IUAES 2016: panel “Body and performances in urban spaces: Applying cultural anthropology in cultural policies?”

IUAES 2016: panel “Body and performances in urban spaces: Applying cultural anthropology in cultural policies?”

In the frame of the IUAES (International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences) international conference, organized in Dubrovnik from May 4 to 9, 2016, a panel prepared within the project, entitled “Body and performances in urban spaces: Applying cultural anthropology in cultural policies?”, was held. The co-convenors of the panel, Tanja Bukovčan and Nevena Škrbić Alempijević, invited papers that tackle the relationship between the city and performances, particularly art. The aim of the panel was to discuss potential of linking ethnological and cultural anthropological research of the related topics with cultural policies.

Summary of the panel topic: Performances in urban spaces could be seen as meeting points of bodies and scapes, which are produced and also experienced through different expressive modes and different sensory pathways. Performative acts can be heard, smelt, tasted, touched, seen, they can invoke our sense of balance, movement, and they thus become creative acts and agents in shaping the sense of the city. While cultural anthropology tries to grasp it in critical and analytical mode, cultural policies try to (re)create it in different commodified contexts, using but also frequently misusing the cityscapes and shapes they use as starting points. Even though many anthropologists are in different ways involved in creating cultural policies, this relationship between cultural anthropology and cultural policies is in no ways easy to define and differs almost on a case basis. Hence this panel invites papers which question this link between cultural anthropology and the related cultural policies in the contexts of urban spaces. Should we wait to be invited to join the club or should we simply crash the party? Should we speak up if the party seems to be too tacky?


Three papers were presented within this panel, which focused on the role of performances in city-making processes, as well as on the role of researchers in defining cultural policies. In her paper “To dance and to dissent”, Debanjali Biswas (King’s College London) analyses the political and activist function of performances of protest, using the Indian state of Manipur as her case study. Zhiyong Yang (The ICH centre of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture) presented a paper that carried the title “Diversified culture policy initiative in supporting newly emerged urban performers – Body performances of Yi youth in emerging urban sites”.

Nevena Škrbić Alempijević has also presented her paper, under the title “Performing Art, Making the City: A Case Study of Zagreb”.

The summary of the paper: The paper deals with performances and other bodily practices as generators of city-making processes. Its aim is to observe how different agents imagine, use and redefine the city by their performances. It focuses on art practices in open-air public spaces and analyses their power to transform urban locations. The author analyses how art interventions within a city contribute to the creation of senses of urban place. She approaches such performances as a means of creating a different “face of the city”, of highlighting or placing to the forefront certain urban zones or dimensions that would otherwise remain undefined and hidden. Art performances are observed in comparison with the city’s official cultural policies. They are seen as ways of affirming, negotiating, but sometimes also opposing and subverting the dominant imagery of the city. The paper is based on the results of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in public spaces of the Croatia’s capital of Zagreb in 2015 and 2016.

Link to the full program here.

About the panels here.

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  • Project is supported by Croatian Science Foundation

  • Project leading institution: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb

  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology

  • Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Department of Geography