This lecture was invited by Amanda Piña’ as part of Climatic Dances (Endangered Human Movements Vol. 5).
Alessandro Questa’s lecture Mountains in Resistance explores two usually separated spheres of inquiry: Indigenous traditional dances and non-Western ecologies, evidenced as joint concerns by recent environmental anxieties. Masewal people living in small communities across the Eastern Sierra Madre have a fantastic array of traditional dances, with around 17 different themed compositions. Each of these dances present specific characters, choreographies, music, and themes. Disappearing practices by the end of the last century, many of these performances have reemerged with a new generation of local dancers. Why?
Alessandro Questa argues these dances are not merely folkloric manifestations but nuanced expressions of nonverbal and holographic thought, that is, embodied visualizations of otherwise unseen relations. Such relations involve mainly landscape spirits that govern life cycles and weather fluctuations in the mountains. To dance implies to embody spirits of the land, and accepting three ontological principles: a) the authority of landscape spirits, b) the sustained interdependency between different collectives and, c) the common threats they face against extractive industries.
Masewal dances show an environment made social and constantly changing according to current pressures to the mountainous landscape. These collective performances entail a political stance as ways to repossess the land in favour of local communities.
is a professor in Anthropology at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. He centres on the ethnographic study of Indigenous ecologies at their intersections with the multifarious effects of global climate change, geo-capitalism and extractive industries.
For the last 15 years, he has been developing a long-term research project with Masewal Indigenous communities in the Eastern Sierra Madre of Mexico, exploring how traditional dances constitute social technologies to visualize socio-environmental relations under a cosmopolitical framework. He is also one of the founders and curators of Kixpatla: cambiar de vista, cambiar de rostro. Arte y cosmopolítica, a transdisciplinary digital platform on contemporary artists belonging to Amerindian societies.