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Moving beyond boundaries

Dance has always been a method of self- expression for human beings. This book examines the political power of dance and especially its transgressive potential. Focusing on readings of dance pioneers Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham, Gumboots dancers in the gold mines of South Africa, the One Billion Rising movement using dance to protest against gendered violence, dabkeh in Palestine and dance as protest against human rights abuse in Israel, the Sun Dance within the Native American Crow tribe, the book focuses on the political power of dance and moments in which dance transgresses politics articulated in words. Thus the book seeks ways in which reading political dance as interruption unsettles conceptions of politics and dance.

Open Access (free)

2 Politics Introduction The problem in America is that we don’t apologise, and we don’t learn. The protests against the Iraq War worldwide were enormous. I don’t think Americans got a sense of the protest or the damage in Iraq at all. The protests were not that big a story in the USA. The American press report on every story from an American viewpoint. It is what comes naturally to them. It’s not done out of malice; they don’t know any better.1 In his introduction to an episode of the PBS programme Open Mind, recorded in January 1992, host Richard Heffner

in The cinema of Oliver Stone
Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution

28 2 ‘I dreamed of a different dance’: Isadora Duncan’s danced revolution Modern dance innovator Isadora Duncan (1877–​ 1927) truly moved beyond boundaries, both choreographically and politically. Born in San Francisco, then dancing with Augustine Daly Dance Theatre in 1896, she moved from London to Paris to Berlin in quick succession, performing in salons and achieving success before the age of twenty. In 1905 she established her first school in Germany, aimed at children of all classes, and in 1914 she went to the US and transferred her school there. Duncan

in Dance and politics
Martha Graham, dance and politics

48 3 ‘The body says what words cannot’: Martha Graham, dance and politics Before Isadora Duncan’s untimely exit from the world stage in 1927, she and Martha Graham (11 May 1894–​1 April 1991)  shared the limelight for a while. After training in 1910 in the Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts, mentored by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, in 1926 Graham founded the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, creating a hub for ongoing embodied conversations and revolutions in American dance. Those revolutions continue, they spill into multiple dancing

in Dance and politics
Writing on the body

11 1 Moving beyond boundaries: writing on the body The book is written by many bodies who danced and inscribed their worlds upon the intersections between dance and politics. The argument is a three-​dimensional space bounded by three axes; in this chapter I elaborate, explore and problematise the three axes which demarcate the space of the argument. The ontology upon which the argument acts is twofold. On the one hand the argument is grounded in the dancing bodies of those subjects whose political intervention has written upon the argument. On the other hand

in Dance and politics
Rape and Marriage in Go Tell It on the Mountain

To consider how James Baldwin resisted racialized notions of sexuality in his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, I employ a number of black feminist critics—including Saidiya Hartman, Patricia Williams, Hortense Spillers, and Patricia Hill Collins—to analyze three under-studied minor characters: Deborah, Esther, and Richard. Those three characters are best understood as figures of heterosexual nonconformity who articulate sophisticated and important critiques of rape and marriage in America at the turn of the twentieth century. Baldwin thus wrote subversive theories of race and sexuality into the margins of the novel, making its style inextricable from its politics. Baldwin’s use of marginal voices was a deft and intentional artistic choice that was emancipatory for his characters and that remains enduringly relevant to American sexual politics. In this particularly polarizing transition from the Obama era to the Donald J. Trump presidency, I revisit Baldwin’s ability to subtly translate political ideas across fault lines like race, nationality, and sex.

James Baldwin Review
Screening Victoria

When British politicians complain that television dramatists have failed to produce a native equivalent of The West Wing – that is, a series about politics that presents its practitioners as noble and effective – they forget one vital detail. 1 President Jed Bartlet, the central protagonist in the NBC series, which in the United States ran from 1999 to 2006, is a head

in The British monarchy on screen
Open Access (free)
If Beale Street Could Talk, 2019

I reflect on the place of If Beale Street Could Talk in the corpus of Baldwin’s writings, and its relationship to Barry Jenkins’s movie released at the beginning of 2019. I consider also what the arrival of the movie can tell us about how Baldwin is located in contemporary collective memories.

James Baldwin Review
James Baldwin’s Pragmatist Politics in The Fire Next Time

In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin argues that the American dream is far from being a reality in part because there is much Americans do not wish to know about themselves. Given the current political climate in the United States, this idea seems just as timely as it did in the 1960s. Baldwin’s politics and thinking about race and religion are informed by an optimistic belief in the human capacity to love and change for the better, in contrast with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the heir apparent to Baldwin’s legacy. Considering current events, it seems particularly useful to turn back to The Fire Next Time. Not only does Baldwin provide a foundation for understanding racism in the United States, but more importantly, he provides some much-needed hope and guidance for the future. Baldwin discusses democracy as an act that must be realized, in part by coming to a greater understanding of race and religion as performative acts that have political consequences for all Americans. In this article, I examine the influence of pragmatism on Baldwin’s understanding of race and religion. By encouraging readers to acknowledge race and religion as political constructs, Baldwin highlights the inseparability of theory and practice that is a hallmark of both pragmatism and the realization of a democratic society. Furthermore, I argue that Baldwin’s politics provide a more useful framework than Coates’s for this particular historical moment because of Baldwin’s emphasis on change and evolving democracy.

James Baldwin Review
James Baldwin, the Religious Right, and the Moral Minority

In the 1980s, James Baldwin recognized that a major transformation had occurred in the socio-political functions of religion. His critique adapted accordingly, focusing on the ways in which religion—particularly white evangelical Christianity—had morphed into a movement deeply enmeshed with mass media, conservativepolitics, and late capitalism. Religion in the Reagan era was leveraged, sold, and consumed in ways never before seen, from charismatic televangelists, to Christian-themed amusement parks, to mega-churches. The new movement was often characterized as the “religious right” or the “Moral Majority” and was central to both Reagan’s political coalition as well as the broader culture wars. For Baldwin, this development had wide-ranging ramifications for society and the individual. This article draws on Baldwin’s final major essay, “To Crush the Serpent” (1987), to examine the author’s evolving thoughts on religion, salvation, and transgression in the context of the Reagan era.

James Baldwin Review