DanceTopias proposes to analyse the production and transformation of identity boundaries which occur through social dances in African globalized cities, through an analysis of the case of Cape Town. In this city, as in others, social and popular dances create spaces where citizens can assert, transform, and play with identity categories and social norms related to race, class, and gender. In that sense, they represent what Michel Foucault called “heterotopias”, i.e. spaces that disrupt ordinary time.
Through a qualitative methodology and an interdisciplinary analysis connecting anthropology, history and geography, DanceTopias will analyse the transformation of spaces and identities through social dances, with a focus on race and gender. This project is structured around three main objectives and methodological entries:
1. To trace the history of social dances in Cape Town;
2. To provide an ethnography of identity boundaries created through dance;
3. To map the global dance networks connecting Cape Town to the world.
My research will be conducted through a 21-month outgoing phase at the University of Cape Town, a 3-months secondment at UCL (London), and a 12-month return phase at the University of Geneva.
The combination of the anthropology of globalization, the approach on identity boundaries, and the geography of dance spaces will offer an original perspective on the understanding of African urban societies. DanceTopias will also reveal a rarely discussed aspect of contemporary South Africa: it will focus on certain areas of subversion of racial and gender boundaries, where we observe dialogues between social groups and categories that were previously divided by Apartheid. Beyond South-Africa, this analysis on transgressive dance spaces will provide insightful theoretical assets regarding the redefinition of ideas of gender, race and class occurring in urban space-times through ordinary practices, a main issue for globalized urban societies.
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