Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Director, Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH), Indiana University / Bloomington

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2003
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Ethnomusicology, Indiana University / Bloomington
The Spiritual, Sensual, and Corporeal Dimensions of Presbyterian Women's Dance in Southern Malawi

The aim of this proposal is to investigate the dynamics of self-representation among Presbyterian women's guilds in southern Malawi whose creative expressions of Christian music and dance have arisen out of a context of colonial subordination. The study will explore processes of transculturation by examining how these women have selected and invented from materials transmitted to them by Scottish missionaries. At the same time it will elucidate how Presbyterian women have subsequently employed music and movement, fashioned by their own aesthetic preferences, to transform these materials for the purposes of communicating their own religious and social aspirations. The research task is to articulate how women's guilds use music in tandem with their dancing bodies as the primary medium through which they reinterpret Scottish Presbyterian expressions of Christianity. Specifically, this project will be an ethnomusicological study of the spiritual, sensual, and corporeal dimensions of their dancing as it pertains to issues related to Scottish or European Presbyterian and Malawian Presbyterian notions of Christianity in dynamic tension with "traditional" religion, sexuality in dynamic tension with sensuality, and static bodies in dynamic tension with bodies in motion. Of particular interest are the varied opinions of members of these two groups as to what defines those moments when music and movement shift from the domain of one notion into the domain of the other and the way these judgements subsequently impact attitudes towards dance within the context of spiritual expression.