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

CLACS Caribbean Studies Seminar

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.

Date of event: 9 April 2024

Visit the event page