Dissertation Defense


Monday, September 28, 2015, 4:00pm


Tozzer Anthropology Building

Mobile Bodies: Migration, Performance and Social Belonging in Malian Dance

Presented By Sharon Freda Kivenko

4:00 Prelude Performance in Tozzer Atrium
4:15 Oral Defense in Tozzer 203

Mobile Bodies is a dance ethnography about the interface of arts performance, sociality and labor migration. Based on intensive Mande dance apprenticeship in Bamako, Mali this dissertation considers the creative ways in which professional and aspiring Malian dancers garner social recognition as they perform in local, national, and transnational arenas. How do bodies in motion - while dancing and migrating internationally - serve as strategic sites for re-negotiating social capital at home? Elaborating on Sheller’s “embodied theory of citizenship” (2012), this dissertation brings to light the work of Malian performance artists as they negotiate and articulate their social belonging through their dancing, music-making and acting. Trained by the State but (thanks to neoliberal reforms) left to their own devices to make work, find patrons, and make a living, Malian artists creatively and strategically shift the focus of their skills from nation-building to self-making. What sorts of possibilities for social belonging emerge as artists dance off of national stages and onto transnational ones? Can the work of Malian migrant dancers offer insights into modes of social belonging that are largely performatively (rather than discursively) constituted? Moreover, as a project methodologically focused on distilling ethnographic insights from rigorous dance training, this work brings together academic analyses of the sociality of dancing with on-the-ground lessons about the mechanics and aesthetics of performance. As a result, this project highlights the incisive ways in which scholarly practice is informed by performance practice.