Acrolife: Creative Socioeconomic Alliances of Marginalized Young Men in Kenya - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Acrolife: Creative Socioeconomic Alliances of Marginalized Young Men in Kenya

Join us March 28 at 7pm at 101 Archer!

OCH will welcome Nina Berman to 101 Archer to discuss the strategies some young Kenyans employ to maintain fulfilling and rewarding lives in the face of economic disparity.

Berman’s transdisciplinary project addresses the situation of poor young men in Kenya who self-organize to creatively transcend their day-to-day challenges with dignity by performing as acrobats for local and international audiences. Performing in extravagant venues, they experience an inspiring recognition that enhances their self-worth.

Acrobatics fascinates audiences because it reveals both the strengths and vulnerabilities of the human body. Acrobats inspire “kinesthetic empathy,” an idea applied in a collection of essays edited Dee Reynolds and Matthew Reason. The concept speaks to the connection practitioners and their audiences make amid the spectacle of an acrobatic performance.

The low pay acrobats receive covers basic expenses such as food and rent, but it does not secure a stable future. For most of these artists, acrobatics is a way to live with dignity, rather than succeeding economically long term.

Berman’s presentation will highlight the complex lives of Kenyan acrobats, exploring their experience in the context of Kenya, but also turning an eye toward the situation of uneducated young men globally.

Nina Berman is professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. Her research areas include globalization studies, humanitarianism, tourism, disability studies, German orientalism and colonialism, Germans in Africa, and intercultural hermeneutics. She joined ASU in 2016. Berman has held previous teaching appointments at The Ohio State University (2001-2016), the University of Texas at Austin (1994-2001), and a guest professorship at Georg-August Universität, Göttingen (2014).

She has written and co-edited six books and special issues, most recently Disability and Social Justice in Kenya: Scholars, Policymakers, and Activists in Conversation (co-edited with Rebecca Monteleone, University of Michigan Press, 2022) and Germans on the Kenyan Coast: Land, Charity, and Romance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017), and published numerous book chapters, review articles, book reviews, and articles. She speaks German, Arabic, Kiswahili, and French.

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