A Critical Stage - The Role of Secular Alternative Theatre in Pakistan

A Critical Stage - The Role of Secular Alternative Theatre in Pakistan

Product ID: 14922

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Author: Fawzia Afzal-Khan
Publisher: Seagull Books
Year: 2005
Language: English
Pages: 143
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8170462754


Starting with examining the reasons why theatre failed to take root and develop in Pakistan, this book studies the critical role played by alternative or parallel theatre in the civil society of Pakistan. This theatre is seen as a vanguard of intellectuals and cultural activists, concerned not only with producing plays, but also with developing theatre as a tool both of conscientization over repressive norms and customs, and of resistance to oppressive state policies, thus broadening the scope of the term ‘theatre’ to encompass the notion of theatre-in-development.

This book argues that secular alternative theatre in Pakistan since the late twentieth century is a locus of cultural conflict, wherein concerns such as women’s and minorities’ rights, class and gender issues, language politics and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism are defined and contested in the evolving and often conflictive relationship between the Pakistani State and Pakistani society. Additionally, there is a look at instances of experimental theatre in New York post-9/11 through which the author develops an argument about the performance of identity, both within Pakistan and globally.


A timely contribution to South Asian theatre studies and beyond. Providing extensive case studies of the parallel or alternative theatre from diverse regions in Pakistan, it engages with questions of the State and artistic / aesthetic space, the role of religion and women’s rights in shaping this space, its artistic daring, successes and failures. These are issues critical to the entire South Asian region: that a theatre of protest emerges, despite its contradictions and against all odds, is a celebration of the region’s struggles for greater democracy, plurality and tolerance.
—NELOUFER DE MEL, University of Columbo, Sri Lanka

Fawzia Afzal-Khan is that rare person who is as fine a thinker and writer as she is artist and activist. A fierce advocate of free expression and women’s rights, her book is a triumph of scholarship-and an exciting, up-close account of what it’s like to do radical street theatre in today’s Pakistan.

While she debunks some stereotypes and dislocates other prevailing cliches about Pakistani society and Pakistani women, Fawzia’s very persona, an educated, professional Pakistani/Muslim woman performer, challenges the prevailing outsider’s stereotypes about Muslim women-passive, victimized and oppressed.



PROLOGUE: A Word about the Theatre Landscape of Pakistan

The Role of Parallel Theatre in Contemporary Pakistan

Postcolonial Desire: Seeking Methodology, Performing Identity

Gender and Class: The Case of Ajoka and Lok Rehas in Pakistani Punjab

Pakistani Community Theatre and The NGO Movement

Expose by Pakistani Alternative Theatre: An Unholy Alliance


The Female body as site of Attack: Will the Real Muslim Woman’s body Please Reveal Itself?

APPENDIX: Selected Pakistani Theatre Personalities and Institutions: Some Notes