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Flexible BodiesBritish South Asian Dancers in an Age of Neoliberalism$
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Anusha Kedhar

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190840136

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190840136.001.0001

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Breaking Point?: Flexibility, Pain, and the Calculus of Risk in Neoliberal Multiculturalism

(p.141) 4 Risk
Flexible Bodies

Anusha Kedhar

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 theorizes flexibility in relation to neoliberal discourses of risk. The beginnings of neoliberalism in the 1970s are marked by a significant shift in capital’s relationship to risk, from risk-aversion to risk-seeking. The emergence of British South Asian dance in the 1980s roughly aligns with this late twentieth-century rise in risk-taking. This chapter examines how neoliberal demands for risk echo and intersect with British multiculturalism’s expectations on South Asian dancers to display virtuosity, speed, and versatility. Together, they create conditions of physical pain and economic precarity for racialized dancing bodies. Dancers’ bodies, however, are not merely inscribed by neoliberalism and multiculturalism. South Asian dancers use choreographic tools and other bodily tactics to gain creative control over their bodily labor and continue to circulate within a competitive British dance economy in ways that are safe and pleasurable. Drawing on Talal Asad’s notion of “pain as action,” this chapter demonstrates how British South Asian dancers intentionally and strategically respond to demands for risk-taking and flexibility through small, seemingly insignificant corporeal tactics, such as enduring pain, modifying choreographic tasks, and practicing care of self and care of others.

Keywords:   risk, pain, injury, precarity, virtuosity, speed, versatility

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