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“C’est d’abord moi”: performing the identity of a professional female choreographer

Dr. Nadine Sieveking (Centre for Area Studies, U Leipzig, Germany)
Publication Date Published Online: Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Publication Journal of African Cultural Studies 29 (2017): 227–243.
Publisher Taylor Francis Online
Languages English
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Within the ideological frame of “global art”, contemporary dance promotes norms of social and gender equality and celebrates cultural diversity in the form of highly individualized representations of collective experiences and aspirations. This inherently contradictory legitimizing ideology has opened up opportunities for female choreographers from Africa, an underrepresented category in this genre. Focusing a woman artist from Burkina Faso and one from Senegal, I examine how they use cultural and gendered differences as resources to position themselves on international art markets in a way that reflects “the dialectical doubleness of mediation” (Mazzarella, William. 2004. “Culture, Globalization, Mediation.” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (1): 345–367). In representing on stage the social conditions out of which their work has emerged, they potentially forge a career, thereby recursively remediating these social conditions. At the same time, they contribute to the creation of a translocally and transnationally embedded space where difference is shared, made and unmade on discursive and embodied levels in the performances of a cosmopolitan professional community.

KEYWORDS: Gender relations, social critique, choreography, performance, global art, professional identity, mediation, West Africa


Biographical Note

Nadine Sieveking is an anthropologist working on transcultural practices, mobility, translocal social spaces and urban transformations. After her dissertation on African dance in Berlin she conducted research on development, gender, and Muslim society in Senegal, as well as on migration from and within West Africa. Her current research project examines the border crossing networks of contemporary African dance, focusing on the professionalization of artistic practice and its gendered dynamics. She uses the lens of artistic creation to analyse social transformation processes shaping new urban middle class milieus. Her research links up performance, embodiment, gender, development, and transnational migration, and is based on fieldwork in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Germany.