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Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case - A Project by Zuleikha Chaudhari (Session 2/3)

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building, 541

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Session 2: Roundtable with 'Expert Witnesses'

Participants: Piyel Haldar, Kanika Sharma and Mayur Suresh

The participants will engage with select materials from the archives of the Bhawal court case to explore the rich array of questions it raises concerning history, memory, evidence, truth, identity, law as archive, and performativity.

Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case - A Project by Zuleikha Chaudhari

8, 15, 20 June 2017

Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case was instigated by an album of about 90 photographs that were used as evidence in the Bhawal court case, currently part of the Alkazi Collection of Photography.

The Bhawal case was an extended pre-independence Indian court case about a possible impostor claiming to be the second Kumar of Bhawal, Ramendra Narayan Roy, who was presumed dead a decade earlier. The claim was contested both by the British Court of Wards and by his widow, Bibhabati Devi. The case was on trial from 1930 to 1946. Over the course of sixteen years, the man's physical attributes, birthmarks, portraits, testimonies and memory were put together as forensic evidence to establish his identity. Hundreds of witnesses, including doctors, photographers, prostitutes, peasants, revenue collectors, tenants, holy men, magistrates, handwriting experts, relatives, soldiers and passersby were deposed. The case went from a lower court in Dhaka to the High Court of Calcutta to the Privy Council in London.

The project uses this trial about a possible impostor to re-examine the enormous archive that the case produced through performance as a method of problematising the notions of evidence, archive, identity, and most importantly, the question of law as performance; the role of performance in law and the performativity of legal truth-production.

About Zuleikha Chaudhari

Zuleikha Chaudhari is a theatre director and lighting designer based in Delhi and Mumbai. Her works shift between theatre and installation as investigations into landscapes that are neither real nor imagined and at the centre engages with the role of the viewer in the performative experience. Chaudhari is interested the framework of law as performance, the role of performance in law, and the performativity of legal truth-production. Chaudhari's works have been shown in performance festivals, galleries and exhibitions in United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Vienna, South Africa, South Korea, China, Japan, The Netherlands, Pakistan and India. She was awarded the Sangeeta Natak Academy's Yuva Puruskar in 2007 and the Charles Wallace India Trust Award in 2001.

For details of Session 3 please visit here

This event is organised by Centre for Law and the Humanities and School of Law, Birkbeck

Please be advised that photographs may be taken at the event for use on the Birkbeck website and in Birkbeck marketing materials. By attending this event, you consent to Birkbeck photographing and using your image for these purposes.


Piyel Haldar, Kanika Sharma and Mayur Suresh

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