Reviewed by: Council on Anthropology and Education
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Identity and Equity
Secondary Theme: Resilience
Discourses about cultural “deficiencies” have impacted marginalized and minoritized ethnic and cultural communities for generations. School systems across the United States more or less demand that students from these communities check their cultural knowledge, including language and traditional cultural practices, at the front door of the school house. The perception is that their culture has little academic value in the educational context. In this session we argue that community cultural practices of dance and music represent “Funds of Knowledge” vital for the learning, development, and well-being of students.
“Funds of Knowledge” is a term coined by Luis Moll and his colleagues, describing the prior knowledge and skills students bring into the classroom because of their unique familial, cultural, and experiential backgrounds. Moll, Gonzalez and Amanti developed an approach to this research focused on the systematic collection of “information about how families generated, obtained and distributed knowledge” and skills in their communities (Gonzalez, Moll and Amanti 2013:5). They also “established that these homes and communities should be perceived primarily in terms of the strengths and resources that they possess” (Gonzalez, Moll and Amanti 2013:6). Moll’s original “Funds of Knowledge” study, conducted with his colleagues Velez-Ibanez and Greenberg in 1988, was primarily focused on understanding literacy practices in home contexts in order to inform and improve school literacy instruction. This approach is rooted in ethnography and committed to an anti-deficit stance. For decades now the “Funds of Knowledge” framework has been widely used and adapted across a wide range of communities and schools both nationally and internationally. While most of the studies conducted in this tradition have uncovered a vast range of cultural knowledges, practices and skills, few, if any, have specifically focused on dance.
In this roundtable session, we highlight the dance and music practices of a wide range of cultural communities including Latinx, Yup’ik, Hawaiian, Māori, Cuban, and African diaspora. The roundtable will feature presenters who use ethnography to examine the nature and meaning of dance and dance practices in the lives of community members and the ways in which these culturally expressive forms, performances, and rituals express deeply rooted aspects of cultural identity, epistemology, and humanity. Dance will be explored as an aesthetic/spiritual activation of cultural worldview and identity strengthening, as well as a pedagogy of resistance, resilience and adaptation (e.g., Cruz Banks 2014, 2017; McCain 2016; Salas 2017; Whitinui 2010).
Implications for decolonizing educational practices and the enhancement of student cultural and linguistic pride and identity will be examined. Implications of dance as decolonizing educational practices will be explored. Dance is conceptualized as a critical pedagogical strategy for interrupting the cycle of a dominant assimilative approach to education, demonstrating how dance can instead effectively enhance student learning and intellectual development with culturally relevant content. Having students study their own cultural dance and music connects them to their rich language and cultural history and marks how previous generations resisted, transformed, and divested colonization to both sustain and create new artistic and healing expressions.