Abstract: Young Guineans are increasingly turning to digital technologies to organize protests and contest political authority. This paper charts the common origins and divergent paths of two recent youth-led protests in Guinea as a way to explore the relationship between street protests and online organizing. This paper begins by deconstructing essentialist notions of protests that locate the “real” center of protest necessarily in the street, and confine the digital public to an organizing role. As I show, by adopting an approach that accounts for the contingency of protest assemblages, we are able to move away from locating protest a priory. Building on recent work on the choreographies of protests (Foster, 2003; Gerbaudo, 2012), the paper then turns to West African notions of dance, and contemporary Guinean dance such as gigoteau in order to reclaim a theory of organizing that stems of a Guinean understanding of political transformation and account for Guinea’s notoriously unpredictable political sphere and postcolonial historical trajectory. Gigoter or Wriggling About then becomes a lens through which to reflect on political agency as it is mediated by digital technology in contemporary Guinea, and African postcolonial contexts more broadly.
Bio: Clovis Bergère is a visual ethnographer whose research examines the politics of youth as they are realized in relation to digital media in Guinea, West Africa. He recently completed his PhD in Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden, with a specialization in global youth media. His dissertation, “Digital Society and the Politics of Youth in Guinea,” explores social networking as a locus for the mediation and re-imagination of political subjectivities in Guinea. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication, University of Pennsylvania where he is working to turn this dissertation into a book manuscript.