6. Dances of Self-development as a Resource for Participatory Democracy
Michael Houseman [+]
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
Marie Mazzella di Bosco [+]
Paris Nanterre University (PhD candidate)
Based on participatory fieldwork undertaken mostly in France, this article explores the political dimensions of collective dance practices pursued in the spirit of self-discovery and personal transformation (5 Rhythms, Movement Medicine, Biodanza, etc.). These activities are not instances of political activism in and of themselves, nor are they organized according to democratic principles. However, they call into play moral and social values that are consonant with the principles that democratically inspired political actions seek to put into effect. In this respect, they are not reducible to the consumption of a resource for individual self-fulfilment. We argue that like many other contemporary “alternative” or “spiritual” initiatives, these activities involve participants in extra-ordinary yet lived-through situations that enact a special mode of sociability, many aspects of which are immediately relevant to the functioning of social movements based on participatory democratic principles. By affording participants with ritual experiences in which individual autonomy and collective solidarity are made interdependent, these practices can be a resource for democratic commitment in the political sphere.