MPhil/PhD in Drama (NIAS) 

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Students undertake fieldwork between the Exeter and NIAS campuses. Having co-supervisors between the two institutions is considered a tremendous opportunity for students. The student cohort travel to India to work with their co-supervisors at NIAS and conduct fieldwork.

The department at Exeter is one of the largest and best equipped Drama departments in the UK and offer a supportive and stimulating environment for postgraduate research and practice, welcoming students from all around the world. Our impressive reputation is backed up by consistently high scores for student satisfaction. Whatever your field of study – theatre, performing, directing, theory, writing for performance, dramaturgy, criticism, new media, analysis or historiography – you will have access to expert supervision, excellent practical resources and creative association with fellow students. 

The department has a lively tradition of research and creative activity and many members of staff are writers and performers. We work with external artists and theatre companies to produce research-based theatre and performance. 

Current Students

Supervisors: Dr. Jerri Daboo (UoE) Professor Sangeetha Menon (NIAS)

Project Title: Dancing the Sensual Sculptures: Examining a sensory-somatic approach to contemporary Odissi dance.

Research Summary: Odissi is most often described as the most sensual and sculpturesque dance form of India. I took these two sensory and somatic ideas as the starting point and central theme of my investigation. This research explores the experience of dancing Odissi through a framework of sensory-somatic awareness that bridges body-mind sensations alongside the socio-cultural and aesthetic influences. It investigates the function and importance of senses in Odissi learning and performance. At the same time, it aims to heighten the awareness of bodymind conditioning and the conscious implementation of the senses in the understanding and undertaking of culturally rooted somatic practices. Through the analysis of a set of case studies undertaken in India and my personal experience as an Odissi dancer, I demonstrate that the embodied and sensory knowledge generated through the dancing experience is a crucial component in the meaning-making process referred to here as semiosis. This is an interdisciplinary research, primarily drawing from such disciplines as dance anthropology, anthropology of senses, dance phenomenology, Indian aesthetics as well as embodied and enactive philosophies.

Benefits of the NIAS-Exeter programme: Apart from easing the logistics of undertaking fieldwork and research in India and UK, the greatest benefit I have found in the NIAS-Exeter program is its interdisciplinary and flexible nature. It provides the research student with the multifaceted possibilities of experience, research and development by working across different institutions, departments and cultures.

Supervisors: Stephen Hodge (UoE) and Professor Carol Upadhya (NIAS)

Project Title: Drifting (through) Delhi: Interrupting Architectural Heritage and Memory on Foot

Research Summary: My project, which locates itself between performance studies and cultural anthropology, is an ongoing attempt to interrogate, broadly, the relationship between walking and the contemporary Indian city. While walking as a performance art is of equal interest to me, the scope of this project restricts itself to examining the nature of everyday walking and its ties to architecture, heritage and memory. Engaging with walking ethnographically, I consider a range of walks- heritage walks, commemorative memory walks and a form of the Situationist derive- in the city of Delhi (Old; New; others) to ask:

  • What can walking tell us about postcolonial architecture and imaginations that urban planning cannot?
  • What is the relationship between walking, memory and site, and how does contemporary Delhi illustrate this?
  • How do we encounter violent pasts through walking?
  • How does one read the city through these walks?
  • How are these cities shaped by these practices, and how do they emerge through them?

Benefits of the NIAS-Exeter Programme: The research communities at both ends not only help cover gaps in resources but frequently illuminate overlaps. The title is intangible histories, and it's pretty amazing how each of our projects has a different spin on the subject. We frequently learn from each other in unexpected ways too. It's also great to be exposed to such different research cultures. I never thought at the start of my project that my bibliography would see titles from anthropology and archaeology, for instance, but it is delightful how that has come to be.

Supervisors: Dr Katherine Newey (UoE) and Professor Carol Upadhya (NIAS)

Project Title: Indian Performances Exhibited, 1851-1914

Research Summary: My research traces the live display of Indians in exhibitions held in London between 1851-1914. The primary aim of my investigation is to discover what these living showcases were and to identify what was performed. My research will evaluate the purpose and tone of exhibitions to consider the meaning of Indian performance in these events, and will evaluate how the showcase of Indians in London produced a bias knowledge about India, its people, industry and culture. A part of this investigation is also concerned with the exhibitions that were held in India over the same period and close consideration will be made into the role of Indian performance in India.  My second area of interest lies in the people who performed in Indian displays. I aim to discover how exhibited people were organised and treated. I’m interested in consent issues, contracts and payment.

