Leah Lowthorp

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Oregon, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10178

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Lowthorp, Leah (Oregon, U. of) "Deep Cosmopolitanism: Kutiyattam, Dynamic Tradition, and Globalizing Heritage in Kerala, India"

Deep Cosmopolitanism is an ethnographic study of the world’s oldest continuously performed theater—Kutiyattam Sanskrit theater of Kerala, India—that offers a unique perspective on cosmopolitanism, heritage, and tradition over the longue durée. The project considers the matrilineal South Asian temple art, with elite upper-caste roots yet economically marginalized and caste-diverse performers, in the context of its inscription as India’s first UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). Arguing that the UNESCO ICH program’s endangered-local to safeguarded-global trajectory reproduces problematic cultural hierarchies rooted in colonialist ideologies of white supremacy, the book proposes an alternative narrative that tells the story of a UNESCO ICH form on its own terms. Positioning Kutiyattam within a much older South Asian global-to-global trajectory that begins in the 10th century CE, Deep Cosmopolitanism opens up a new approach to cosmopolitanism by challenging wider Eurocentric cosmopolitan genealogies and assumptions about what it means to be cosmopolitan, traditional, and modern in the world today. Through an ethnographic exploration of unprecedented temporal depth, the project centers artist conceptions of UNESCO designation as simply one act of a much longer play, and in the process expands cosmopolitan possibilities.