Type of Document Thesis Author Conover, Georgia Elizabeth URN etd-11122007-104619 Title Embodiment, Performativity and Identity: Spatial and Temporal Processes within Improvisational Tribal Style Dance Degree Master of Science Department Geography, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Philip E. Steinberg Committee Chair Barney Warf Committee Member Jonathan I. Leib Committee Member Keywords
- Human Geography
- Middle Eastern Dance
Date of Defense 2007-11-05 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis thesis examines temporal and spatial process that are reproduced and challenged through the hybrid cultural construction, Tribal Style Dance. It also examines how Tribal Style dancers use two embodied devices, signification and performativity, to challenge naturalized identity constructions of gender and sexuality that are layered onto “belly dancing” bodies. The thesis further argues for the academic significance of interrogations of uneven power relationships embedded in dance practices.
The report begins by laying out the methods for engaging in a case study. The qualitative approach is meant to begin research into Tribal Style dance as a project and not just a mélange expression. Field research, participant observation and interviews with a selected case study group facilitate the exploration of Improvisational Tribal Style dance. A review of the available literature situates that troupe into temporal and spatial contexts.
The thesis then examines the available literature, beginning with an explanation of culture and how culture can be used to reify hegemonic constructions. Culture is examined as a process, not a structure. Through production and reproduction, culture provides a structure and is the result of social actions.
Globalizing processes are next examined, from two angles: one, as creating new vehicles for information and cultural object sharing across boundaries; and two, as being necessarily situated within spatial contexts. Globalization, specifically, is allowing Tribal Style dancers to borrow elements from around the world. With these elements, dancers are able to juxtapose images from the Occident and the Orient, thus blurring lines that have been historically and politically constructed between the two. The borrowings are not random; the resulting hybrid, cultural ensemble then signifies resistance to Western hegemonic constructions. Tribal Style dancers use globally available material to create identities that locally deconstruct Orientalist notions of sexualized “belly dancing” bodies. They also create dancing bodies that do not conform to Western ideals for dancers. In so doing, Tribal Style dance has opened spaces for non-normativity and transgression against the fixity of tradition.
This thesis also makes an argument for deep interrogations of dance. The historic, Western mind/body separation has led to a devaluation of dance as a physical, but not rational, expression. Postmodernist inquiries into dance practices reveal this to be a social construction. Dance is examined as a power-laden discourse, one that is explicitly gendered and, in the case of “belly dance,” sexualized.
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