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Rights of presence in music space: Plug in Beats and the politics of dancing interculturalism

Authors: Jessie Stein*, CUNY - Graduate Center
Topics: Cultural Geography, Migration, Political Geography
Keywords: interculturalism, migration, music, dance, refugees, solidarity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Plug in Beats is an intercultural dance party series in Munich, Germany, that began in 2015 at the height of the so-called ‘European refugee crisis’. Based on ethnographic research conducted at the party, this paper examines the space of the party in which, difference, membership, places and displacements are evoked, and made shareable through the social texts of music and dancing bodies. I argue the facilitation of encounter within the musical space generates an affective politics which disrupts the stability of fixed judgements and relations.

At Plug in Beats, an attempt is made to treat the shared party space ‘democratically’. The crowd selects the music, with each partygoer sharing a song of their choice for the DJ to play. The party actively includes a heterogeneous mix of established locals and asylum seekers, resulting in an eclectic musical experience shared between people with varied identity positionings. The format of the dance party, in combination with an ‘active inclusion’ approach, aims to create a non-hierarchical space for intercultural exchange. Leaning on safer-space, and institutional inclusion literature, I discuss the particular spatial arrangements of the party, as a genuine bid for what Massey called a “rights of presence” for cultural others (2005, p.153). While the party itself does not address exclusion or inequity at the root, it provides a place for connections, has functioned as a platform for practicing new forms of social negotiation, and has created a spatial basis for solidarity-building, which provides a foundation for broader political struggle.

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