Ananya Jahanara Kabir: Islands, cities, oceans: sites and routes of Afro-diasporic rhythm cultures – September 23


Islands, cities, oceans: sites and routes of Afro-diasporic rhythm cultures


Ananya Jahanara Kabir

Professor of English Literature, King’s College, London


From New York’s Jazz Age onwards, people the world over have presented themselves as ‘modern’ by dancing socially to rhythms originally brought to the New World by African slaves. On the plantations of the Americas, these percussive rhythms combined with European dance forms to create partner dances such as the lindy hop, salsa, samba, and tango which now are danced in cities worldwide, often by people who have their own music and dance forms, and little or no connection to Africa or its diasporas. Underlying the transnational spread of these dances is thus its historical basis in the movement of peoples across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the course of European imperialisms. This paper will outline some of the sites and routes of these travelling rhythm cultures. Its central argument is that, since modernity has depended on African-derived rhythms to create regimes of pleasure and exhilaration, scholarship needs to rethink what modernity looks like when our starting point is the (often surreptitious) kinetic memorialisation of ‘Africa’; to do so, furthermore, we need to engage seriously with forms of demotic pleasure that first took shape within (largely) island-based plantation economies and subsequently re-formulated themselves in the micro-spaces of modern urban life.

This talk will draw on Professor Kabir’s five year research project, ‘Modern Moves: Kinetic Transnationalism and Afro-Diasporic Rhythm Cultures’, funded by a European Research Council Advanced Grant.

Date: September 23 2013

Time: 1400-1600

Venue: Committee Room, CISA, 36 Jorissen Street.

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