EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Collaborative intimacies in music and dance: anthropologies in/of sound and movement

Location A-303
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00


Evangelos Chrysagis (University of Edinburgh) email
Panas Karampampas (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

By focusing upon music and dance this panel considers the spatial, bodily and ethical practices involved in these forms of cultural production and highlights the ontological and methodological significance of sound and movement in anthropological research.

Long Abstract

This panel aims to explore music and dance as social practices and processes. In attending ethnographically to their distinctive importance in everyday life we seek to examine the collaborative intimacies that music and dance enact across spatial, bodily and ethical registers. Moreover, we intend to address methodological questions that stem from fieldwork collaborations between researcher and participants, and to problematise the ontological relation between movement, sound and the fieldworker's body.

Rather than perceiving activities under the music/dance rubric as peripheral and haphazard we argue that their collective nature allows us to consider issues of relationality in how individuals produce meaning and participate in mutual self-becoming. The researcher's immersion in dance and music events induces affective responses that render fieldwork an intensely physical experience. By employing their bodies as tools of research, fieldworkers in music and dance find themselves in spaces of sonic and kinetic intimacy and reflexivity that articulate what Jean Rouch called 'shared anthropology'. This plurosensory emplacement reflects the nexus between space, ethics and the body.

Essentially an agglomeration of everyday technologies of self-fashioning, music and dance open up pathways and conjure up life trajectories that are neither predetermined nor teleological, but generative. As people adapt such pathways and trajectories, and in turn become attuned to them, anthropology should continually adjust itself to fleeting circumstances and to the imagining of alternative futures. We invite ethnographic accounts of music and dance practices and innovative contributions that challenge normative understandings of ethics, space and the body.

Discussant: Helena Wulff (Stockholm University)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Being in sound: reflections on recording while practicing aikido and shakuhachi

Authors: Tamara Kohn (University of Melbourne)  email
Richard Chenhall (University of Melbourne)  email

Short Abstract

This presentation examines both a methodological conundrum and an ethnographic analysis of how one’s position within and beyond the production of sound and movement affects one’s experience.

Long Abstract

This presentation examines both a methodological conundrum and an ethnographic analysis of how one's position within and beyond the production of sound and movement affects one's experience. We draw from sonic field research in Japan with aikido and shakuhachi practitioners. Initially we will examine some of the methodological implications of how practice in both of these contexts affects sensory awareness. These will be considered against a different modality of sound that is captured electronically and reflected upon by people who were or were not involved in the production of the sound. Finally we will begin to provide a relational framework for understanding how bodily 'being in sound' contributes to a multi-sensory and dynamic process of self-production.

Through intimate dizziness to ecstatic intimacy: participating in the sonic and kinetic spaces of the Sufi whirling and music practices

Author: Polina Tšerkassova  email

Short Abstract

By focusing on the collaborative intimacy evoked during a Sufi whirling practice, this paper questions the common understandings of body and movement, and focuses on the intimate relationbetween musicians, dancers, observers, movement, sound, and breath.

Long Abstract

The paper is based on ongoing fieldwork on the practice of whirling and making music with a group of Sufis in Istanbul. This paper focuses on a collaborative space of ecstatic intimacy invoked during the practice of playing music, dancing and rhythmical breathing at a Sufi whirling ceremony. The paper is aimed at rethinking the collaborative relationality between musicians, dancers and observers by quesitoning the common idea of these three as being merely constitutive components of a practice. It rather argues for seeing them as a single intentionality of a shared ecstatic state of consciousness, which blurs the borders separating a person's body from the world. Such ecstatic intimacity possesses of a mutual transformational faculty for its practitioners.

By concentrating on the state of being in sound and in movement, it challenges common understandings of body as a solid object and of movement as a purely kinetic motion, and rather conjures the idea of stillness and a pivot within the moving world. Finally, the paper focuses on how my involvement with these practices, the physical experience related to the states of dizziness, and my intuitive search for a fulcrum, suggest a process of collaborative creation of a shared improvisational space of ecstatic intimacy.

Music, affect and the sensuous embodiment of ethics

Author: Evangelos Chrysagis (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

By exploring musical sensation and action as a bodily modus operandi this paper argues for an approach to ethical practice that shifts the focus from an exclusively cognitive-ideological understanding of music to sensually-induced and pre-reflexive visceral faculties, dispositions and potentials.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses the centrality of the palpable body in musical creativity and reception, by drawing upon ethnographic examples from Glasgow, UK. In attending ethnographically to the corporeal investments and the somatic entanglements pertinent to music practice, I suggest that bodily registers are fundamental to the consideration of music-making as an ethical practice.

