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African American Studies

The Discipline and Its Dimensions

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Nathaniel Norment, Jr.

African American Studies: The Discipline and Its Dimensions is a comprehensive resource book that recounts the development of the discipline of African American Studies and provides a basic reference source for sixteen areas of knowledge of the discipline: anthropology, art, dance, economics, education, film, history, literature, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, political science, science and technology, sports and religion. African American Studies defines bodies of knowledge, methodologies, philosophies, disciplinary concepts, contents, scope, topics scholars have concerned themselves, as well as the growth, development, and present status of the discipline. African American Studies validates that African American Studies is a unique and significant discipline—one that intersects almost every academic discipline and cultural construct—and confirms that the discipline has a noteworthy history and a challenging future. The various bodies of knowledge, the philosophical framework, methodological procedures, and theoretical underpinnings of the discipline have never been clearly delineated from an African-centered perspective.

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12. African American Dance

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CHAPTER 12

African American Dance

Nsaa “He who does not know will buy the fakes” Symbol of excellence, genuineness, and authenticity

The African Antecedent

Dance, as a field in African American Studies, explores one of the more visible cultural retentions transferred from the continent to the New World. African people brought many cultural and social mores to America, and the way African people “move” continues to be one of the more obvious cultural imprints. Cultural survivals, and more implicitly, the ways that African people used them as vehicles toward making meaning are key areas of inquiry within African American Studies. Studies of dance and its broad contours provide scholars with the disciplinary language to express how “moving” for African people represents much more than leisure; it represents the extension of a culture. African dance, much like African American dance, has distinct elemental characteristics that are found in many traditions, though African dance traditions that have emerged in different areas of the continent do not have unique attributes. However, examination of African dance reveals underlying similarities and differences in Africana dance traditions that provide clues into the various cultural and worldviews that comprise Africa and the African Diaspora. While the African antecedent in dance is visible in many contemporary dance traditions, many of the symbolic interpretations may not be. This chapter briefly examines what African dance means symbolically to the community, as well as the general features of dance traditions...

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