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Raqs Sharqi (Belly Dance) Thesis
My thesis has provided a preliminary exploration into what might be involved in the understanding of dance as a form of cultural heritage, to inform its safeguarding.
A complex picture has emerged in which a variety of tangible and intangible factors interact, thus I have tried to represent a holistic picture.
Adopting a multidisciplinary approach has helped me in this endeavour. Having said that, I am aware that there are limitations in scope in this study due, for example, to the lack of an in-depth enquiry into Egyptian social, political, religious and cultural factors.
The main focus of my research was the dance, and its connections with Egyptian politics and society have emerged as part of my research.
I am aware of the importance of a deeper socio-cultural analysis, but such analysis was beyond the scope of this research and I lacked the resources (of time and finance) to pursue such an in-depth analysis.
Hence, this study can provide a foundation for further research involving a multidisciplinary team composed, for example, of dance anthropologists, historians, musicologists, sociologists and a variety of other experts as needed.
Moreover, I have mainly investigated the performed version of this popular Egyptian dance, in order to restrict and sharpen my focus. However, the social version (raqs baladi) is just as important and it warrants further investigation in the future.
Also, it could be argued that I have focused too much on analyzing videos of dancers who were either Egyptian or non-Egyptians performing in Egypt and mainly professionals.
This was done to maintain focus, since I was exploring the presentational (as opposed to social) version of Egyptian style bellydance.
In the future, separate studies could be carried out to assess how Egyptian raqs sharqi is interpreted in a variety of different settings (for example, in different countries, at social events or during dance classes).
Also, different inputs could be gathered by analyzing live performances, rather than just videos; or by comparing Egyptian raqs sharqi more directly with other forms of so-called bellydance.
A more in-depth analysis of the videos could also be done, focusing more on how the dance is represented in the movies and its context.
All these explorations go beyond the scope of this thesis and would provide the content for new PhD or postdoctoral studies in their own rights.
Own Involvement with Belly Dance
One last point I need to make might seem, at first, an advantage rather than a limitation or at least this is what I thought at the start of my PhD journey.
The fact that I write my own blog (www.worldbellydance.com) on bellydance (not limited to but including Egyptian raqs sharqi) was an advantage in two respects, as mentioned in 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11.
It allowed me to look back at my old posts and reflect on my journey as a practitioner, and was also one of the channels through which I recruited participants (one participant volunteered after reading a post I wrote about my research).
Because the site has been live since 2004 and because of the SEO and e-marketing strategies I adopted, it has become well known by bellydance practitioners worldwide as it comes high up in search engines for a variety of keywords.
Thus, this can make it a useful tool in research, but it also has its drawbacks. In particular, having a popular blog can place the researcher in a position of authority and, therefore, power in the field.
So, some participants (especially those who have less research experience in the field) may be inclined to go along with what they think the researcher may want to hear from them. This is something I became aware of during my research.
I think that some practitioners have not been influenced, but some might have been swayed a little.
A researcher, as suggested by Bakka (2015), Pelegrini (2008) and Zebec (2007), should provide support and guidance to a community, whilst avoiding imposing their authority in the process of safeguarding heritage. This balance is not always easy to achieve.
In spite of the limitations in the scope of this research, however, I have hopefully contributed to a wider debate, having identified some key issues, such as the limitation of separating tangible from intangible elements of heritage and the transcultural dimension of ICH.
Moreover, it is possible to generalize case studies to theoretical propositions, as mentioned in 4.8 drawing on Sparkes and Smith (2014).
Hence, there is the potential to learn something inductively from the processes at play here and apply these conceptual understandings to other settings and the problem of cultural heritage more generally.
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