Journal article / Gift Transactions in Drumming Pedagogy

Rolf Groesbeck. 2018. “Gift as Devotion, Lesson as Tuition: Transactions Among Temple and Dance-Drama Drummers in Kerala“, International Journal of Hindu Studies, 22 (2): 217-233.

Abstract: This article juxtaposes a notion of “gift” as construction of submission and devotion with a concept of lesson as something to be purchased for a fixed fee, as both relate to drumming pedagogy in Kerala.

It discusses how guru dakṣiṇa (a ritual marking the beginning of study and a ceremonial first performance) and a pattern of irregular and grandiose remuneration construct the student’s submission to his teacher, both in private contexts and in institutions.

However, the system at a state arts institution partly undercuts this practice; here, students, especially non-Malayāḷis, pay monthly, semesterly, or annual fees to the institution.

The impersonal nature of this arrangement contrasts with the intimacy inherent in patterns of remuneration in private contexts, yet at the same time guru dakṣiṇa and other traditional practices continue in the institution.

Thus the institution features an uneasy coexistence between a notion of pedagogy as regular payment—something close to “commodity”—and one of construction of submission, mixed with intimacy and devotion.

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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup