White Ways of Knowing (2017)
was a module entitled “Ways of Knowing.” The course offered a series of approaches to research, theory, and to 'knowing' the dance body. What could have provided a wealth of perspectives on Dance Studies pedagogy was overwhelmed by lecturers and assigned readings from white people and made eurocentric assumptions about the knowledge production of the dancing body.
For her cumulative project for "Ways of Knowing," she created a performance and written piece entitled White Ways of Knowing. The performance began by handing out to each classmate and lecturer who made up the audience, a portrait of each scholar on the class syllabus. Next, Sarah sang a short rendition of Stevie Nicks' “Landslide,” drawing a metaphor between nostalgia, oblivion, and racism. The bulk of the performance entailed taping the portraits to the backs of the chairs arranged in the performance space, amassing the white mob of dancers, scholars, and choreographers who made up the Ways of Knowing syllabus.
How can we use performance as a tool to confront the white supremacist epistemologies
of Dance Studies?
CHOREOGRAPHY AND PERFORMANCE by Sarah Ashkin
DRAMATURGY by Simon Ellis
CREATED for/with University of Roehampton, London, UK
PHOTOS by Rebecca Sirett
White Ways of Knowing collaborator bios
SIMON ELLIS is an artist working with practices of choreography, filmmaking and dance. Born in the Wairarapa in Aotearoa/New Zealand, he now lives in London. As a Pākehā — a white person of European descent — Simon grew up in a politicised family environment where talk often centered around things like equality, consumerism and even technology. These experiences have shaped Simon’s values as an artist, and underpin much of his practice. Interested in the ways humans might value things that are not easily commodified, Simon likes to imagine a world filled with people who are sensitive to their own bodies, and the bodies of others.
accountability practice + partners
Sarah created White Ways of Knowing while a graduate student in Dance, Politics, and Sociology at the University of Roehampton. She built this work in response and accountability to her classmates of color, particularly the African-American colleagues in her department, whose racial and cultural identities were not reflected in the syllabus for this program. The piece takes responsibility for the fact that the authors, choreographers, and subjects of study spanning much of Dance Studies curricula look like her and therefore secure her white privilege. White Ways of Knowing challenges Sarah herself, her white teachers, and her white peers to see race and dismantle racism in Dance Education.
White Ways of Knowing was made in London UK, on the ancestral lands of the Celtic Britons. The work was created in the Grove House, a mansion built in the 1600s, which housed the local elite until it was acquired by the University of Roehampton’s Froebel College in 1921. Sarah chose this site as it offered both a real and metaphorical relationship to privilege, education, and exclusion.