Altaïr Despres

Postdoctoral Researcher
Rosenwald 331C

Trained in anthropology and sociology, my research examines how international mobility and transnational experiences shape social trajectories and hierarchies in sub-Saharan Africa.  I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in both West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso) and East Africa (Zanzibar-Tanzania).

My doctoral research examined the emergence of contemporary dance in West Africa. In my book Se faire contemporain, I analyzed the social trajectories of young African men, often born in poor families, from their unlikely engagement in contemporary dance to their eventual success on the international stages. I showed the historical and political role played by French institutions in the development of contemporary dance on the African continent.

The book also analyzed the paradoxical mechanisms of socialization and value production to which African dancers are subject. While taught to “westernize” in order to gain credibility in terms of the norms of contemporary dance, they are also encouraged to perform their Africanness so as to preserve their comparative advantage on the international market.

My current research  analyzes the role of recent international mobilities in the transformation of local norms of love, sexual and marital practices in the Muslim society of Zanzibar. The project investigates the ways in which intimate practices and ideologies of gender in Zanzibar are challenged, negotiated and transformed with the arrival of tourists, the settlement of European expatriates, and the increase in interracial intimacies and mixed marriages.

I am currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Jennifer Cole.

Error | Department of Comparative Human Development


The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.