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Catalog Archive / Fall 2022

Congo's Dancers
Women and Work in Kinshasa

“A highly original and compelling work of ethnography. The role of urban women in the production of popular culture often tends to be overlooked and undervalued, and Braun’s study of female concert dancers in Kinshasa, the beating heart of much of the musical world in Congo, the African continent, and beyond, makes a substantial contribution to fill in this lacuna.”
—Filip De Boeck, coauthor of Suturing the City: Living Together in Congo’s Urban Worlds

Danseuse and the politics of visibility and economic control

Dance music plays a central role in the cultural, social, religious, and family lives of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among the various genres popular in the capital city of Kinshasa, Congolese rumba occupies a special place and can be counted as one of the DRC’s most well-known cultural exports. The public image of rumba was historically dominated by male bandleaders, singers, and musicians. However, with the introduction of the danseuse (professional concert dancer) in the late 1970s, the role of women as cultural, moral, and economic actors came into public prominence and helped further raise Congolese rumba’s international profile.

In Congo’s Dancers, Lesley Nicole Braun uses the prism of the Congolese danseuse to examine the politics of control and the ways in which notions of visibility, virtue, and socio-economic opportunity are interlinked in this urban African context. The work of the danseuse highlights the fact that public visibility is necessary to build the social networks required for economic independence, even as this visibility invites social opprobrium for women. The concert dancer therefore exemplifies many of the challenges that women face in Kinshasa as they navigate the public sphere, and she illustrates the gendered differences of local patronage politics that shape public morality. As an ethnographer, Braun had unusual access to the world she documents, having been invited to participate as a concert dancer herself.

 

Lesley Nicole Braun is a professor and senior lecturer at the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Basel. Her work has been published in the Journal of African Arts, Ethnos, Africa, and elsewhere.

 

 

Praise

“Braun’s study comes as a unique and innovative contribution to our understanding of Kinshasa as a kinetic cityscape that dizzies itself in its perpetual gyrations and metamorphoses. By locating women dancers at the center of Kinshasa’s vortex-like ambiance, Braun’s fine-grained narrative does more than just render these performers visible and agentive; it disrupts and shakes up staid notions of gender configurations, femininity, and the economy of the affect.”
—Ch. Didier Gondola, author of Tropical Cowboys: Westerns, Violence, and Masculinity in Kinshasa

 

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

Introduction
1 Women and Dance in Congo’s Modern History
Chapter 2
Overlapping Tempos
Chapter 3
Dance Formations

Chapter 4
From Containment to Entrapment
Chapter 5
Working through Encadrement
Coda

Notes
Bibliography
Index

 


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Larger images

January 2023
LC: 2022022452
240 pp. 6 x 9
12 b/w illus.

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Casebound $79.95 S
ISBN 9780299340308
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