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Level 7

7AAEM300 Decolonising Bodies: Drums, DJs and Dance Floors

Credit value: 20
Module convenor: Professor Ananya Kabir
Assessment: 1 x 4,000 word essay (the inclusion of creative ethnography and analysis of audio-visual material will be encouraged)
Teaching: One two-hour seminar weekly

Module description:

How does the project of ‘decolonizing the mind’ relate to the project of ‘decolonizing the body’?  What is the relationship of dancing and drumming to resistance?  Can the DJ release energies amongst a crowd that can change the script of history? And how is all this relevant to the critical study of written texts?

This module will advance your understanding of how global popular culture, embodied collective pleasure, and rhythm create conditions of resistance to different hegemonic regimes that have defined modernity: colonialism, slavery, and globalisation under the sign of advanced capitalism.  The hidden histories of the dance floor that we will systematically uncover will teach you to recognise the complex, often contradictory relationships between race, sexuality, and desire that characterise our self-fashioning as modern subjects.  All throughout, attention will be paid to the foundational role that ‘Africa’ - as a historical reality, lived experience, and colonial phantasm, has played in that self-fashioning.  We will trace the discursive and performative threads connecting the construction of this ‘Africa’ to the experiences of dancing and drumming that emerged within Afro-diasporic populations in the Plantations of the New World as well as shaped colonial and postcolonial experiences in continental Africa.

We will also explore the dissipation and persistence of ‘blackness’ within contemporary dance floors, including the re-routing of Afro-diasporic sacred registers through secular sound.  Throughout, we will focus on the dialogic relationship between the written text and the moving body, with a view to a self-critical reassessment of their relational power.  The module teaching team will organise site-specific research trips to dance clubs and drum circles in London to enhance the learning experience.  They will also alert you to relevant audio-visual material (on YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, weblogs, websites, etc).

Preliminary reading:

  • Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity’s Double Consciousness (Harvard University Press, 1993)
  • Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Duke University Press, 2003)
  • Fiona Buckland, Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making (Wesleyan University Press, 2002)
  • Mbembe, Achille and Steve Randall, African Modes of Self-Writing, Public Culture 14.1 (2002): 239-73
  • Bob White (ed.), Music and Globalization. Critical Encounters (Indiana University Press, 2011)
  • Appadurai, Arjun, Modernity At Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (University of Minnesota Press, 1996)

Seminar schedule and bibliography

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