Online Book Launch

The Colonial Public and the Parsi Stage: The Making of the Theatre of Empire (1853-1893)


The Colonial Public and the Parsi Stage: The Making of the Theatre of Empire (1853-1893) is the first comprehensive study of the Parsi theatre, colonial South and Southeast Asia’s most influential cultural phenomenon and the precursor of the Indian cinema industry. By providing extensive, unpublished information on its first actors, audiences, production methods, and plays, this book traces how the theatre—which was one of the first in the Indian subcontinent to adopt European stagecraft—transformed into a pan-Asian entertainment industry in the second half of the nineteenth century. Nicholson sheds light on the motivations that led to the development of the popular, commercial theatre movement in Asia through three areas of investigation: the vernacular public sphere, the emergence of competing visions of nationhood, and the narratological function that women served within a continually shifting socio-political order. The book will be of interest to scholars across several disciplines, including cultural history, gender studies, Victorian studies, the sociology of religion, colonialism, and theatre.

Rashna Darius Nicholson
, Assistant Professor, School of English, University of Hong Kong

Jo Robinson
, Professor of Theatre and Performance, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University
Alastair McClure, Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Hong Kong.

Soo Ryon Yoon, Assistant Professor in Cultural Studies, Lingnan University 

Rashna Darius Nicholson is a cultural historian who holds a PhD (summa cum laude) in Theatre Studies from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. She is Barbro Klein Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study and Luce East Asia Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 2021-22. In addition to her recently published monograph The Colonial Public and the Parsi Stage: The Making of the Theatre of Empire (1853-1893), her recent work on nineteenth and twentieth century South Asian and Palestinian theatre history and historiography has been published in Theatre Research International, Theatre Survey, Ethnic and Racial Studies and South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies. She is currently working on two projects: the influence of the Rockefeller and Ford foundations on theatre in the Global South during and after the Cold War and the lost theatre buildings of Hong Kong.

Jo Robinson’s research focuses on the histories and practice of regional theatre and performance. Key publications include Theatre & the Rural (2016) and her earlier provocation 'Becoming More Provincial: the global and the local in theatre history' (New Theatre Quarterly, 2007). Her research also focuses on the ways in which the methods that we use to research and share those stories can shape our knowledge. This has led to work with communities of citizen scholars in Nottingham to co-research and co-curate the history of the city’s Theatre Royal and other local cultural institutions (See and Two co-edited publications with Claire Cochrane, Theatre History and Historiography: Ethics, Evidence and Truth (2016) and The Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography (2019) reflect Jo’s interests in historiographic method.

Alastair McClure is a historian of modern South Asia and the British Empire. His current research and teaching focuses on legal history, and he is in the midst of finishing a book that examines crime and punishment in India in the late 19th and early 20th century.

28 Sept 2021 (Tue)

7 pm (GMT+8 HK);
12 pm (GMT+1 London)

Online via Zoom