Naomi Bragin

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Assistant Professor

B.A., Dance, Wesleyan University
M.A., Folklore, UC Berkeley
Ph.D., Performance Studies, UC Berkeley



Dance, Performance Studies, Critical Black Theory, Gender and Sexuality, Performance Ethnography, Community-Based Research, Popular Culture, New Media

In my classes, movement and performance are analytic tools and practical methods for student learning. I call my teaching approach Cypher Theory, based in the creative process of improvisation in hip hop culture. Cypher Theory teaches multi-perspectival, trans-methodological critical inquiry, collaboration, experimentation and self-reflection. I ask students to cultivate a self-directed attitude of curiosity and play, drawing on their life experiences, imagination and intuition to challenge structural oppression and ideas that intellectual study is a purely isolated, distanced, objective activity. Syllabi include student-devised curricula, self-assessment, experiential learning and community-based projects. Students have the chance to use social media platforms like Twitter and blogs that link classroom and everyday world. I am most interested to work with different ways people seek and produce knowledge, in order to critically question, ethically attend to and actively transform it.

Research and Scholarship

Black Power of Hip Hop Dance: On Kinesthetic Politics studies the significance of collective improvised dance in black protest tradition, through an ethnographic history of black street dance in 1960s and 1970s California. I argue that kinesthesia—the body’s “sixth” sense of motion historically devalued by Cartesian dualism—is a key yet rarely studied element of black thought, that defines performances of being connected and dislocated, fugitive and captive. I theorize the relation of aesthetics and politics through the idea of (kin) aesthetic politics, to describe how street dance extends experimental styles of kinship—non biological and queer—that also break down conceptual divisions of collective/individual, innovation/tradition, sound/movement, choreography/improvisation. This research draws on my experiences as a street dancer since the early 1990s.

Selected Publications

Shot and Captured: Turf Dance, YAK Films, and the Oakland, California, R.I.P. Project.” TDR: The Drama Review 58:2, Summer 2014 (T222), pp. 99-114. 

Techniques of Black Male Re/Dress: Corporeal Drag and Kinesthetic Politics in the Rebirth of Waacking/Punkin.’” Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. Special issue: “All Hail the Queenz: a queer feminist recalibration of hip hop scholarship.” Eds. Pabón, Jessica and Shanté Paradigm Smalls, 24:1, May 2014.

“From Oakland Turfs to Harlem’s Shake: Viral Hood Dance and Screening Antiblackness.” In The Oxford Handbook of Screen Dance Studies. Ed. Douglas Rosenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015 (forthcoming).