Back That Thing Up (And Into a Glorious Future)
Amid double digit tuition increases and constant wailing and gnashing of teeth about being underfunded by the state legislature, the University of Minnesota provides an update on how your tax dollars are being spent. The cover story in this month’s alumni magazine, entitled “Body Language,” focuses on Ananya Chatterjea, an assistant professor of dance “who uses her body to inspire social change.”
Her mission: “I do political theater, using dance to tell ordinary stories about ordinary people and to address violence. I'm interested in being someone who has something to say, to inspire social change, to invite people into political thought."
I love that quote "I’m interested in being someone who has something to say.” I think that unintentionally nails the reason this generation of liberal arts professors got into the business of academia in the first place. Of course, it would be better for society if these people actually were people who had something to say, but we’ll have to take what we get. Along with her publicly subsidized salary to which I contribute, I send along my best wishes that Prof. Chatterjea attains her dreams of someday having something to say.
Her motivation: ”In grad school, I met interesting people from all parts of the world and my politics became very radical. I also started working as a volunteer with Manavi, a shelter for battered women in New Jersey where I literally saw the global proliferation of patriarchy and violence against women. Everywhere I looked there was violence, especially against women. There is historic injustice against women across the world, and that moved me very deeply. Always I have been looking for ways to address contemporary issues, but I thought, "How do I jibe that with dance?"
Interesting that a woman who grew up amid the third world squalor and medieval social norms of Calcutta didn’t “literally see” the global proliferation of patriarchy and violence against women until coming to the United States. But then again, she was in New Jersey.
Her solution: “...writing a book that interprets the choreography of two women artists: Chandralekha, an Indian choreographer, and Jawole willa jo Zollar, a black choreographer. The book is called ‘Butting Out,’ because the linear spinal arrangement that is typical of Western dance is alien to many black and Asian cultures, where the curves of the spine are valued and the butt is held loose.”
I guess I was wrong. It seems Professor Chatterjea does have something to say after all. Short of a draft movement for Jennifer Lopez as President, I’m not exactly sure how this topic is going to inspire social change. Nevertheless, expect me to be first in line at the book signing.