When We Twerk, We Torque:

On Sacral Dances as Pleasurable Epistemologies, Technologies and Methodologies of Liberation and Freedom in the Black Atlantic

Doctoral Thesis published in December 2023

keywords: digital humanities, interdisciplinarity, intersectionality, speculative futures, globalization, neurobiology, social epistemology

Reproduction of Old Europe neolithic clay figurines that depict the pleasure circuits in the body, 5000 to 3000 BC.
From Rodrigáñez Bustos, Casilda, Pariremos con placer: Apuntes sobre la recuperación del útero espástico y la energía sexual femenina (Buenos Aires: Madreselva, 2010), p. 42

Sacral dances hold profound cultural and spiritual significance in the Black Atlantic, serving as dynamic expressions of insurrection and identity. By examining the historical, cultural, and socio-political dimensions of these sacred movements, this research seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of dance as a transformative force in the African diaspora.

In the expansive landscape of the Black Atlantic, sacral dances such as twerk, dutty wine and rebolado emerge as pleasurable somato-social practices of freedom and liberation, resonating with the historical echoes of the African diaspora. This post-doctoral research endeavors to unravel the intricate relationship between sacral dances and technologies of liberation within this vast and diverse context. Sacral dances, deeply rooted in the initiatory traditions of the African continent, have traversed continents, adapting and evolving amidst the challenges of displacement, capture, and cultural transformation. As dynamic embodiments of freedom and insurrection, these sacred movements have played a pivotal role as submerged or hidden mnemonics, fostering community bonds, and resisting systemic oppression. Within this framework, the research aims to delve into the intricate relationship between sacral dances and technologies of liberation within the diverse contexts of the Black Atlantic nexus of Rio de Janeiro (BR),  Kingston (JA), and New Orleans (US), seeking to trace the historical roots, examine the cultural dimensions, and explore the contemporary expressions of sacral dances to comprehend their transformative potential and their role in the ongoing narrative of liberation within the African diaspora.

A picture of San person from Namibia whose posture is unaffected by European postural mores.
From Rodrigáñez Bustos, Casilda. Pariremos con placer: Apuntes sobre la recuperación del útero espástico y la energía sexual femenina (Buenos Aires: Madreselva, 2010), p. 37

At the heart of this research lies a central question: How do sacral dances function as pleasurable technologies of liberation within the Black Atlantic? This question encapsulates a multidimensional exploration into the historical, cultural, and somato-socio-political contexts that have shaped and continue to influence these sacred movements. By addressing this research problem, the study aims to unravel the oft-ignored and nuanced ways in which sacral dances have served as tools for resistance, empowerment, and cultural preservation. The complexity of this question invites a comprehensive investigation into the diverse manifestations of sacral dances, from their traditional African origins to contemporary expressions, acknowledging the challenges and opportunities presented by the diasporic journey.

The importance of this research extends beyond the realms of academia to encompass a broader societal significance. The Black Atlantic, with its tapestry of identities, histories, and struggles, is enriched by the dynamic contributions of sacral dances. The study of these sacred movements not only deepens our understanding of cultural resilience but also sheds light on the mechanisms through which Black and afrodiasporic communities assert agency and navigate adversity in the face of historical injustices. By exploring sacral dances as technologies of liberation, this research aspires to contribute valuable insights to the ongoing discourse surrounding cultural preservation, identity formation, and the transformative potential of pleasurable somato-social practices within the Black Atlantic. Through this lens, the project seeks to foster a greater appreciation for the significance of sacral dances in shaping the narratives of liberation and freedom within the African diaspora.

An example of an unruly pelvis: Josephine Baker on the Scheveningen beach in 1928.