Performing the Uncanny: Psychoanalysis, Aesthetics and the Digital Double

  • Suparna Banerjee


The chapter opens up a space for investigating how the Freudian notion of the “uncanny” can be utilised as a choreographic and a research device to analyse contemporary/Bharatanatyam danceworks. Drawing on practice, it demonstrates how the celebration of techno-human bodies by contemporary choreographers has not only provided room for expressing artistic subjectivities but has also expanded the psycho-visual aesthetics of performance. Furthermore, a critical discussion allows the readers to comprehend how the scope of Bharatanatyam as a cultural dance in Britain has been broadened through the art of technological doubling. Locating it at the intersection of the Freudian psychoanalysis and theories based on the digital body, Banerjee argues that these works connect the organic to the digital, the fictional to the personal, and the experiential to the social.



A fragment of this chapter appeared in my doctoral thesis, and I am thankful to my doctoral supervisors—Andrée Grau, Ann R. David and Avanthi Meduri—for their generous advice. Later, it was substantially developed and presented at the Digital Echoes Symposium at Coventry University in 2015. I wish to extend my gratitude to Sarah Whatley and Matthew Causey for their comments on my presentation. Thanks are also due to the reviewers who provided constructive feedback, Jingqiu Guan, Jessica Fiala and Pritika Agarwal for lending their critical eyes on my writing and the artists (Divya Kasturi, Kamala Devam and Seeta Patel) for their enthusiastic support.


  1. Auslander, Philip. 1999. Liveness, Performance in a Mediatized Culture. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Balasaraswati. 1978. On Bharata Natyam. Dance Chronicle 2 (2): 106–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Banerjee, Suparna. 2009. Quest for Authenticity in Indian Classical Dance: Innovations and Hybridization of Bharatanatyam on [the] Global Stage. The Global Studies Journal 2 (3): 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. ———. 2014. Emerging Contemporary Bharatanatyam Choreoscape in Britain: The City, Hybridity and Technoculture. PhD diss., University of Roehampton.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 2015. Performing/Writing Heterotopia: Dislocated Places and Fragmented Temporality. In Writing Dancing/Dancing Writing, Proceedings SDHS-CORD Joint 2014 Conference, SDHS Web Publication, pp. 15–25.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 2017. Classical Dance Takes a Global Spin in the New Age. Accessed 29 April 2017.
  7. Barlingay, Surendra Sheodas. 1981. What Did Bharata Mean by Rasa? Indian Philosohical Quarterly VIII (4): 433–456.Google Scholar
  8. Baudrillard, Jean. 1994 [1981]. Simulacra and Simulation. Translated from French by Sheila F. Glaser. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  9. Beardon, Colin, and Gavin Carver, eds. 2004. New Visions in Performance: The Impact of Digital Technologies. Abingdon: Swets and Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  10. Beckett, Samuel. 1958 [1957]. Endgame: A Play in One Act, Followed by Act Without Words, a Mime for One Player (Vol. 96). Translated from French by Samuel Beckett. London and New York: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  11. Botting, Fred. 1991. Making Monstrous. Frankenstein, Criticism, Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Briginshaw, Valerie A. 2001. ‘Hybridity and Nomadic Subjectivity’ in Shobana Jeyasingh’s ‘Duets with Automobiles’. In Dance, Space and Subjectivity, 97–109. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Broadhurst, Susan, and Josephine Machon, eds. 2006. Performance and Technology: Practices of Virtual Embodiment and Interactivity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  14. Causey, Matthew. 1999. Screen Test of the Double: The Uncanny Performer in the Space of Technology. Theatre Journal 51 (4): 383–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ———. 2006. Theatre and Performance in Digital Culture: From Simulation to Embeddedness. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Coorlawala, Uttara A. 2004. The Sanskritized Body. Dance Research Journal 36 (2): 50–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dixon, Steve. 2007. Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Freud, Sigmund. 1955 [1919]. The Uncanny. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917–1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works. Edited and translated from German by James Strachey, 217–256. London: The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho-Analysis.Google Scholar
  19. Jentsch, Ernst. 1996 [1906]. On the Psychology of the Uncanny. Translated from German by Sellars Roy. Angelaki: A New Journal in Philosophy, Literature, and the Social Sciences 2: 7–21.Google Scholar
  20. Johnson, Laurie R. 2010. Aesthetic Anxiety: Uncanny Symptoms in German Literature and Culture. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
  21. Katrak, Ketu H. 2011. Contemporary Indian Dance: New Creative Choreography in India and the Diaspora. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kelley, Mike. 2004. The Uncanny. Cologne: Walther König.Google Scholar
  23. Kersenboom, Saskia C. 1987. Nityasumangali Devadasi Tradition in South India. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Kligerman, Eric. 2007. Sites of the Uncanny: Paul Celan, Specularity and the Visual Arts. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kothari, Sunil. 2003. New Directions in Indian Dance. New Delhi: Marg Publication.Google Scholar
  26. Labriola, Patrick. 2002. Edgar Allan Poe and E.T.A. Hoffmann: The Double in William Wilson and The Devil’s Elixirs. The International Fiction Review 29: 69–77.Google Scholar
  27. Lacan, Jacques. 1977 [1949]. Ecrits: A Selection. Translated from French by Alan Sheridan. London: Tavistock Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Linville, Susan E. 2004. History Films, Women, and Freud’s Uncanny. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  29. Lopez y Royo, Alessandra. 2010. Indian Classical Dance: A Sacred Art? The Journal of Hindu Studies 3 (1): 114–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meduri, Avanthi. 1996. Nation, Woman, Representation: The Sutured History of the Devadasi and Her Dance. PhD thesis, New York University.Google Scholar
  31. ———. 2004. Bharatanatyam as a Global Dance: Some Issues in Research, Teaching, and Practice. Dance Research Journal 36 (2): 11–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. O’Shea, Janet. 2007. At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  33. ———. 2008. Unbalancing the Authentic/Partnering Classicism: Shobana Jeyasingh’s Choreography and the Bharata Natyam ‘Tradition’. In Decentring Dancing Texts: The Challenge of Interpreting Dances, ed. Janet Landsdale, 38–54. Basingsoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Phelan, Peggy. 1993. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rank, Otto. 1958 [1941]. Beyond Psychology. New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  36. Rogers, Robert. 1970. A Psychoanalytic Study of the Double in Literature. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Ronell, Avital. 1989. The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  38. Royle, Nicholas. 2003. The Uncanny. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Schneider, Steven Jay, ed. 2004. Horror Film and Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Worst Nightmare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Slethaug, Gordon. 1993. The History of the Double: Traditional and Postmodern Versions. In The Play of the Double in Postmodern American Fiction, 7–32. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Soneji, Davesh, ed. 2010. Bharatanatyam: A Reader. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Spadoni, Robert. 2007. Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound Film and the Origins of the Horror Genre. Berkeley and Los Angelos: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  43. Srinivasan, Amrit. 1985. Reform and Revival: The Devadasi and Her Dance. Economic and Political Weekly 20 (44): 1869–1876.Google Scholar
  44. Turner, Victor. 1974. Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Vidler, Anthony. 1992. The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suparna Banerjee
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent ScholarPuneIndia

Personalised recommendations