Modeling Cultural Adaptability: Maroon Cosmopolitanism and the Banamba Dance Contest

In: Maroon Cosmopolitics

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):


Taking Saramakan genre banamba and the annual Banamba Dance Contest as a case study, this chapter considers the often-controversial role that competition culture plays in establishing new spaces, meanings, and uses for traditional performance practices in urban and cosmopolitan contexts.  After outlining aspects of banamba’s historical discourse and performance practice in Paramaribo during the early 2000’s, Campbell demonstrates how talent competitions like the Banamba Contest aim to isolate and elevate a traditional performance practice, while simultaneously investing in the conditions for its proliferation in fragmented, hybridized forms.  Ultimately, a successful contestant must master a skill set that has more to do with performing tradition in a contemporary urban context than with aptitude in the dance form alone.  While the format and methods of adjudication of the competition bestow and affirm participants’ credentials as professionals, audiences’ critical feedback holds judges and organizers’ authority in check, while perpetuating an animated discourse concerning authentic practice, performance aesthetics, and the limits of adaptation.