22 March, 2021
It is with so much pleasure that the co-convenors of the IFTR Performance and Disability Working Group announce the 2021 recipient of the inaugural IFTR New Scholars Award in Disability Performance is Akhila Vimal. This award was established in honour of co-founding member Yvonne Schmidt who went on to co-convene the group for 10 years and it recognises scholarship from underrepresented parts of the world, especially by disabled artist-scholars.
Akhila Vimal is an emerging disability scholar and has been an active member of the IFTR Performance and Disability Working Group since 2014. Akhila has recently submitted her doctoral thesis entitled ‘Performing Disfiguration: Pain, Affect and Staging of Relationalities in Classical and Ritual-Healing Performances of Kerala’ at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Currently, she is working towards converting her thesis into a monograph, focussing on disfiguration in the classical and ritual-healing performances of Kerala, namely, Kathakal̤i, Kūṭiyāṭṭaṃ and the folk performance of Tĕyyaṃ. The study uses ‘pain’ and ‘affect’ as two significant categories to understand the potential of performing disfiguration in challenging the normative narratives embedded in classical performances. This is born out of her own experience as a trained dancer who has had occasional periods of loss of vision since the age of 19. Her next research project will be developing an experimental curriculum for dancers with visual disability, which she refers to as the 'Pedagogy of Perform-ability'.
Akhila's notable publications include ‘Performing Disfiguration: Staging of relationalities in PottanTeyyam’ in Performance Research in 2019, ‘Performing Disability: Representation and Power in ‘Classical’ Indian Dance’ in Bree Hadley and Donna McDonald's edited collection The Routledge Handbook of Disability Arts, Culture, and Media in 2018, and ‘Prosthetic Rasa: Dance on Wheels and Challenged Kinaesthetics,’ in Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance guest-edited by Yvonne Schmidt, Mark Swetz and Carrie Sandahl in 2017.
On behalf of all members in the IFTR Performance and Disability Working Group and the IFTR Executive Committee, we would like to congratulate Akhila on her outstanding contributions to the burgeoning subfield of disability performance. We commend her promising and important research to date and look forward to seeing her future projects from her rich perspective as an artist-scholar living in India.