The sensory constellations comprising music practices call for a sensuous examination of music. But rather than treating the senses as materially embedded inward capacities and passive receptors of external stimuli, I perceive bodies as dynamic and sensually rich interfaces that have the capacity to articulate a sensorialized social space. Similarly, I seek to examine the specificity of the practices and techniques that music-making entails and how these sensed activities elicit particular embodied sensibilities and aptitudes.

Yet, from an affective standpoint, the body is not a blank canvas but it is caught up in ongoing movement and becoming. Affects are bodily tendencies, corporeal sensations that precede cognition and do not presuppose a thinking, intentional subject. However, instead of embracing a biological determinism, I focus upon the movement between affective incipience and its rationalization. Specifically, my ethnographic analysis inhabits the space where sensation, perception and action coalesce. Musical sensations thus form the raw substance of ethical work and refinement, while the body emerges as a tool of ethical self-fashioning insofar as music inculcates particular affective potentialities. In essence, then, my aim is to reveal how music not only reflects but also engenders ethical identities.

Bending the bodies of others: Africa-Europe choreographic collaborations as intimate politics

Author: Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

In West Africa, choreographic collaborations with European artists are increasingly sought-after by contemporary choreographers. This paper suggests that collaborations across former colonial boundaries are not simply intimate and creative encounters, but also powerful political gestures.

Long Abstract

It is now well established that Africa was not only 'invented' through textual representations, but also through the objectification of African (and other Black) moving bodies. The legacy of this objectification remains evident in the way in which African dancer-choreographers aspiring to international careers are expected to produce work of recognizably 'African' character. This is often in tension with their frequent desire to be acknowledged as artists who happen to be African. Dancer-choreographers throughout West Africa, therefore, increasingly engage in transnational choreographic collaborations with artists from Europe and other parts of the world, a form of work they hope will foster a more egalitarian engagement with global artistic circuits. Many dancer-choreographers from Europe, for their part, seek collaborations with African performers in their search for novelty and inspiration at a reasonable cost. Drawing on funding from French state agencies in particular, collaborative choreographic projects have played a crucial role in the emergence of contemporary dance scenes across Africa, through the exchange of ideas and improvisation practices.

But what is really at stake in the intimate encounter between choreographic artists with different aspirations for their work together, and different ideas about their own place in the world?

Drawing on fieldwork in Senegal over a period of 10 years and on recent interviews with European and West African dancer-choreographers, this paper suggests that collaborative choreography across borders is not simply an encounter between individuals, but also, potentially, a powerful political gesture.

Salsa dancers and their transnational moves

Author: Joanna Menet (University of Neuchâtel)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I provide an ethnographic account of the world of salsa dancers and my journey into it. I draw on ethnographic material gathered during several short fieldwork stays at salsa festivals and in dance schools in Europe and in Cuba as part of my PhD project.

Long Abstract

Global flows of people, commodities and imaginaries exert a great influence on cultural practices once viewed as territorially bound to national contexts. Some of these cultural practices travel to new places and couple dances like Salsa are performed in numerous cities all over the globe today. Several authors describe Salsa as a transnational urban dance that is performed at numerous "international" congresses where dancers (amateurs as well as professionals) meet and connect in a special kind of intimacy through the codified movements of the dance. The dance is often promoted with images of exotic couples and performed with a strong emphasis on its heterosexual and clearly gendered character.

In this paper I provide an ethnographic account of the world of salsa dancers and my journey into it. I show in what ways dancers link different localities through their moving body (as dancers and as travellers) and connect in transnational networks. Hereby I draw on ethnographic material gathered during several short fieldwork stays at salsa festivals and in dance schools in Europe and in Cuba as part of my PhD project on the transnational networks and mobility of salsa dancers.

Digital and cosmopolitan collaborations in the invention of the 'industrial dance' style: doing digital dance anthropology

Author: Panas Karampampas (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)  email

Short Abstract

This ethnographically based paper illuminates the collaborations in, and the multi-directional appropriation and localisation of, goth practices in the European goth network and the significance of social media. The focus is on the digital and physical goth dance events.

Long Abstract

This ethnographically based paper analyses the complex and decentralised transnational process of the introduction of Industrial dance on YouTube and its development and transmission on the European dance floors. The multiple appropriation and localisation of goth practices is apparent in the European goth network. Focusing on the study of the goth dance event in Athens in parallel with the social media that are used by my interlocutors along with research in digital archives I will reveal the multiplicity of goth performance.

Industrial dance is the most recent goth dance style that was developed and became a trend from mid to late 2000s. Mainly performed transnationally by young goths belonging in the industrial and cybergoth fractions, its importance and practice surpasses clubs, thus becoming a regular practice that takes place in multiple physical and digital locations.

