Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dancing Black Power?: Joan Miller, Carole Johnson and the Black Aesthetic, 1960–1975
by Amin, Takiyah Nur, Ph.D., Temple University, 2011, 226; 3457857
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the work of two African-American female choreographers, namely Joan Miller and Carole Johnson, and their engagement with the Black Aesthetic during the height of the Black Arts movement in America. The work seeks to examine how these subjects articulated, shaped, responded to, extended, critiqued or otherwise engaged with the notion of the Black aesthetic primarily through the mediums of concert dance and choreography. In consideration of the above, I conducted two, single subject case studies with Joan Miller and Carole Johnson in order to better understand the complexity of the experience of these African-American female dance makers during the selected period and gain a richer understanding of the ways in which they did or did not engage with the notion of the Black Aesthetic through the medium of dance. The subjects for the single case studies were selected because they fit the criteria to answer the research question: each woman is an African-American dance maker who was generating choreography and working actively in the dance field during the identified historical period (1960-1975). The study employs content analysis of individual semi-structured interviews, cultural documents (including but not limited to playbills, photographs, newspaper clippings, video documentation, and choreographers' notes) and related literature (both revisionist and of the period) to generate a robust portrait of the experiences of the subjects under study. Taken simultaneously, critical race theory and Black feminist thought supply an analytical framework for this project that has allowed me to study the intersecting and mutually constitutive aspects of race, class, gender and economic location from a unique standpoint—that of African-American female choreographers during the Black Power/Black Arts Movement era—in an effort the answer the research question and sub-questions central to this project.

The dissertation ultimately posits that both Johnson and Miller did, in fact engage meaningfully with key concepts articulated under the banner of the Black Aesthetic during the height of the U.S.-based Black Arts Movement. Moreover, the project asserts that both women extended their understandings of the Black Aesthetic in order to embrace additional issues of interest; namely, gender and class (on Miller's part) and international human rights (on Johnson's part). As such, this project ultimately discusses the implications of the inclusion of Miller and Johnson's work within the canon of dance history/studies as a radical shift from the dominant narratives concerning the work of Black female choreographers during the period. Additionally, the dissertation asserts that the inclusion of these narratives in the context of literature and scholarship on the Black Power/Black Arts Movement supports moves in contemporary revisionist scholarship interested in broadening the research on the work of women in the creative arts during the period of interest. Lastly, the project suggests new research trajectories and areas of inquiry but explicating Patricia Hill Collins's work on Black Feminist Thought. By looking at the defining characteristics of Collins scholarship, the project extends the discussion on African-American women's epistemology to include dance performance and creation and complicates the role of who is empowered to make meaning through the lens of Black Feminist Thought and in what form.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Welsh, Kariamu
Commitee: Kahlich, Luke C., Norment, Nathaniel, Williams-Witherspoon, Kimmika
School: Temple University
Department: Dance
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 72/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Black studies, Dance, Womens studies
Keywords: Arts, Black, Black Arts Movement, Choreographers, Choreography, Dance, Johnson, Carole, Miller, Joan, Movement, Women
Publication Number: 3457857
ISBN: 978-1-124-68961-6
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