Moving Knowledge: The Changing Embodiments of Cultural Knowledge in Senegalese Sabar Performances

Project Details

Description

This research project will study how cultural knowledge is embodied through dance and music by investigating performances of the sabar tradition of the Wolof people in Senegal. The focus will be on two genres of performance—social dance events and lion dance performances—that differ in many ways but are considered parts of the same tradition. To arrive at an understanding of the processes of embodiment, these two genres of performance will be analyzed, compared, and interpreted in relation to their cultural context.

An essential feature of sabar performances is the intimate relationship between dance and music, and new methodological tools are needed to analyze the dance–music interrelations. Therefore, a further aim of the project is to develop the methodology for choreomusical analysis. This aim will be pursued in collaboration with an international group of scholars working with different traditions of dance and music worldwide.

The research will be based on fieldwork materials and ethnographic research methods, as they are applied in ethnomusicology and dance anthropology. Theories of performance, performativity, and embodiment will be applied in the interpretation of the materials. Different methods of movement and rhythm analysis will be combined to analyze the concrete structures of the sabar performances, and this structural analysis will be complemented with explicitation interviews to gain insights into the meanings people attach to performative actions in a particular situation.

The two genres of sabar performances studied here make use of the same dance movements and rhythms but also show many differences. Therefore, it is assumed that they embody partly different aspects of cultural knowledge but that these aspects are not conflicting; rather, they are grounded in the same values and conceptions about Wolof culture. The analysis of the structures, aesthetics, and cultural meanings of sabar performances will, thus, aim to trace the cultural knowledge embodied in them as well as the processes of acquiring and articulating this knowledge.

Through the investigation of sabar performances, the research project will contribute to the development of the relatively new field of choreomusicology and complement previous research on West African arts and cultures. It will also contribute to academic discussions about the performative expression of social roles and relationships and about gestures and nonverbal communication in general.

Layman's description

This research project will investigate how cultural knowledge is embodied through dance and music by analyzing performances of the sabar tradition in Senegal. It aims to trace processes of embodiment by interpreting sabar performances as sites where social roles and relationships as well as cultural values are performatively constructed. A further aim of the project is to develop the methodology needed for analyzing dance-music interrelations in collaboration with a group of colleagues. The research will be based on ethnographic research methods as they are applied in ethnomusicology and dance anthropology, and theories of performance, performativity, and embodiment will be applied in the interpretation of the materials. In addition to complementing previous research on West African arts and cultures, the project will contribute to the development of the relatively new field of choreomusicology as well as to academic discussions about gestures and nonverbal communication.
Short titleMoving Knowledge
StatusActive
Effective start/end date01/09/201931/08/2022

Fields of Science

  • 6131 Theatre, dance, music, other performing arts