Cyberspace is the connecting link of the Goth network that is related with material and digital spaces. For Goths, internet does not replace conventional activities but reinforces them, thus bringing the everyday of goths into cyberspace. It will be argued that information gained in cyberspace is embodied in everyday life.

Playing video-camera as a musical instrument: audio-visual tools and collaborative ethnography in music

Author: Dario Ranocchiari (Universidade de Aveiro)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I’ll address the idea of collaborative intimacies in ethnographic research by describing my own experience as ethnographer/film-maker working on music and dance topics, and analysing ethical and methodological implications of audio-visual tools in a collaborative ethnographic process.

Long Abstract

I've been researching on music and ethnicity for the past ten years, even if I've not been specifically trained in ethnomusicology nor I am a musician. The dilemma of the ethnographer (how to be part of the social reality we are researching in and at the same time to research in it?), in my case, has been amplified by the difficulty to find some kind of reciprocity with the subjects/musicians of my researches: I can't play music, and usually they are not interested in the academic outcomes of my work.

During a research about popular music in a Caribbean island, I decided to shift the theoretical and methodological structure from a discourse-centred ethnography to a performance-centred one. The decision to use a video-camera not only as one of the "normal" research tools to produce ethnographic data, but as the central mediator between me and the field, constituted a turning point in my relationship with the subjects involved in the research. I began to collaborate with them producing "outcomes" they were really interested in: musical videos.

To produce and experience musical videos is a central part of the musical practices in the scenes I used to attend (mostly related with reggaetón and dancehall). For that reason, I suddenly began able "to play music" with them with a specific instrument (video-camera). In this paper I'll address the idea of collaborative intimacies in ethnographic research about music and dance by describing my own experience as ethnographer/film-maker and analysing its ethical and methodological implications.

Cinematic dance as a local commentary on the economic crisis: Exploring dance in the Korydallos area in Greece.

Author: Mimina Pateraki  email

Short Abstract

The present study deals with the ways people in a Greek city criticize economic crisis in Greece. Cinematic dance facilitates as an explanatory tool inside informal political commentaries at the local level revealing a dialogue with economic crisis, challenging identity.

Long Abstract

Certain films remain strikingly popular at a global level, become deeply woven into our life and virtually part of who we are. Taking this into account the present paper explores certain cinematic dance scenes that have fed both public and domestic discourse cultivating deeper the study of the ways people engage dance in their life. I focus on the social engagement of cinematic dance as a cultural significant event in a critical historical time as the period of economic crisis in Greece extending beyond the context of viewer and the reception of audience. Cinematic dance may serve as an explanatory tool inside informal political commentaries at the local level revealing a dialogue with economic crisis.

Ethnographic data was gathered due to fieldwork by open questionnaires, interviews and group analyses based on contemporary visual methodologies. People who live, study, work in Korydallos,a suburb of Athens, shared with me their thoughts about dance, cinema and social life commenting on economic crisis. They introduced me through the cinematic dance and other scenes in a veiled practice of resistance. Their commentary enacts a critical negotiation towards economic crisis in Greece. Through cinematic dance they imbued their critique with the senses of their life, embodying several highlights on thin lines in social negotiation that take place at the field of its performances. Furthermore, through their interpretations, people empower collective as well individual voices that are articulated in cinema and come close to our life revealing how complex, fluid and critical dance can be.

The contemporary politics of Cuban rumba

Author: Ruxandra Ana (Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Warsaw)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses the situation of the rumba in contemporary Cuba, examining its ambivalent and shifting position from symbol of Cubanness to marginalized practice, in relationship to the national discourse around race and the touristic modes of visualization and representation.

Long Abstract

The rumba, a music and dance complex that emerged in the 19th century in the provinces of Havana and Matanzas, was declared in 2012 Cultural Heritage of the Cuban Nation, which marked an important step towards having the genre included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The acknowledgment is of significance as it adds a new layer to the ambivalence that dominates the discourse around the rumba, defined and promoted as a national symbol and, at the same time, still identified with a marginalized segment of the population. Throughout the years, the rumba underwent a formalization process that generated a shift from a spontaneous, improvised form, mostly associated with the black and racially mixed communities, to a form adapted for specific performance requirements, supported and institutionalized by the revolutionary government as proof of the elimination of class and racial inequalities. However, racial prejudice is still widespread on the island and while many of the performers and participants in rumba events admit to the importance of the genre in the construction of the idea of Cubanidad (Cubanness), they make it distinctly clear that the discursive valorization of the rumba as a national symbol is not supported in practice. Through the analysis of performance space, contexts and local identities, the paper looks at the racialization of the rumba in relation to both the national discourse around race and the touristic modes of visualization and representations that rely heavily on images of "authentic" dance and music.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.