Suffering for the Nation: Bottom-Up and Top-Down Conceptualisations of the Nation in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, by Christoph Kohl and Anita Schroven (2014)

Taking the two West African countries of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau as examples, the paper analyses how discourses of suffering can contribute to the emergence and development of a strong national consciousness among citizens. In both countries, rhetoric seDSC_0055lf-victimisation has different, characteristic features, referring to shared events and memories of the past. These discourses portray the population of these two countries as suffering at the hands of governments, foreign policy, or history. They do so in a collective way, bridging potential ethnic or religious divides in these otherwise very heterogeneous countries. Based on fieldwork in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, the authors investigate how popular (‘bottom-up’) narratives interact with official, governmental (‘top-down’) portrayals of the nation to form alternate versions of the national project that have a stabilising effect on society. This paper traces historical origins, the subsequent development, as well as manifestations of national discourses of suffering that have specific political and identitarian effects.

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