Dancing-With: A Method for Poetic Social Justice

In Rebecca L. Farinas, Craig Hanks, Julie C. Van Camp & Aili Bresnahan (eds.), Dance and Philosophy. London: (forthcoming)
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This chapter outlines a new theoretical method, which I call “dancing-with,” emerging from the process of writing my dissertation and the book manuscript that followed it. Defined formally, a given theorist X can be said to “dance-with” with a second theorist Y insofar as X “choreographs” an interpretation of Y which is both true to Y and Y’s historical communities, and also meaningful and actionable (i.e. facilitating social justice) for X and X’s historical communities. In this pursuit, the method of dancing-with involves both (1) a creative “torsion” of Y’s thought (particularly in the direction of unconscious, embodied and political factors at work in Y’ texts), and (2) a resultant, sympathetic torsion of X’s thought toward Y. In other words, X and Y “meet in the middle,” like two dancers walking onto the dance floor, to explore the promise of a flourishing artistic partnership. In this partnership, each must attend to the way that political meanings are inscribed on the other’s raced/sexed/etc. body, both to react maximally justly, and to maximize the aesthetic movement options that can be brought into play. As the method of dancing-with is thus modeled on an ideal comportment for improvisational social dance (such as the contemporary Latin dance called “salsa”), I envision the end-goal of dancing-with as what I call “poetic social justice.” By this, I mean the “poetic justice” of two theorists’ mutually empowering each other for maximal social good. Though this process is admittedly more difficult between some theorists, in part as a function of their respective embodiments and sociohistorical positions, at least a move or two together is always possible.

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Joshua M. Hall
University of Alabama, Birmingham


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