Pedagogy of Recognition: Dancing Identity & Mutuality

Acta Universitatis Tamperensis No. 1779


By Raisa Foster
December 2012
Tampere University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514489570
242 pages
$87.50 Paper Original

This dissertation describes an educational space in which the questions of identity as well as mutuality are brought to the fore. It concerns a dance animateuring project called Katiska, which started in summer 2007 in Finland.

Dance animateuring refers to the practice of artistic creation, where the steps of the dancers originate not from a choreographer, but from collaborative improvisatory work by performers under the guidance of an animateur. Dance animateuring means dance activity which aims to celebrate every person’s own natural way of expression through movement. Therefore the purpose of dance animateuring is not to achieve a mastery of any particular dance technique or style, but rather to discover everyone’s own expressing, moving, living body. On the other hand, through body and movement, a specific theme can also be investigated. By increasing body awareness, dance animateuring aims to dig deeper into the means of identity and self and by doing so, support the growth of humanity. Dance animateuring intertwines the body and the mind; therefore it is an attempt to return to the understanding of humans as holistic beings.

The artistic exploration was built on a marked interest for the emancipation of the suppressed voices of young men. It was guided by the question: What would these young men tell about themselves? The answer to this question was presented through movement and music in Katiska, which premiered on the 8th of May 2008 in Tampere, Finland.

The practice-led research journeyed through various phases of improvisation, performance, discussion, analyses, reading and writing, on its way to answer to this question: How dance animateuring creates a space for recognition; understood broadly as identification, self-recognition and mutual recognition?

First the book presents the theoretical background for the bodily-practice-based inquiry. The whole practice is built on the phenomenological understanding of the body as lived. The ontological and epistemological position is mostly derived from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology.

Then the book moves on to the methodological discussion and proposes a new practice based method, eragraphy, which was inspired by the North American new paradigm qualitative research methodologies such as a/r/tography and crystallization. I coined the term eragraphy by combining the words education, research and animateuring. The name eragraphy also refers to a description of an era. In other words it is, borrowing from ethnography, a “thick” description of a chosen aspect of human existence – in this case of recognition – in the context of postmodern era. The eragraphical practice requires the mind of a nomad, the willingness to wander about – especially on the pathways of the previously unknown.

Second, the book presents a new pedagogical theory, pedagogy of recognition. It mainly follows Paul Ricoeur’s The Course of Recognition which offers a template to organize more analytically what is practised intuitively; the experienced, the artistically initiated and the empirically collected material of this research.

The section suggests a change of pedagogical thought on three levels. First, it proposes an attitude of improvising instead of producing. In other words, it claims that new understanding can occur when we shift our action from knowing to recognizing. The second section of this chapter describes the concepts of identity as narrative and performative. It also presents self-recognition as a way of recognizing personal capacities and responsibility. In the third section the course of recognition ends with mutual recognition, where the questions of love, justice and esteem are brought to the fore as well as the conceptions of alterity, ambiguity and dialogue. The section also proposes a new concept, I-lessness, the disappearance of the object self, which can be experienced in dancing with others.

This dissertation does not aim to promote dance as its main goal; dance is not the object of the examination, but rather an example of various possible venues, in which individuals can meet in the spirit of recognition. In this research, dance has served as one of the methods of collecting research data (the dance animateuring project) as well as a way of reporting findings (the Katiska performance); but most of all, it has been, for its part, a space for people to come together and to understand a little more of life, the world and human existence.

Return to Coronet Books main page