Accepted Paper:

Kinetographizing the Alevi semah   


Sinibaldo De Rosa (Independent Scholar)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the use of the Kinetography Laban as part of a transnational ethnographic research on the semah of the Alevis. It questions limits and possibilities of epistemological categories and fieldwork methodologies that aim at approaching human movement.

Paper long abstract:

A sonic and kinetic practice, the semah is enacted during Alevi rituals as well as in presentational setting during which the Alevis explain their ethno-religious movement to outsiders. In the context of the semahs, music and bodily movement are nourished with strong emotional investment. Additionally, the minority status of the Alevis -in Turkey as well as in the diaspora- and the burning memory of several episodes of violence contribute in charging the semahs as a symbol of political resistance.

As part of my research about transnational and contemporary adaptations of these practices for the stage, I engaged in the participation to semah activities by joining in their learning and public performing. More than music, it became for me imperative to concentrate on the kinetic components, as these seemed to have remained almost silent in Alevi studies. For this I asked my self how could I address best the movements on paper, searching for possibilities of ethnographizing that could not only speak about movement, but also speak through and with it.

Finally I committed to the learning of the Kinetography Laban, a movement notation systems that finds application in the performing arts and in the social sciences. Notating some of the semahs' bodily and group movements enabled me to document and analyse my experience, grasping choreo-morphological elements and conveying them in suitable standards of movement description. Moreover, better competences in movement analysis allowed me to take a distance from, while at the same time fully engage with, several bodymind 'postures' that I acquired during fieldwork.

Panel MB-AMS01
Between experiencing and ethnographizing in practice-based research