.10, Thrissur, Kerala.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘From the Profane to the Proscenium: Re-reading the Early Farces of Colonial Bengal’ in the Proceedings of International Congress of Bengal Studies, 25.02.10-28.02.10, University of Delhi, India.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘The Beauty Myth and Beyond: Looking at the Bollywood “Item Number”’, in Urmimala Sarkar and Stephanie Burridge (eds), Celebrating Dance in India, New Delhi: Routledge, 2010.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘The Five Senses in an “Alien” Land: Experiencing Diaspora as “Performance” in Jhumpa Lahiri’, in Abin Chakraborty and Sayan Aich Bhowmik (eds), Uneven Terrains: Critical Perspectives on Postcolonialism, Kolkata: Booklore, 2010.
  • Basu, Priyanka. ‘Book Review’ of Jeanne Openshaw, The Life and Philosophy of a Dissenting Bengali Baul Guru, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010, in Indian Journal for Gender Studies, Vol. 18, Issue 3 (September–December), New Delhi: Sage Publications.
  • (Forthcoming) Basu, Priyanka. The Big Book of Green Quotations, New Delhi: TERI Press, 2010.
  • (Forthcoming) Paper entitled ‘To Be or Not To Be: The “Hindu” and “Muslim” Content of Kobigaan as Popular Culture Traversing Two Bengals’, in the Proceedings/Journal of the UGC Sponsored Two Day National Level Interdisciplinary Seminar on Religion and Popular Culture in the Indian Sub-continent, 07.12.10-08.12.10, Bethune College, University of Calcutta, Kolkata.