An Auto-Ethnography of Engagement Through Dance

  • Claire Vionnet University of Bern, University of Paris 8
Keywords: auto-ethnography, contemporary dance, practice-based research, Senegalese dance, social engagement, structural racism


This paper proposes a reflection on collaboration through dance. Drawing on ten years of fieldwork within the Swiss contemporary dance scene, the author, an anthropologist, dance scholar, and dancer, discusses her ethnographic practice, method, and writing inspired by collaborative anthropology. The first part of the paper advocates for dance as a practice-based research method, and for auto-ethnography to convey anthropological knowledge in a more accessible way. Research-creation is claimed to particularly suit sensorial topics, tending toward symmetrical relationships between anthropologists and fieldwork interlocutors. Drawing on an applied anthropological project using djembe dances for better social cohesion, the second part of the paper shows one possible engagement with society through dance practice. Generating intimacy and misconceptions, the project Kunda emphasizes how dance can become a laboratory to learn and negotiate intercultural differences.

Author Biography

Claire Vionnet, University of Bern, University of Paris 8

Claire Vionnet is an anthropologist, dance scholar, and dancer. Her Ph.D. research was on production processes in contemporary dance, exploring notions of body, improvisation, senses, gesture, shadow, autoethnography, and phenomenology (University of Lausanne, 2018). In her current postdoctoral research, she explores the phenomenon of intimacy in/through dance, both experimentally and ethnographically. Supported by the Swiss National Research Foundation, she improved her knowledge in research-based methods with the research teams of Tim Ingold and Erin Manning. She also works creatively with dance communities (Contemporary Dance, Contact Improvisation, West African Dances), reflecting on the way dance produces knowledge.

How to Cite
Vionnet, Claire. 2022. “An Auto-Ethnography of Engagement Through Dance”. TSANTSA – Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association 27 (April):78-93.