Decolonizing the Body: An International Perspective of Dance Pedagogy from Uganda to the United States
Committee ChairGilmore, Perry
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examined how identity was negotiated through dance and how African dance pedagogies challenged colonial legacy and decolonized the body from cultural and political oppression. To explore this topic, I examine two distinct dance contexts, one in Kampala, Uganda (East Africa) and the other in Tucson, Arizona (United States). The Kampala Study focused on the dance practices of a young man named Mugisha Johnson. Johnson was a member and dance teacher for Umbanno, a Rwandese cultural organization that formed as a consequence of the 1990s genocide; they taught Rwandese youth their cultural dances, songs, music, and language in Uganda. The Tucson Study took place in Tucson, Arizona and highlighted the work of the Dambe Project, a nonprofit organization that specialized in African performing arts education. More specifically, it examined the dance program at a local high school and focused on the experiences of the dance students.Four common threads ran through each of the research studies. First, both studies dance pedagogies derived from community-based organizations doing dance education. Second, both organizations served youth populations. Third, the organization both promoted dance expressions that had been historically oppressed. Lastly, my research positionality as a dance student in the Kampala Study and as a dance teacher in the Tucson Study provided a holistic ethnographic picture of an overarching autobiographical narrative about African dance of the diaspora.This research adds to the professional literature an examination of a bodily discourse as emphasized by Desmond (1994); it considers the way dance helps people shed the negative cultural and psychological effects of colonialism.The methodology used was dance ethnography, which looks at the body experiences and "treats dance as a kind of cultural knowledge and body movement as a link to the mental and emotional world of human beings" (Thomas, 2003, p.83). Data was collected through participant- observation, interviews, personal dance study and performance, video recordings, and photography. The research found in two separate ethnographies, dance pedagogies stimulating identity work that challenged colonial power by affirming an indigenous body practice and knowledge.
Degree ProgramLanguage, Reading & Culture