Dance, Gender and Activism in Pakistan: Interview with Performer-Activist Sheema Kermani

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Sheema Kermani (1951-) is a performer and activist based in Karachi, Pakistan. Through her organisation, Tehrik-e-Niswan she has worked towards raising awareness of violence against women and women’s empowerment. Tehrik-e-Niswan is a cultural organisation invested in social justice through the arts. As a dancer and theatre actor, Sheema Kermani uses her training, choreography, and pedagogy to foreground the activist potential of performing arts. Scholarship on dance and political activism within the larger global context (for example in South Africa and New Zealand) have focussed on dance’s potential ‘to further social justice and compassionate communities’ (Shapiro, 2013: 15) and its power ‘to envision, move and create change.’ (Shapiro, 2016: 3) Within the contexts of the UK and USA, scholarship on dance and protest have encompassed historical enquiries (Mills, 2021), politics of representation, place, and identity (Prickett, 2013) and embodied choreographies of protest (Foster, 2003). In the South Asian context, dance as counter-hegemonic to communal politics have informed the works of artist-activist, Mallika Sarabhai in India (Grau, 2007). This interview with Sheema Kermani follows the existing strands of research on global dance and activism by focussing specifically on Pakistan. Sheema Kermani talks about her own dance pedagogy in dance and art history, her formative years in the UK and the influences of feminist and Marxist movements, and her continuing work for social justice in Pakistan in the wake of rising religious fundamentalism, gender atrocities, forced migrations and climate crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages11
JournalFeminist Encounters: A Journal of Critical Studies in Culture and Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


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