Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Dancescape: Emotive Creation and Embodied Negotiations of Territory, Belonging, and the Right to the City in Cape Town, South Africa
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Dance clubs provide opportunities for bodies to intimately (be)come-together; initiating contact that is often passionate, occasionally contentious, and constantly producing new geographies of community, power relations, and resistance. These are spaces of shared movements and shared moments--spaces constantly re-created by bodies through motion and interaction, while simultaneously inseparable from dynamic power relations. Studying spaces of social dancing enables investigations of new avenues of participation and movement, both of bodies on the dance floor, and within cities. Cities can be mapped by the ways that people travel through the city, producing (and being produced by) emotive spaces and driven by desire, purpose, and curiosity. Cities are also shaped by everyday encounters with difference--different ideas, backgrounds, values, and ways of living in urban space. Inherent in the constructive processes of encounter are struggles over the rights to the city--the right to create spaces of belonging in the city. In South Africa, where difference and division were deliberately legislated and social (specifically sexual) interaction between racial groups explicitly forbidden, new social identities and networks are navigated, and urban spaces are negotiated and re-mapped through participation in dancescapes. In the post-apartheid context, urban streets are legally open and inclusive, however, the realities of everyday life reveal that urban restructuring has not alleviated the inequalities inherited from the apartheid era, and for many South Africans, the inclusive city is still elusive. The scope of this dissertation project focuses on contemporary Cape Town. I use an ethnographic exploration of the Cape jazz and salsa dancing scenes to explore issues of territoriality, recognition, embodied memory, and participation as they shape interactions and stimulate the creation of urban spaces of conviviality and contestation. I interrogate the tensions between the salsa and Cape jazz scenes; tensions that are indicative of overarching struggles over meaning, memory, territory, and belonging and the ways in which these concepts tie into a wider urban politics in contemporary Cape Town. I combine Henri Lefebvre's conceptualization of the right to the city with literature on emotive and affective responses to urban space in order to engage with alternative understandings of urban participation.