Department of Anthropology
302 Eaton Hall
Medford, MA 02155
Ph.D. in Anthropology, Harvard University, 2016
Masters in Theological Studies (MTS), Harvard Divinity School, 2004
B.A. in Religion and International Relations, Tufts University, 1999
Performance (dance and music-making); embodiment, social belonging and
subjectivity; nationalism and transnationalism; ritual. Geographical
focus West Africa and the African Diaspora.
Scholarship & Research
My research lives at the intersections of
performance, embodiment, and social belonging. My work both as an
ethnographer and as a professor telescopes-out from the body to
consider the kinds of bodily social encounters that influence and
determine individual and communal being-in-the world. The main focus
of my research has been on the performed ways in which professional
dancers and musicians from Mali, West Africa garner social
recognition in local, national, and transnational arena. My research
is part of a larger set of scholarly efforts in dance studies,
social anthropology, and gender studies to highlight the complex
relations among arts production, labor, migration, and citizenship;
relations that themselves illuminate how paying attention to somatic
modes of being in the world reveal nuanced perspectives on race,
gender, class and sexuality.
I am currently working on my first book manuscript entitled
Mobile Bodies: Migration, Performance and Social
Belonging in Malian Dance, which argues
that somatic practices like Malian vernacular and state-sponsored
forms of dance and music-making have, in this era of commodified,
globally circulating "ethnicity," become outmoded as tools of
post-colonial nation-building. Malian dancers and musicians have
therefore seized opportunities to participate in transnational
landscapes of performance – performing abroad as well as
collaborating with foreign cultural tourists and artist in Mali – as
a means toward building their own social, economic and, in several
instances, political recognition and influence at home.
Mobile Bodies, therefore,
is an account of bodily modes of social formation that also offers a
theoretical framework for thinking about the physically active ways
in which individuals navigate and grapple with their social worlds.
I am also in the early stages of my next major project that
looks at the unexplored practice of Malian men who disguise and
participate as women in Malian popular performance.
Dancing the Divide, as the
project is currently titled, raises questions about gendered
performance and the performance of gender in sub-Saharan Africa.
Through an in-depth investigation of a seemingly tacit
"gender-bending" practice in a geographical region that is overtly
marked by binary gender roles, I will begin by asking if this
"cross-dressing" practice is radically non-conforming? Or whether it
re-inscribes proclaimed heteronormative orientations of social roles
and social position in Mande societies? This project contributes to
growing literature on gender and performance in Africa, and is of
particular salience to current issues around gender conformity and
contestation in Mali and in sub-Saharan Africa more broadly.