Dancing with difference: migrants, interculturality, and the party space as a site of transformative politics

Authors: Jessie Lauren Stein*, Concordia University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Migration, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: Migration, interculturality, Cultural geography, difference, sharing space, anti-xenophobia, music, dance, Germany,
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Washington 6, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The dance floor is a complex space of transculturation, politics, and possibility. It can act simultaneously as a place of connection, as well as one of cultural misunderstanding. Plug in Beats is a monthly party in Munich, developed in response to recent migration to promote interaction between heterogeneous ‘locals’ and recent migrants. Through a process of random selection, each partygoer chooses a song from their smartphones for the DJ to play. The process, in combination with a deliberate inclusion policy, aims to create a non-hierarchical space for meaningful intercultural exchange. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted at the party, this paper seeks to examine what is politically possible in spaces where there is both a confrontation with the reality of heterogeneity, as well as a genuine bid for a “rights of presence” for cultural others (Massey, 2005, p.153). Body movement as a social text signals membership as well as difference (Reed, 1998). As an embodied practice, dance can temporarily cause feelings of slippage in externally imposed subjectification (Thrift, 1997). While international musics may be subject to orientalist constructions of difference (Said, 1985), they also contain traces of continually re-forming identity positionings. Plug in Beats creates a space where it is possible to reimagine the self in relation to others. This plays a role in disrupting the stability of fixed intercultural relations (Amin, 2002). While the transformative value of these kinds of events may be small, this paper argues that by dancing with difference, steps are made made towards intercultural solidarity.

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