Accepted Paper:

The popular meets the classical: New cosmopolitanism in Hip-hop's dialogue with Kathak  


Stacey Prickett (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

New conceptualisations of cosmopolitanism are explored in Kathakbox by Birmingham’s Sonia Sabri Company, moving beyond a performative ‘otherness’ through use of popular (hip-hop) and classical (kathak) dance styles to challenge hegemonic representations of race, religion and nationality.

Paper long abstract:

South Asian classical dance kathak has become an increasingly globalised form in part via interactions with hip-hop and other dance styles. Ethnographic and dance analysis supports interrogation of diverse ways in which the diasporic dance challenges conventional cosmopolitan constructs in Britain and abroad. Birmingham-based Sonia Sabri blurs boundaries in innovative community-based projects while the Kathakbox collaborative production mixes beatbox and spoken word with tabla to produce innovative soundscores for a movement dialogue between kathak, hip-hop, contemporary and African-Caribbean dance styles. Sabri's 'urban kathak' presents a globalised production that transcends sub-cultural identity markers. Associated outreach projects link the dance sources to individual narratives of marginalised communities with which they engage, contesting media representations of alterity while offering alternative and transformative modes of expression. Counter-hegemonic in multiple ways, project-related workshops with Muslim women move beyond 'tick box' funding and political agendas, challenging preconceptions around race and faith as strategies evolve to negotiate cultural imperatives around representation of the body. Kathakbox workshops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai offer diverse geopolitical contexts for exploring such cultural negotiations while engagement with the popular (hip-hop) offers points of connection which supports an exploration of the classical form of kathak. The investigation is informed by Claire Dwyer's (1997, 2004) research into negotiating diasporic British Muslim identities and Judith Hamera's (2007) conceptualisations of dance technique as bodily inscription, situated in relation to reconceptualisations of cosmopolitan discourse as articulated by Gita Rajan and Shailja Sharma in New Cosmopolitans (2006).

Panel P44
Cosmopolitanism, politics, and the (performing) arts