Friction: Male Identity and Representation in Umfundalai

C. Kemal Nance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This study employs an autoethnographic lens to illuminate men’s constructions of gender in the Umfundalai tradition of African dance. Specifically, the research explores gender agency among eight male practitioners, including the researcher. The study’s qualitative methodology is informed by Max van Manen’s hermeneutic phenomenology and Anselm Strauss’s applied grounded theory. Sources of data include in-depth interviews as well as a research journal recording the author’s own lived experience descriptions and memories of dancing Umfundalai. The study is in dialogue with the literature of masculine studies, highlighting the social function of masculinities as scripted and learned ideals. Analysis of data revealed that performing Umfundalai choreography affords men an opportunity to dance a self-determined construction of gender performance and that Umfundalai studio practice can be a site for men’s affirmation of their `dancer’ identities as well as friction with gender performance. Umfundalai choreography can house multiple masculinities, potentially dismantling the hegemony that erodes the community in which it exists.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDance and the Quality of Life
EditorsKaren Bond
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-95699-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-95698-5
StatePublished - Mar 6 2019

Publication series

NameSocial Indicators Research Series
ISSN (Print)1387-6570
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0099


  • Umfundalai
  • Kariamu Welsh
  • African spirituality
  • Grounded theory
  • Hermeneutic phenomenology
  • Autoethnography
  • Masculinities
  • Gender agency
  • African dance


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