Unveiled: Performing identities in the Arab diaspora

Unveiled: Performing identities in the Arab diaspora

Bellydance AtW book cover

On Canada’s west coast, a large and active bellydance community has grown and thrived distinct from Middle Eastern ethnic communities.  Orientalist fantasies and Egyptian stylings regularly appear onstage alongside western tribal and other ethnic bellydance fusions.  These performances do not challenge popular media stereotypes about the Middle East; they comfortably coexist with ideologies linking veiled Arab women with oppressed victims of patriarchy and war.  So how do Arab women immigrants and their descendants experience and negotiate issues of identity and representation within the bellydance community?  Do they resist or reinscribe notions of difference, authenticity, traditionalism, contemporaneity?

In 2010 & 2011, I conducted ethnographic interviews with Arab women who belly dance. Their narratives reveal the strategies and tensions of negotiating social identities within west coast bellydance and ethnic communities.

Findings are now available in an academic publication of belly dance research, Belly Dance Around the World: New communities, performance and identity, in the chapter titled   Arab/Other: Performing identities on Canada’s west coast.


Arab Women, Arab Dance

When most people think of Arab music and dance they usually think of bellydancing, the North American dance craze based on an ancient tradition. These two presentations at Vancouver’s Dance Centre (2004 & 2005) provided a personal and cultural context for understanding the dynamic and evolving art of Arab dance.  Five diversely accomplished Arab women,… Read more…