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Infinite Repertoire: On Dance and Urban Possibility in Postsocialist Guinea
by Adrienne J. Cohen
University of Chicago Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-0-226-78116-7 | Cloth: 978-0-226-76284-5 | Paper: 978-0-226-78102-0
Library of Congress Classification GV1713.G92C64 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 793.3196652

In Guinea’s capital city of Conakry, dance is everywhere. Most neighborhoods boast at least one dance troupe, and members of those troupes animate the city’s major rites of passage and social events. In Infinite Repertoire, Adrienne Cohen shows how dance became such a prominent—even infrastructural—feature of city life in Guinea, and tells a surprising story of the rise of creative practice under a political regime known for its authoritarianism and violent excesses. Guinea’s socialist state, which was in power from 1958 to 1984, used staged African dance or “ballet” strategically as a political tool, in part by tapping into indigenous conceptualizations of artisans as powerful figures capable of transforming the social fabric through their manipulation of vital energy. Far from dying with the socialist revolution, Guinean ballet continued to thrive in Conakry after economic liberalization in the 1980s, with its connection to transformative power retrofitted for a market economy and a rapidly expanding city. Infinite Repertoire follows young dancers and percussionists in Conakry as they invest in the present—using their bodies to build a creative urban environment and to perform and redefine social norms and political subjectivities passed down from the socialist generation before them. Cohen’s inventive ethnography weaves the political with the aesthetic, placing dance at the center of a story about dramatic political change and youthful resourcefulness in one of the least-studied cities on the African continent.

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