Dancing Right(s): Dance, Disability and Legal Empowerment in Post-War Sri Lanka

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    Sri Lanka's long civil war (1983-2009) resulted in large-scale personal, physical and social trauma. It led to a large number of deaths and many people became disabled due to the war. Disabled people in Sri Lanka are often marginalized and excluded from the public sphere. Whilst there are initiatives to support disabled people from both the State and Non- Governmental Organisations, support often adopts a charity-based approach which has been criticised for contributing to marginalisation and the dependency of disabled people on other people and organisations. Performing Empowerment (2016-18) was a research project that responded to this context by seeking to examine whether combining dance workshops with human rights education might lead to greater legal empowerment for disabled people in Sri Lanka. In this paper, I reflect on the experiences of five Tamil women who took part in the project, outlining how they gained confidence and rights awareness which enabled them to self-advocate and make changes to their everyday lives, demonstrating increased legal empowerment. I argue that this change arose in part through different forms of performance that they experienced within the workshops, which enabled a series of transportations from their daily lives.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)72-88
    Number of pages17
    JournalDance Research
    Issue number1
    Early online dateDec 2020
    Publication statusPublished - May 2021

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    • Dance
    • Disability
    • Gender
    • Legal empowerment
    • Performance
    • Sri Lanka

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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