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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Think With Your Feet : The Cultural Politics of Native Dance

  • Author(s): Yañez, Angélica María
  • et al.

Drawing upon seven years of extensive ethnographic research in multiple regions in the U.S. Southwest, this dissertation presents a qualitative, transregional study of the contemporary indigenous practice of Danza Azteca in the United States. This study is driven by several questions. How do Chicanos/Mexicans enact political agency in the face of white supremacy? Put another way, what are the ways that marginal communities organize themselves to resist the destructive legacies of colonialism? Critical analysis of Danza Azteca asks, what types of political narratives are embedded in Native dances, thus forcing us to ask in more compelling ways, what stories do Native dances tell? How is Native dance an alternative sphere that combats power relations within dominant society? How do these ceremonial dances contest power and historical oppression? What do they signify and how do they complicate the boundaries of colonial history and dominant paradigms? I began with the assumptions that Native dance has the potential to be political and could be a form of oppositional consciousness but how? I set out to discover how people organized not just as victims but as agents, and I let my interactions within the cultural circuit of Danza guide parts of the research. This research offers an analysis of the political, cultural, and spiritual significance of the dance form. In the chapters that follow, Danza Azteca is an all encompassing space of political possibility that connects seemingly disparate sites such as formal education, Mexican women's leadership and group interactions amongst Native Americans and Mexicans in the U.S. and México. Ultimately, Danza Azteca is a practice that bridges Native spirituality and politics

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