Accepted Paper:

Thinking freedom: the balance between autonomy and care  


Gaelyn Aguilar (University of Maine Farmington)

Paper short abstract:

Our presentation will aim to share the conceptual and practical grounding of our latest work, and how improvisation has presented itself as a kind of purposeful, social practice in which there is no “spectatorial distance” and no “antagonistic imperative” other than to create what Gomez-Peña would characterize as “free zones for intercultural dialogue.”

Paper long abstract:

"Borders, Corridors, and Lines of Desire: Outposts of Improvisation on the Unmarked" is a large-scale, interdisciplinary, performative research project that aims to bring together our involvement with improvisation and our interest in ethnographically addressing the forces that expand and constrain culturally inflected ways of being throughout the borderlands of South Texas (USA). Borders and borderlands have long captured the attention of scholars and critically informed artists who rightfully regard these interstatial environs as frontiers of identity, where states are at "the extremity of their power" to shape the quotidian lives of the people who actually inhabit these fuzzy frontiers. In this project, we are interested in investigating, contemplating, processing, and communicating how individuals (either acting alone or collectively) are able to exercise their agency in responding to and challenging global flows, and how improvisation (as both a critical musicking practice and a fieldwork methodology) might move and illuminate this agency. Several key questions that are carrying us into our research project include: Does improvisation engender strong, flexible identities in individuals? Or do individuals with strong, flexible identities gravitate toward improvisation? To what extent does improvisation already play a part in the circulation of ethical dialogue and action throughout South Texas? How can one claim all of one's personal histories without locking oneself into fixed models that placate to the contours of iconic images? Could our research provide a critical localized and humanized perspective of what Appadurai has called "globalization from below"?

Panel P33
The art of improvisation