Associate Professor


  • Website:
  • Role:

  • Position:

    • Associate Professor
  • Concentration:

    • Cultural Anthropology
  • Department:

    • Anthropology and Geography
  • Education:

    • Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology, Yale University, 2016 M.Phil in Sociocultural Anthropology, Yale University, 2013 M.S. Ed. in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, Long Island University, 2005 B.A. in International/Intercultural Studies, Pitzer College, 2001
  • Curriculum Vitae:


I have done extensive ethnographic research on the relationship between aesthetics and politics in the Republic of Guinea and also on youth and generational change in urban Africa. My  book Infinite Repertoire: on dance and urban possibility in postsocialist Guinea (U. Chicago Press 2021) is about dancers and musicians in Guinea’s capital city of Conakry working in troupes called “ballets.” These performing artists, whose profession was originally the outgrowth of socialist cultural policies, are reinventing the contours of their practice in a capitalist economy. I use dance as a medium through which to examine the complex relationship between affect, social life, and political economy in Africa. I have also written about migration between Africa and the United States, and have conducted research among expatriate Guinean Artists in New York and California.

My current project is an ethnographic study of rock climbers, their kinesthetic and linguistic practices, and the places they form relationships with. It has been generously supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

Some of my recent publications can be found here:

I am currently accepting student applications in cultural anthropology at the Master’s and PhD level. I am interested in advising students conducting work in the following theoretical and topical areas: embodiment, performance, affect, outdoor recreation, environmental knowledges, anthropocene; urban studies (my expertise is in urban Africa specifically). If you are interested in applying to work with me, please email for more information.

Research Interests
Aesthetics and politics; African studies; political economy; urban theory; performance; art; semiotics; affect; sport; embodiment; environmental knowledges; semiotics; qualitative research methods




Cohen, Adrienne (2021) Infinite Repertoire: On Dance and Urban Possibility in Postsocialist Guinea. The University of Chicago Press.

Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

(2024)   (Forthcoming) “Rock Climbing as Lithic Ethnography: Animacy, Aesthetics, and Deep Time.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.

(2024)   (Accepted March 2023, Forthcoming) “Quantities of Qualia: Stone Athletes and the Ethnography of Intensity.” Current Anthropology.

(2023) “Multimodal Feminist Testimony: On Ambiguity, Embodiment, and Evidence in Guinea.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 12(3): 895-899.

(2022) “Deliberations in Dance: Affecting Publics and the Politics of Ethnicity in Guinea’s Nascent Democracy.” African Studies Review. 65(1): 166-188.

(2021) “The Revolution Lost: Generational Change and Urban Youth Logics in Conakry’s Dance-Music.” In Young People and Popular Culture in Africa, edited by Paul Ugor. New York: University of Rochester Press, African Studies Series.

(2019) “Performing Excess: Urban Ceremony and the Semiotics of Precarity in Guinea-Conakry.” Africa: The Journal of the International African Institute. 89 (4): 718-738.

(2018) Occult return, divine grace, and saabui: practising transnational kinship in postsocialist Guinea. Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute 24:275-292.

(2016) Inalienable Performances, Mutable Heirlooms: Dance, Cultural Inheritance, and Political Transformation in the Republic of Guinea. American Ethnologist 43(4):650-662.

Public Writing 

(2024) “How the Evolution of Holds Changed the Way We Move.” Climbing Magazine.

(2022) “Talking to Rocks Again? That’s Probably a Good Thing.” Climbing Magazine.


  • ANTH 100, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

    Cultural anthropology is the comparative study of human culture and society. Most fundamentally, the field of anthropology asks what it means to be human and challenges us, through comparative study, to critically engage our assumptions about truth and “human nature.” In this course, we will examine issues such as gender, power, race, class, and human-environment interactions in diverse contexts. We will explore how people across the world communicate through language, symbolism, and embodiment, and how they differently navigate sickness and healing, religion and cosmology, exchange, and globalization. Through long-term fieldwork, often embedded in the social group(s) or communit(ies) they study, anthropologists seek to gain fine-grained “ethnographic” understandings of social and cultural phenomena. This course draws from ethnographic and theoretical texts, journalistic pieces, and documentary films to familiarize students with some of the major methodologies and theories commonly used by cultural anthropologists to understand the world.

  • ANTH 225, Anthropology of the Arts

    This course explores aesthetic practices (visual art, music, dance, poetry) from the perspective of cultural anthropology. What is art and how is the category differently constructed cross-culturally? Why and how do people make, consume, and identify with art? How can artistic practices help us to develop a deeper understanding of social issues such as race, class, gender, and inequality? In this course we will read a variety of ethnographic texts that illuminate these and related questions.

  • ANTH 310, African Cities, Ethnographic Perspectives

    Despite popular representations of Africa as rural and traditional, African cities have some of the fastest rates of urban growth in the world. Unlike in other parts of the world, urbanization in Africa has not been driven primarily by economic growth or industrialization, and has taken place with little formal planning. The rapid expansion of cities in Africa has catalyzed new identities, social relations, economic strategies, and distinctly urban forms of cultural production. This course examines innovative approaches to the African city through ethnography, film, and popular media, and grapples conceptually with issues of development, infrastructure, youth, gender, aesthetics, and mobility.

  • ANTH 580, Ethnographic Writing

    In this course, we learn about the craft of ethnographic writing. Students explore different techniques for collecting and analyzing qualitative data, and for expressing that analysis in clear and creative prose. We examine a variety of ethnographic texts for their style and craft, as well as their content. Each student writes an original piece based on qualitative data from their own graduate research or based on a theme related to their graduate research interests. Students from a variety of disciplines are welcome, including, but not limited to: anthropology, geography, sociology, political science, art and art history, creative writing, journalism, communication studies, ethnic studies.

    At the beginning of the semester, we ask what ethnography is—as a research method, a mode of bearing witness, and a form of storytelling. What separates ethnography from other ways of producing knowledge about human experience? What kinds of ethical, aesthetic, and epistemological questions guide ethnographic practice? We then practice developing specificity in our ethnographies by exploring how to employ vignettes, key words, and descriptions of important people and places, and we explore compelling ways of weaving theory into our prose.
    Finally, we read ethnographies that feature visual, audio, and digital material, and practice working such materials into our own writing, and we explore differences and overlaps between ethnography and both fiction and popular journalistic writing. The course culminates with finalizing original pieces we draft throughout the semester and presenting them to peers, and hopefully also at conferences!

  • ANTH 440/ 548, Contemporary Theory in Cultural Anthropology

    This course introduces students to major theoretical currents in cultural anthropology. We examine classical and contemporary social theory together, with the goal of understanding how themes relevant a century ago continue to influence cultural anthropology and related disciplines. We read contemporary texts that revise or revisit classical theory alongside excerpts from or summaries of the original early works in order to gain a broad overview of some major questions social theorists have long grappled with: What does it mean to be an individual and also a member of a group? How does power operate? What is the relationship between economy, politics, society, and culture? The course also engages major contemporary themes such as race, gender, indigeneity, and the Anthropocene. This course provides students with a basic theoretical foundation from which to engage anthropological texts and fieldwork throughout their studies. This is a combined undergraduate/graduate course. Graduate requirements are noted on the syllabus in blue.