The Pen and the Plough: Balanta Young Men in Guinea-Bissau


Temudo, Marina, and Manuel Abrantes. 2015. “The Pen and the Plough: Balanta Young Men in Guinea-Bissau.” Development and Change 46 (3): 464–85. doi:10.1111/dech.12166.

Authors: Marina Temudo , Manuel Abrantes


Up until the late 1990s, the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau constituted what could be described as a ‘deep rural society’, whose central identity was linked with rice production and cattle accumulation. At the same time, it could be argued that even in the early days after Independence in 1974, the social aspirations of Balanta young men matched those of other Guinean youths in their shared desire to get away from the strictures of gerontocracy and of rural life. Surprisingly, however, this study documents the agency of many rural Balanta young men in changing oppressive social rules, and in using agriculture as a means to fund their education, to feed their families and as a route to prosperity. The authors conclude that the persistent political instability in the country (most acutely felt in the capital city) and the national and global economic crises, together with the Balanta agricultural ethos and the softening of gerontocratic power, are at the root of this revaluing of rural livelihoods. This article challenges current dominant narratives about the crisis of young men in contemporary Africa and highlights the need to study the aspirations and achievements of youth in their rural–urban nexus from a historical and holistic perspective.

Topics: Age, Youth, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Post-Conflict, Political Participation Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Guinea-Bissau

Year: 2015

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