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Stepping Out: Dancing Identity and Symbolic Conflict in London’s Salsa Scene.

Urquia, Norman. (2003) Stepping Out: Dancing Identity and Symbolic Conflict in London’s Salsa Scene. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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The popular music and dance called salsa is often associated with Latin America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean. The bulk of the writing on salsa emphasises the role it plays in constructing and maintaining what are described as Latin identities. Recently Salsa clubs have emerged in the UK, but much of the previous work is of limited relevance because it often overlooks a number of crucial points. Firstly, Latin identity refers to a vague social construction that is analytically unstable. Secondly, both salsa and its antecedents have been distributed throughout the world for most of the last century. Hence through cultural globalisation the supposedly fixed connection between salsa and Latin identity are challenged by new connections. Most importantly much of this previous work focuses on the music as a symbolic text rather than the dance as a social performance and thus neglects the social benefits available from the practice of dancing salsa in the here and now. Pierre Bourdieu's ideas on the relationship between Habitus, noneconomic capital and social fields have been the theoretical inspiration for this study which uses ethnographic observation, interviews and analysis of flyers from London salsa clubs to explore the resources that salsa dancing offers its practitioners for the construction of identity. This thesis concludes that the resources salsa provides lie mainly in the consequences of its practice rather than its symbolic meanings. Dancers enforce forms of cultural capital that play to their own strengths and exclude other groups. Therefore the findings suggest that the appropriation of salsa in London's clubs merely reinforces existing patterns of dominance by shifting the authority to a local interpretation of the practice of salsa. Thus in this social field, cultural capital can be fluid and fragile as the various sub groups struggle to sway the aesthetic decisions on which it is based to support their own claims of ownership and identity. In this sense London's salsa dancers have appropriated, not the music or dance, but the authority to improvise rather than imitate dance as a marker of identity that they come to think of as their own.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Urquia, Norman.
Date : 2003
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 2003.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 24 Apr 2020 15:27
Last Modified : 24 Apr 2020 15:27

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