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Euro-American Modern Dance and Anti-Colonial Nationalism in the 1920s

In the early twentieth century, everybody who was anybody had an identity. But identities were hard to find; it took hard work to become who one was. Fortunately, there were experts who could help: ethnographers, race scientists, psychoanalysts, historians, and so forth. This presentation examines the role of an important group of identity experts in and from the North Atlantic region. Modern dancers in Europe before World War I developed sophisticated techniques for discovering identity--often working in collaboration with psychoanalysts, ethnographers, Orientalists, graphic artists, ethno-musicologists, and actors. After the war, they were able to export their services to other parts of the world where those techniques were in demand among those in rebellion against colonialism and neo-colonialism. This presentation will look particularly at three cases: India, Peru, and the United States.