Rocking the Body Politics
Musical Spaces for Resistance & Survival
Larisa K. Mann, New York University and Brooklyn College
Subordinated people have always relied on “exilic spaces” (spaces of exile) for survival and renewal. These physical and discursive spaces are carved out by practical and creative acts. In exilic spaces like underground/illegal dance events, the uncivilized can make the most of their independence from the constraints of “civil” life: the unruly and vulgar embrace grime and glamour, playing with categories of gender, sexuality, race and class. What can we learn from the gay ballroom, the Jamaican street dance, the shebeen, the rent party, or the squat party that could inform spaces like such as Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland? Exploring this question reveals how these current political actions connect (or not) to longstanding communities resisting global colonial capitalism. Starting from the Jamaican street dance and my own experience in underground dance music DJing, I’ll discuss how exilic spaces allow us to play with race, class, gender, citizenship and sexuality, and connect across difference in ways that many leftist movements in the global North have failed to do.
Larisa K. Mann is a legal ethnographer, educator, journalist, public speaker and award-winning DJ. With a PhD from UC Berkeley Law School’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, she is currently teaching in NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication and Brooklyn College’s Department of Sociology. She also performs in and organizes musical and cultural events in collaboration with local artists and activists in New York City and beyond. Her work explores the intersection of culture, copyright law, technology and power, through an ethnographic case study of Jamaican music-making. Mann also has written on technology and rights for the youth news website WireTap, and addressed policy, technology, activist and academic audiences across the US and internationally.