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CLACS Caribbean Studies Seminar Series actively promotes intellectual engagement and knowledge exchange by providing scholars - including postgraduate students and early career researchers - with the opportunity to present their interdisciplinary, comparative and integrated research on the Caribbean.

Dancing Beyond the Black: A New Afro-Diasporic Ethnographic Research Method

Speaker: Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa (Leeds)

In Barbados, dance is part of the local vernacular; it is a form of communication used to exhibit cultural history, engage in an exploration of self and community, and among other things, reinforce and challenge social constructs. Through my upbringing in Barbados, I was privy to the ways dance was present in the special and mundane moments in everyday life and despite dance being a non-verbal method of communication, complex dance patterns are mastered and developed from a young age then used within interactions. Black Barbadian women are largely underrepresented in socio-political and dance discourse within academia; however, I argue that by using dance as an integral part of qualitative research, it may be possible to discover nuanced perspectives of Black Barbadian womanhood. It is common practice for ethnographers to engage in participant observation, but in dance this can still lead to surface-level reading. Dance anthropologists such as Drid Williams (1991) have advocated for research methods that invite richer readers of movement systems and Diedre Skylar (1991) believed that the relationship between the dance and dancer must be understood through ‘kinaesthetic empathy’. To address these needs in the field I curated a methodology that applies the improvisational dance technique known as ‘call-and-response’ as an interviewing method. This year, during the Crop Over festival period, when dance is practiced by professional and amateur dancers in abundance, I will be incorporating this technique into my fieldwork. In addition to this, I will also be utilising my adaptations of Labanotation to document and archive the dances I experience. Labanotation is a graphic notation system for dance in a linear fashion. In this seminar, I will be breaking down my research methods, unique coding style, and discussing the cultural relevance of these techniques in a community that is often ignored and absent from literature.

Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa is a British born Barbadian PhD student in Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. She is also a choreopoet who chiefly uses dance to compose her work. Her practice-led doctoral research interrogates the existing framing of dances performed by black Barbadian women to unearth buried narratives of Black femininity in Barbados. Safiya is applying Afro-diasporic dance techniques as part of her ethnographic fieldwork.

In 2022 Safiya released her debut poetry collection Cane, Corn & Gully (Out-Spoken Press), it was the first book to feature dance notation of the enslaved in partnership with the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. Safiya was shortlisted for the Rathbone’s Folio Prize (2023) and the Felix Dennis Forward Prize for Best First Collection (2023). She is an Obsidian Foundation fellow and an Apples & Snakes/ Jerwood Arts Poetry in Performance recipient. She has been published in a variety of notable literary journals including: The Caribbean Writer, Poetry London, and The London Magazine.

Seminar Programme
Autumn term
10 October 2023
7 November 2023  
5 December 2023            
Spring term

20 February 2024
19 March 2024
9 April 2024

Eve Hayes de Kalaf (IHR) 

All are welcome to attend this free seminar, which will be held online via Zoom at 16:00 BST. You will need to register in advance to receive the online joining link. Please click on the Book Now button at the top of the page to register.

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