Benefits of the NIAS- Exeter Programme: The programme enables me to conduct original archival work in both India and the UK. The programme also enables me to benefit from interdisciplinary supervision, uniting anthropology and performance history perspectives which are both central to my area of research.​

Supervisory Staff

Jerri Daboo is the Director of Postgraduate Research for the Department of Drama. She worked professionally as a performer, director and teacher for fifteen years. Her work moves across a number of different cultures, practices and performance forms, inlcuding acting, music and dance. Her research and teaching focus on a range of diverse areas, which explore issues of the body, mind, culture and identity in training and performance. Her practical and theoretical research areas take an intercultural and interdisciplinary approach to examining actor and dancer training and performance; the work of Michael Chekhov; ritual performance, with a focus on the Southern Italian ritual of tarantism; and the connection between culture, place and identity, with particular reference to the British South Asian community.

+44 (0)1392 724534

Stephen Hodge is Head of Drama and a member of the Department's Centre for Contemporary Practices. His research and teaching both focus on contemporary performance (site-specific performance & performance-related practices, and live art). Stephen is a core member of Wrights & Sites. Formed in Exeter, 1997, Wrights & Sites are four artist-researchers whose work is focused on peoples' relationships to places, cities and walking. They employ disrupted walking strategies as tools for playful debate, collaboration, intervention and spatial meaning-making.

+44 (0)1392 724524

Katherine Newey is an historian of nineteenth century British literature and culture, specialising in teaching and research in theatre history and women's writing. Katherine has published on Frankenstein, Jane Austen, Victorian women playwrights, Fanny Kemble, Australian theatre, Victorian theatre and popular culture, and John Ruskin. She is currently leading an AHRC-funded project on Victorian Pantomime: ‘A Cultural History of English Pantomime, 1837 – 1901.’

+44 (0)1392 724529

Cathy Turner‌In the 1990s, Cathy Turner worked as a playwright for some years, mainly working in rural touring and small-scale studio work, sometimes within devising processes. Increasingly, she became interested in live art practices and the investigation of place. This was particularly evident in her collaboration with Stephen Hodge, Phil Smith and Simon Persighetti, as Wrights & Sites (founded in 1997). Cathy's interest in dramaturgy grew out of her continuing interest in writing and its various contexts, but has expanded to include other performance forms, paralleling her work as an artist. She am now particularly interested in the relationship between dramaturgy and architecture, and between walking and performance.

+44 (0)1392 722426

News Stories

India-Exeter partnership goes from strength to strength

The College of Humanities welcomed Professors Narendar Pani, Anindya Sinha, Sharada Srinivasan, Carol Upadhya, and Dr Smriti Haricharan from Bangalore's National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), on a recent visit.

From archaeometallurgy in Telangana to flashmobs in Delhi: Exeter-NIAS postgraduate programme continues to thrive.

Earlier this year staff from the College of Humanities and the International Office travelled to the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore to participate in a review of student’s progression as part of an annual series of meetings to discuss the ongoing development of the Exeter-NIAS split-site postgraduate degree programme.

Archaeology and Drama departments receive delegation from India as alliance with National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore matures

The College was delighted to host a delegation of esteemed colleagues from the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) Bangalore last week. The group visited the College as part of an annual series of meetings to discuss the ongoing development of the Exeter-NIAS split-site postgraduate degree programme.

Exeter welcomes India's National Institute of Advanced Studies

The University of Exeter was delighted to welcome Professor VS Ramamurthy, Director of the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bangalore, and senior colleagues for a three-day visit earlier this week. Professor Ramamurthy was joined by Professor S Settar, Professor S Ranganathan and Dr Sharada Srinivasan.

Humanities split-site PhD project spans across UK and India

An exciting new initiative within the Departments of Archaeology and Drama is going from strength to strength, as an inaugural group of students and supervisors assemble for the first time in Exeter. 

College of Humanities to develop PHDs with the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore

The College of Humanities has been awarded two UK India Education Research Initiative grants to develop split site PhDs, in Archaeology and Drama, with the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India. 

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