Mimetic Desires: Impersonation and Guising across South Asia

Hardback: $68.00
ISBN-13: 9780824892777
Published: November 2022
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824894092
Published: August 2023

Additional Information

300 pages | 29 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • Through an exploration of subjects such as Gandhi impersonators, performance artists, and ritual participants, Mimetic Desires makes an intervention toward understanding the phenomenon of impersonation and guising in South Asia and the world. This volume defines impersonation as the temporary assumption of an identity or guise in social and aesthetic performance that is perceived as not one’s own, and guising as sartorial and kinetic play more generally. Interrogating the legitimacy of the purported dialectic between the “real/original” and “fake/dupe,” Mimetic Desires refutes the ordering of identity along the lines of a binary or dichotomy that presupposes the myth of an original identity. By peeling back the layers of performative masks to reveal the process of the masquerade itself, we can see that those with the most social capital are often those with the most power and opportunities to impersonate “up” and “down” social hierarchies.

    The book’s twelve chapters disclose sites and processes of sociopolitical power facilitated by normative markers of social status relating to race, ethnicity, gender, caste, class, and religion—and how those markers can be manipulated to express and enhance individual and group power. The first comprehensive study to focus on impersonation in South Asia, Mimetic Desires expands on previous scholarship on impersonation and guising in vernacular theatre, dance, public processions, and religious rituals. It is particularly in conversation with the robust scholarship on gender performance in South Asia’s theatrical and dance forms. Mimetic Desires explores some of the contexts and forms of impersonation in South Asia, with its remarkable array of performing arts, to gain insight into the very human and quotidian practices of impersonation and guising.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Harshita Mruthinti Kamath, Editor

      Harshita Mruthinti Kamath is Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Associate Professor of Telugu Culture, Literature and History at Emory University.
    • Pamela Lothspeich, Editor

      Pamela Lothspeich is associate professor of South Asian studies in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and director of the New Faculty Program in the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


    • Christian Lee Novetzke
    • Kellen Hoxworth
    • Rosie Thomas
    • Chaya Chandrasekhar
    • Janice Glowski
    • Sumathi Ramaswamy
    • Shehzad Nadeem
    • Aniruddha Dutta
    • Claire Pamment
    • Shilpa Parthan
    • Sailaja Krishnamurti
    • Rich Freeman
    • Pamela Lothspeich
    • Harshita Mruthinti Kamath