CFP: Re-Choreographing Epistemologies of the Body in the Middle East and North Africa: Mobilising Resistance through the Mobility of Dance

26 May 2020
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Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication Call for Papers

Editors:  Dr Rachid Belghiti  and Dr Tarik Sabry.

There is a wealth of literature in the Middle East on the body. This wealth unfolds not only in fiction, poetry, theatre, series, and films, but also at the level of everyday life, where dance is a key component.  Dance is pivotal to significant elements of popular culture in the Middle East and North Africa, such as hospitality customs, social gatherings, marriage, births, and circumcision celebrations. It is ‘intertwined with rituals, festivals, storytelling, and other spheres through which cultural heritage is expanded and extended’ (Dallen 2018). Yet, this centrality is dimly matched with the systematic and critical exercise in theorising the dancing body beyond the analysis of Orientalist discourses of power, desire and knowledge (Said 1978) which this body eludes as it dances (Karayanni 2008). Recent ethnographic accounts of the dancing body in MENA also explore how contemporary dance movement reflects the irresolution of Maghrebi contemporaneity (Guellouz 2013) and cultural identity (Borni 2017). Although such ethnographic analysis conceives of the dancing body as an agent that is enacting the crisis in Maghrebi identity politics in movement, it still allegorises this body by interpreting its movement through what it represents; the Maghreb, just as Said interprets Kuchuk’s body, as the Orient.

Departing from the assumption that dance is under-theorised as a component of Arab/Middle Eastern Cultural Studies, this issue explores the ways in which dance in Middle Eastern and Maghrebi cultures can, in the words of the dance theorist André Lepecki, emerge as ‘a mode of  theorisation that theory itself would need in order to address the social and the political problematic brought by issues close to dance such as mobilization, embodiment, subjectivity, participation, representation, desire, discipline, control, etc.’ (2012). Although Lepecki’s statement occurs in the context of Western dance genres, it still invites us to infer how Middle Eastern and Maghrebi dance is still largely brushed off as a substantial constituent of today’s discourses of mobilisation in contemporary Middle Eastern studies of representation. This state of affairs therefore urges us to ask the following questions:

  • To what extent can dance as a spectacle, a visual space of corporeality, communicate a discourse of resistance in Middle Eastern and Maghrebi cultures through the body that dances, be it male or female?
  • What is it in Middle Eastern dance that offers our thinking a more provocative mode of theorisation about current debates around the social, political, and cultural challenges in today’s Middle Eastern and Maghrebi cultures?
  • How can dance, as a site of mobility, revitalise modes of knowing that are broader than the frontiers of the ‘allowed’ and the ‘forbidden’, with which Middle Eastern cultures are still struggling?
  • In what way can dance stand out as a watershed in the field of Arab and Middle Eastern Cultural Studies, whereby intricate questions complicate, rather than conclude, the body of the dancer as ‘exotic’ ‘elusive’ or ‘irresolute’?

This issue of MEJCC welcomes papers across disciplines in the humanities and invites articles that consider themes along, but by no means limited to, the following lines:

  • Dance, popular culture and Arab Cultural Studies
  • The body and sexuality in the contemporary Arab fiction and Popular Culture
  • Choreography, Politics, and the Body
  • Dance and Political Mobilisation in the Arab World
  • Dance cultures in the Middle East and the Maghreb
  • Nativism and Body Politics in the Arab World
  • (un)Theorising the Body: Tensions between Discourse and Materiality.
  • Dance, the body and postcolonial theory: Tensions yet to come
  • Queerness, Dance, and Discipline
  • Dance, Islam, and the Body
  • Secularity and Dance in Middle Eastern Cultures.
  • Male Dance and Sexual Politics in the Middle East.


Deadline for abstracts

Please submit a 300-word abstract and a short biography to Dr Rachid Belghiti and Dr Tarik Sabry


Thursday 15th October, 2020.

Deadline for the completed articles is:

25th October, 2021.


*All of the articles submitted will be peer-reviewed.

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