Accepted paper:

“Arthur Murrays” exposed: difference, similarity and a return to the dancefloor

Author:

Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at a fieldtrip the length of California testing the Arthur Murray dance studios and their free dance introduction lessons. This dance lesson exercise highlights some of the difficulties faced by anthropologists making return studies where skills, personalities and even presentation are subject to change, thus calling into question the nature of ethnographic comparison itself.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at a fieldtrip the length of California testing the Arthur Murray dance studios and their free dance introduction lessons. Each dance studio is part of a franchise offering similar services, but the teachers and locations vary. So too does the dancer: in this case, the anthropologist visited 9 different studios and assumed the identity of a different type of dancer with different abilities and motives to examine the interactions on the dance floor and in the dance package hard sell. The experience revealed a student-teacher interaction based upon dominance and sexuality, knowledge and coercion, but also one dependent upon the presumed personality of the anthropologist. This dance lesson exercise highlights some of the difficulties faced by anthropologists making return studies where skills, personalities and even presentation are subject to change, thus calling into question the nature of ethnographic comparison itself.

panel W114
Returning to the field: experiences and dilemmas in re-studies