Naomi Bragin

Assistant Professor

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

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Black aesthetics and popular culture
Performance theory and ethnography
Streetdance/club dance

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 Kinet(h)ic Politics is an ethnographic cultural history of emergent hip hop dance in 1960s and 70s California. Taking a momentary shift in focus from hip hop’s origins in New York, this project contributes to a west coast archive of hip hop dance that is under-researched in dance studies. The umbrella term Streetdance refers to movement practices of youth who were rarely seen as legitimate dancers or allowed access to formal dance studios. Streetdance aesthetics developed informally, between public, underground, and commercial entertainment spaces. My framework of kinet(h)ic politics links displacement from the studio and aesthetic experimentation to explore how blackness informs and affirms Streetdance study. I combine oral history and performance ethnography with critical black theory, drawing on my experiences as a Streetdance student, teacher, and choreographer. Black Power of Hip Hop Dance emphasizes the value of embodied community history, through the lens of sensory movement.

Selected Publications

(Forthcoming) “Stolen Study: Toward a Streetdance Aesthetic.” In The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Dance Studies, edited by Mary Fogarty and Imani Kai Johnson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

On the Front Porch: Deborah McCoy and Fresno Streetdance.” 3 April 2018. Tropics of Meta: Historiography for the Masses (blog). Solicited by the Fresno State Valley Public History Project.

“From Oakland Turfs to Harlem’s Shake: Hood Dance on YouTube and Viral Antiblackness.” 2016. The Oxford Handbook of Screen Dance Studies, edited by Douglas Rosenberg. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.