Utrecht University Humanities Graduate Conference

Panel 3: Rituals, Archive and the Corporeal

Panel 3: Rituals, Archive and the Corporeal

Chair:        Iris van der Tuin

Time:         15:45 – 17:15

Location:   Drift 21, room 0.32


Negotiating the Borders of the Daw-es Ritual: A Case study of Tadian Kankanaey Migrants’ Ritual Practice in Baguio City, Philippines

Doris Wilson, RMA in Media, Art, and Performance Studies, Utrecht University


Keywords: migration, borders, Philippines, ritual performance


The daw-es, an indigenous cleansing ritual among the Kankanaey in the Philippines is bound by strict codes of conduct regarding purpose, ritual site, duration, prayer chants, participants, and sacrificial animal. The migration of the Kankanaey from the hinterlands to the city, then, becomes an essential factor in determining the boundaries of the ritual. This study, conducted in 2013, explored the changes in the performance of the daw-es ritual by a migrant Tadian Kankanaey community in Baguio City, Philippines. The traditional daw-es ritual had no written record: partly because of set taboos, knowledge about the ritual was passed on through oral tradition and observation. Although the daw-es is traditionally led by male elders, this Kankanaey migrant community in Baguio City now practices the daw-es led by a woman. Through key informant interviews, the traditional as well as this ‘hybrid’ daw-es ritual were traced, documented, and differentiated. How did migration enable this community of Tadian Kankanaey migrants to cross the daw-es ritual borders? Grounded in the Marxist framework that understands economic structures as defining political and socio-cultural activities, this study concludes that the economic changes due to their migration led Tadian Kankanaey communities to actively negotiate the strict codes of the daw-es ritual, thereby allowing the emergence of new, ‘hybrid’ daw-es led by a woman in an urban area.


Corporeal Archives of an “Against-between” People: rethinking borders through londa ke naach

Louise Autar, RMA in Gender & Ethnicity, Utrecht University



Adopting Leslie Adelson’s “against-between” argument (2003) to rethink cultural belonging beyond national and cultural borders, this paper investigates the co-creation and sustainment of a seemingly unimportant dance tradition of a diasporic twice-migrated people. Since their passage to Suriname in the late 19th century, the indentured laborers of India and their descendants have practiced londa ke naach (dance of the boy) at weddings. The practice of this tradition also survived the subsequent mass migration to the Netherlands on the eve of Surinamese decolonization in 1975, and has recently experienced a revival in popularity. These dancers (nachaniyas) dress up as women during various wedding ceremonies and guide the groom’s wedding procession (baraati) from the ritualistic dressing of the groom to the union with the bride through singing, dancing and ritualistic practices that are, I argue, reflective of the migration history. In framing the bodies of the dancers as corporeal archives, I seek to rethink borders by looking at the manipulation of the perpetual “betweenness” that this ethnic group experience in these new locations. In this paper, I research this seemingly unimportant, mundane and occasionally perceived as tacky tradition as a sensorial mise-en-abyme for a particular migration history beyond static paradigms of borders and migration.

Mobilizing Borders in the Dilemmatic Encounter Between Volunteer Travelers and Forced Migrants

Maria Chiara Coppola, MA in Anthropology and Development Studies, Radboud University

Keywords: dilemmatic encounters, redemptive practices, passport, mobility, bodies, spaces


In 2016, I volunteered in a refugee camp in Lebanon inhabited by displaced people from Syria. The large majority of them do not receive legal recognition by the Lebanese state. One of the things we as volunteers thus did, was to accompany them during their trips within Lebanon, in order to reduce the risk of being arrested at a checkpoint along the road. When we would get stopped, we would say: ‘Don’t worry he is with us’. We pretended to ensure the soldier that the travel was legitimate – legitimate because of our presence – even though we had no official, recognized role to actually make such claims. Instead, it was our European status and our use of a foreign language, that were our pass card. In this paper, I analyze what happened “inside the van”, here considered a space of mobility, in which volunteers intentionally make use of their privilege to extend it to the refugee traveling with them; a moment in which borders ceased to be mere country boundaries but a constant radical distinction in visibility and privilege. This situation allows us to think together border, bodies, spaces, and whiteness. In other words, which actual ‘borders’ informed and enabled the volunteers’ practice as well as the soldiers’ action and reaction? How can we explain the feasibility, the very possibility of this practice of solidarity? this everyday life example shows how borders affect the ways in which bodies can extend into and take up spaces. The van, as our “space of mobility”, became painfully synonymous with whiteness, in how the volunteers’ presence went completely unquestioned, in contrast to that of the ‘refugee’. Instead of studying the crossing of borders by refugees and volunteers in separation, I wish to bring these together in the shared space of the van, to investigate how these two categories might co-constitute and re/produce each other.

Archives Unbound: Rethinking borders through De Appel archive

Kaspars Reinis, MA in Arts and Society, RMA in Comparative Literature, Utrecht University


Key words: archive, ghostly demarcation, poetic practice, Works and Words, inclusion/exclusion


This paper examines the notion of the border through both the figure of the archive and through a real archive of performance art, focusing on a 1979 event “Works and Words” that took place at De Appel arts center. “Works and Words” brought to the Netherlands for the first time more than 100 artists from the Eastern Block – Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. This was the height of the Cold War, therefore, questions of freedom and artistic expression preceded and surrounded this event.

Archive is never one, it is two-fold, one cannot really say where one archive ends and another starts, they fold upon one another, creating a sort of a ghostly demarcation of the preceding world image. These traces transgress and challenge borders not only as a historical fact, but also as an invitation to rethink whether the collapse of some borders, a withdrawal of inclusion/exclusion, actually deactivates the border that once marked, juxtaposed and even vilified two sides – East and the West.  I will pursue a Derridean line of argument, thus deconstructing and showing not only how De Appel archive of performance art is par excellance a ghostly entity that simultaneously has and has no borders. Furthermore, I will invite thinking of borders as a poetic structure, a form of sharing a separation, where both sides are equally included and excluded from one another, therefore partaking in this structural aporia of included exclusion and excluded inclusion.