Performing Culture: Live Arts and African & African American Studies

Performing Culture: Live Arts and African & African American Studies
2013 to 2014
Emerging Networks

As Duke continues to enhance its offerings in the arts, faculty in African & African American Studies (AAAS) and the Dance Program are working to solidify and advance their humanities-based coursework and research by creating two new courses: "Black Dance," a survey of African American modes of corporeal expression, and the graduate-level course "Black Performance Theory." To create a department-wide context for these new offerings, this emerging networks initiative organized a series of events during the 2013-14 academic year.

The first two events, held during the fall semester, were creative retreats bringing together undergraduates and graduate students in AAAS as well as dance, music, and visual arts. Each was led by one or two creative writers/musicians/theater makers/visual artists.

In the spring, the initiative hosted a two-and-a-half-day conference on the topic of 'Black Dance' in conjunction with the Duke Performances presentation of Urban Bush Women. Students who attended the fall events assisted in conference planning, supervised by junior and senior faculty from Duke and the founding members of Duke's Collegium for African Diaspora Dance. Students from the AAAS course “Introduction to African American Studies,” as well as those in “Black Dance” and “Black Performance Studies,” helped to manage the conference, working alongside and learning from leading artists and scholars in the field. Students from AAAS and Duke's MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts were engaged as videographers and documentarians.

The initiative worked with AAAS librarian Karen Jean Hunt to create a teaching archive that includes the documentation gathered at the conference and bibliographic collections that emphasize emergent materials for students working in the humanities-based study of the arts. A further resource designed to carry this effort into the future is a "Black Arts Blog," to be set up by a graduate student assistant and maintained by a rotating roster of students under faculty mentorship.


Thomas F. DeFrantz
Professor, Dance and African and African American Studies