Das awarded "2018 de la Torre Bueno© First Book Award"

"Joanna Dee Das’ book, 'Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora,' reconfigures Dunham’s acknowledged legacy to include her intellectual, aesthetic and activist contributions within the sweep of African diaspora history." - Dance Studies Association Selection Committee.

The Performing Arts Department is proud to congratulate Joanna Dee Das, Assistant Professor of Dance, on being awarded the Dance Studies Association's 2018 de la Torre Bueno© First Book Award.  "I am so grateful that this award will help further highlight Katherine Dunham, her work, and the institutions that are promoting her legacy today--namely the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities (KDCAH) and the Institute for Dunham Technique Certification (IDTC)."

This book was a long labor of love for Das who first encountered the work of Katherine Dunham when she was a child dancing at COCA in St. Louis.  She began her research in earnest in 2009 while in graduate school at New York University.  "I am so honored to receive the 2018 de la Torre Bueno© First Book Award from the Dance Studies Association for the best first book in dance studies of the year," says Das,

The following is the citation offered by the selection committee about her book:

"Joanna Dee Das’ Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora reconfigures Dunham’s acknowledged legacy to include her intellectual, aesthetic and activist contributions within the sweep of African diaspora history. With exciting research that accesses new primary sources, Das connects interrelated spheres of action: Dunham’s performances, her institutions, and her personal life. Guided by Dunham’s “aesthetics as politics” perspective, the author’s analysis of key choreographies stands to revitalize the scholarship of Dunham’s contributions to the dance world. Importantly, the intersection of biography, performance, and historiography surfaces Dunham’s deep and persistent commitment to the struggle for racial equality and social justice grounded in what Das calls a “politics of diaspora.” New material on Dunham’s work in Haiti and Senegal, and her schools in New York and East St. Louis shows how her vision of dance as a tool of liberation could generate both political solidarity and controversy. The many contradictions in Dunham’s work and life are insightfully juxtaposed, shedding light on the complex forces affecting Dunham’s artistic and personal choices. The integration of vivid oral histories, embodied research, and beautiful writing make this book a page-turner, a highly readable account that places dance at the centre of Dunham’s interdisciplinary reach and significance. The awards committee celebrates the publication of this brilliant first book, awarding the 2018 Bueno First Book Award to the very deserving Joanna Dee Das."


Formed in 2017 as the merged entity of the Congress on Research in Dance (CORD, founded 1969) and the Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS, founded 1978) the Dance Studies Association (DSA) is both grounded in and extends the work of those two organizations.   DSA advances innovative analyses of dance by promoting diverse approaches and a globally inclusive, respectful dialogue in the dance field and various related disciplines. It advances the field of dance studies through research, publication, performance, and outreach to audiences across the arts, humanities, and social sciences. As a constituent member of the American Council of Learned Societies, DSA holds annual conferences as well as special topics conferences; publishes original scholarship through Dance Research JournalConversations Across the field of Dance Studies, the Studies in Dance History book seriesand conference proceedings; supports ongoing working groups and networking; collaborates with peer organizations in the U.S. and abroad; and presents annual awards for exemplary scholarship and leadership.