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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter unpacks the contradictory cultural politics surrounding the American Museum of Natural History’s popular midcentury dance program, Around the World with Dance and Song. Directed toward cultural integrationism, or the well-intentioned humanization of foreign peoples and their ways of life, the program was notable in its use of dance to make the museum more accessible to ordinary museum goers, bridge gaps of cultural difference and understanding, and conceptualize “ethnic art dance” as an avenue of ethnic self-representation on what amounted to a concert stage. Yet the museum’s positioning of dance in these ways appealed to paradoxically flawed universalist notions about human commonality, eliding government and public hesitation to intervene in the European Jewish genocide during World War II, for example, or to significantly reform US immigration policy or address ongoing domestic cultural patterns and practices of racial, ethnic, and sexual discrimination during the postwar years.

Keywords: ethnic art dance, American Museum of Natural History, Around the World with Dance and Song, integrationism, universalist

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