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In 1965, the American folklorist Alan Lomax set out on a mission: to view, code, catalogue, and preserve the totality of the world’s dance traditions. Believing that dance carried otherwise inaccessible information about social structures, work practices, and the history of human migration, Lomax and his collaborators gathered more than 250,000 feet of raw film footage and analyzed it using a new system of movement analysis. Lomax’s aims, however, went beyond the merely scientific. He hoped to use his “Choreometrics” project as the foundation for a universally-accessible visual and textual atlas of human movement. This paper explores how Lomax’s archival ambitions supported his efforts to enact a wholesale “recalibration of the human perceptual apparatus” and situates Choreometrics at the nexus of new techniques of data-gathering and the cultural ferment of the 1960s.
- Fellow Whitney Laemmli Lecturer in History Columbia University
- Chair Julie Crawford Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature Columbia University
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