Professor Dance connects Sweden to UNL


Photos and story by Alisha Tesfalem, NewNetNebraska

Sociology instructor and author Lory Dance offered a hip-hop study abroad course in Sweden for the first time last summer to University of Nebraska-Lincoln students.

Michael Taylor, senior majoring in advertising, took her pilot study hip-hop course in Sweden last summer. He said that he liked being able to collaborate with Dance, and how she valued everyone’s input on the subject matter in shaping the class.

“What I mainly took away from the class is that hip-hop is a universal form and people were talking about similar things,” Taylor said.

Dance was introduced to Sweden by a good friend of hers in grad school offered to host her in Sweden. In 1992 she went to Sweden and fell in love with the country and discovered the rich immigrant community there.

Eventually Dance enrolled in an intensive Swedish course for two years at Harvard and received a grant to learn the language in Sweden. Dance then became a Fulbright scholar in 2004 and taught in Sweden as well as created ties with other faculty members.

She spends summers and a portion of her academic year in Sweden. Dance teaches two ethnic studies courses at UNL, and a study abroad course titled Hip-hop and Marginality in Sweden and the U.S.

Dance was fascinated when she discovered the hip-hop scene in Sweden. Her love of hip-hop and the oddity of the music being in Sweden made her combine those two elements in her class.

“Hip-hop in the U.S. is all about people speaking from margins of society.”

Her class focuses on the immigrants who come to Sweden who express themselves through hip hop. Youths in Sweden and the U.S. may confront and overcome marginality, and the students look at how the youth stories are told through Hip Hop expressions. Her course analyzes how hip-hop relate to dominant and subordinate group relationships in schools and other contexts.

“My experiences with the honor students have been mostly wonderful,” Dance said. “The challenge is that we need more diversity in the honors program.”

Dance referring to her honors ethnic and diversity class. She taught at the University of Maryland from 1995 to 2008 and said her classes was extremely diverse. She drew a contrast with the limited diversity here at UNL compared to her experience in Maryland, 60 percent of her students came from a diverse background.

One of her UNL students, Ian Spicha, majoring in criminal justice, said that her Sociology of Race Relations class has opened his eyes on the world.

Dance, who came to UNL in 2008, after one of her former graduate students at Maryland told her to apply for the position of being the coordinator of African American and African studies, in the ethnic studies department.

Professor Lory Dance, left, with Rap Artist Zaki in Denmark during the summer of 2010.

Dance received her B.A in government from Georgetown University and received her master’s and doctorate from Harvard in sociology.

Since fall of 2009, Dance has been the co-principal investigator for a study about the contemporary perceptions of Islam and Muslim culture, which is sponsored by Lund University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies in Lund, Sweden. The research is funded by a $8.2 million grant from the Swedish Research Council.

“People think of something called the ‘Middle-East,’ ” said Dance. “The theme that I really want to stress is that the ‘Middle-East’ is a place of diversity and so are the immigrants in Sweden who come from Middle-East origins.”

Dance’s drive to offer her study abroad course came from her previous study abroad experience that was transformative.

“I felt that getting out at one zone in one country and spending time in another helps you think outside of the box, ” she said.

Dance hopes to continue to build bridges between Sweden and Nebraska by implementing a video-conference course taught simultaneously at UNL and a university in Sweden.

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