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Inaugural Lecture: Ananya Kabir

Anatomy Lecture Theatre 6th Floor King's Building Strand Campus
16/10/2014 (18:30-20:00)

Part of the Arts & Humanities Festival 2014: underground.

Presented by the Department of English.


A secret history of the dance floor

The ‘dance floor’ - a space, typically situated in a club in a city, which people visit expressly to dance and dress up for- is now a global phenomenon. It has generated vast transnational industries of fashion, branding, and music, as well as innumerable local scenes through which people enjoy themselves on weekend evenings. From Motown to Bollywood, popular songs celebrate its pleasures and urge us to embrace them through by losing ourselves to the beat. But how did the dance floor emerge? What is its relationship to labour and leisure? Why is there still something highly desirable yet faintly illicit about spending our time in this fashion? In this lecture, Professor Kabir will unveil the secret history of the dance floor, moving from drum circles on sugar plantations, through Paris Noir and New York’s Jazz Age, to the proliferation of clubs worldwide. Desire, sexuality, and race will all be in the mix, as this lecture will finally reveal what it means to be ‘lost in music’ and why, ‘last night, a DJ saved my life’.

After party

20.00 - 22.00, Chapters

After the lecture, join the party! The international DJs Wilfrid Vertueux (DJ Willy the Viper, Paris), Benjamin LeBrave (Akwaaba Records, Accra), and John Armstrong (London), will offer guests the best of Latin, Afro-Electronic, and tropical sounds.

The following day, they will participate in a special panel discussion about the relationship between the DJ and the dance floor: In the Mix: DJs, Dancefloors, Diasporas.


Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature at the Department of English, King’s College London, where she works at the intersections of culture, embodiment, memory, and post-trauma in the global South; she is also a Research Affiliate of the King’s India Institute. She directs Modern Moves (, a five-year research project funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant that examines the transoceanic travels and global proliferations of Afro-diasporic rhythms. She is also the author of (most recently), Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir (2009) and Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971 and Modern South Asia (2013).


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